McCullock’s gold is an Australian murder mystery set on the northern edge of the Simpson Desert. There’s an abandoned 4x4, its missing driver, some missing gold, some bad guys and some bodies - plus a smart-arse Aboriginal mechanic who helps the local bush copper solve it all, while at the same time trying not to divulge any of the sensitive cultural information lying at the heart of the affair. More
Old time Northern Territory miner Les McCullock may well have lain dead and buried in his grave for decades, but his and others’ secretive doings of their day have left behind an unintended legacy. The facts surrounding these covert activities hold answers to the disappearance of a miner and a large quantity of gold, plus the whereabouts of the gold’s origins and the circumstances of its winning. Little knowledge remains of these secret happenings, however, and that which does has been closely guarded – a situation that may easily have persisted until all memory and evidence of the business had disappeared. Then a series of seemingly random and unconnected events has the effect of disturbing all this. Two strangers arrive at the small settlement of Bonya Community, some four hundred kilometres north east of Alice Springs. They claim to be prospectors and are hoping to employ one of the locals to act as a guide, explaining that they want to reconnoitre the spinifex and scattered mallee country of the Simpson Desert’s northern margin. Their real intention, however, is to locate a secret and highly significant Aboriginal ceremonial site there. Bonya’s resident bush mechanic Jack Cadney takes up the offer, but later in the day he and the two strangers have a falling out. On returning to Bonya Cadney informs his father Twofoot Jack of their actions, conduct which makes the old man extremely angry – though strangely, his concerns are mainly for reasons of his own. Yet how could they have done so, when not a whitefella alive is supposed to know the place even exists? Then, a week or so after the strangers’ arrival at Bonya, the pilot of a light aircraft reports what appears to be an abandoned vehicle in the desert-margin country north of the plenty highway. Bush policeman Senior Constable Rick Frazier of the Harts Range Police Station is ordered to go out and investigate, but his regular police aide is away on tribal business so he calls at Bonya to enlist Jack Cadney as a temporary replacement. When they arrive at the site Cadney is thoroughly perplexed. Where is the driver, he wonders, and why dump a perfectly good two-year old tray back 4x4 Nissan Patrol in the middle of nowhere? Soon secrets old and new start coming to light and, despite there being no trace of a body, Cadney begins to suspect that a murder has been committed. He also comes to realise that a number of seemingly unrelated events – some recent and some historical – are actually connected. About then another killing is discovered, leading the wily old Twofoot to enlighten his son by disclosing a few absolute secrets of his own. As a result of these things the unsuspecting Jack Cadney quickly finds himself drawn into the mire of old McCullock’s doings, almost every aspect of which – until then – he is unaware. Then in no time at all the whole tangled web surrounding McCullock and the missing gold sees Jack Cadney locked into a situation that is totally without options – a circumstance which has the Harts Range lawman demanding answers and explanations of him. Immediately. There and then.