Category Archives: Ben Hobson

Review: Snake Island by Ben Hobson

Title: Snake Island by Ben Hobson
Publisher: Arcade Crimewise
Genre: Historical (’90s), Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


For fans of Cormac McCarthy, Phillip Meyer, Fargo, and Justified, a gritty rural noir thriller about family, drugs, and the legacy of violence.

In an isolated town on the coast of southern Australia, Vernon Moore and his wife, Penelope, live in retirement, haunted by an unspeakable act of violence that sent their son, Caleb, to serve time in prison and has driven the couple apart. Ashamed, they refuse to talk about him or visit, but when a close friend warns Vernon that Caleb has been savagely beaten, he has no choice but to act to protect their only child.

The perpetrator of the beating is a local thug from a crime family whose patriarch holds sway over the town, with the police in his pay. Everyone knows they trade in drugs. When Vernon maneuvers to negotiate a deal with the father, he makes a critical error. His mistake unleashes a cycle of violence that escalates to engulf the whole town, taking lives with it, revealing what has been hiding in plain sight in this picturesque rural community and threatening to overtake his son.

Told from shifting perspectives at a sprint, in language that sometimes approaches the simple profundity of parable, this gritty debut was hailed on its Australian publication as “a darkly illuminating thriller that soars across genre constraints . . . [and] engages with pressing contemporary issues while exploring timeless questions. Hobson writes as if his life depends on it” (The Australian).


Snake Island by Ben Hobson is a dark and gritty mystery set in rural Australia.

Vernon and Penelope Moore have not seen their son, Caleb, since he went to prison two years ago. They are deeply ashamed of him and they feel like their absence is teaching him a lesson. But when Vernon’s friend William Kelly cryptically tells him he should visit Caleb, Vernon unexpectedly takes his advice. When he discovers Caleb is getting beaten by someone in their local community, Vernon’s actions lead to a cascade of violence he could not have foreseen.

Ernie Cahill and his sons, Sidney and Brendan, are a crime family who have the money to pay people to look the other way. They have ties with some very ruthless criminals in Melbourne and Ernie knows better than to cross them. When Vernon decides (rather naively) to ask him to stop his son from  hurting Caleb, he unwittingly puts  his family and others in danger.  What follows is a shocking array of  poor decisions, brutal attacks and, quite possibly, redemption for some of those involved in the violence that follows.

Sharon Wornkin is a local cop whose dysfunctional past plays a part in her decisions in the present. She is somewhat detached from both her husband and son.  Sharon also plays a pivotal role in the criminal activity taking place in the local community. With her own life on the line, Sharon is faced with a moral decision that could save someone else.

Snake Island is a riveting mystery that is stark yet quite atmospheric. The characters are deeply flawed  yet some of them are surprisingly appealing. The setting springs vibrantly to life and provides the perfect backdrop for the shocking events Vernon inadvertently sets in motion.  Ben Hobson brings this incredibly fascinating novel to an edge of the seat, suspenseful conclusion.

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Filed under Arcade Crimewise, Ben Hobson, Contemporary, Historical, Historical (90s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Snake Island, Suspense