Bingo square: Question – What happened to Paddy Moriarty and Kelly? What is it about Larrimah that drives the feuding and petty hatreds?
“There’s a bottomless well of trouble in this town and it’s hard to know which parts we have a right to haul to the surface.”
Larrimah is an expansion on the Lost in Larrimah podcast created by the journalist authors. Ostensibly a ‘true crime’ story about a missing man (and dog) the podcast digs into the complex relationships between the mostly elderly inhabitants of the tiny township of Larrimah in Australia’s Northern Territory. And as it says on the cover, these 12 people (counting missing Paddy Moriarty) mostly hate each other.
The book starts with the territory covered by the podcast, and then makes several returns to the town to dig deeper into the eccentricities of the inhabitants and the town’s backstory as a world war base, railhead, Tidy Town winner and home of three competing progress associations that has dwindled to a sad blip on the Stuart highway trying to entice passing motorists to buy a beer or a pie.
The section of the book that parallels the podcast is the strongest, letting its inhabitants tell their own stories. But as Paddy and Kelly remain missing and leads run dry the authors widen their circle of enquiry. These stops in nearby larger communities and other tiny outposts are painted in broad sad brushstrokes without the charming details and nothing of any consequence is discovered.
The book ends without answering the question of what happened to Paddy, but two bonus episodes of the podcast released in April 2022 present explosive evidence from the inquest that offer a credible if not conclusive explanation. Overall, I’d recommend the podcast as a more satisfying exploration of both key questions.