Hunt for the Virgin Rainbow by K. M. Steele is a fun pulp fiction-style crime romp that bounces around the Australian outback, mainly centred on the humble mining town of Coober Pedy. In this story, Mallory Cash, our main character, relies on her excellent skills of espionage and street smarts to charm, swindle, and occasionally clobber her way through an eccentric cast, all in the name of the titular gemstone.
Mallory, our protagonist, is a fast-talking delight who takes no crap and gives as good as she gets when faced with such characters like her ex-partner Derek, another jewel thief who she gets, unfortunately, paired up with by her employer. Derek is a regular Prince Charming who knows exactly how good looking he is, and his ego-fuelled wit makes for a hilarious character dynamic that is contrasted with the sweet but-no-less-sassy banter Mallory has with a friendly local named Sam. There’s also the story antagonist and looming force of malevolence, Jimmy the Cat, who has his own quiet sense of danger that gets built up from his first scene with Mallory. The story thrives on the character interactions, each dynamic is unique and brings something new to the table.
The setting of the Australian outback is so full of life and detail that it almost feels like a character itself, and the action is fast-paced and exciting, particularly when the heist is underway. The book is inspired in part by Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, as well as James Bond, and those influences make for an exciting romance/crime/comedy blend that feels like a love letter to the outback.
Hunt for the Virgin Rainbow is the first in a 3-book series that will delight fans.
History buffs will be interested to know that the Virgin Rainbow is real. In 2003, the Virgin Rainbow Opal was discovered by John Dunstan while working solo in the Opal fields of Coober Pedy. It was formed and discovered inside the skeleton of the ancient cuttlefish known as a Belemnite. The Virgin Rainbow is now owned by the South Australian Museum and is valued at over $1M.
In other news, the cover of Hunt for the Virgin Rainbow was designed by Queensland University Technology student, Ellen Milligan, through the Creative Industries Internship program – a program I once traversed through as an editing intern myself. Milligan did a stellar job of bringing to life Steele’s pulp fiction mashup. The Director of Hawkeye Publishing, Carolyn Martinez, said that four designers did mock-ups for the book, but it was Ellen’s design that perfectly portrayed the genre.
With Hunt for the Virgin Rainbow, Steele joins the growing team at Hawkeye – a team establishing itself as a quality ambassador creating opportunities for writers, including with their annual competitions: