Man at the Window book review: A crime thriller with no easy answers

Man at the Window book review

What is this about?: A teacher at an exclusive boy’s school is shot dead, and Detective Cardilini is assigned to find the killer… except the higher ups who want a drunk to do a sloppy job and finish the case quickly are disappointed when Cardilini begins to investigate earnestly, uncovering secrets so many people would prefer he left alone.

What else is this about?: This is an introduction to Cardilini, his son and his background as well. There’s a sadness that is threaded through this book and that colours his actions — which are torn between wanting to his job and wanting to protect his son


There’s the law, and then there’s justice. Who gets to decide?

When a boarding master at an exclusive boys’ school is shot dead, it is deemed accidental. A lazy and usually drunk detective is sent to write up the report. Cardilini unexpectedly does not cooperate, as he becomes riled by the privileged arrogance of those at the school. He used to have instincts. Perhaps he should follow them now…

With no real evidence he declares the shooting a murder and puts himself on a collision course with the powerful and elite of Perth. As he peels back layers, the school’s dark secrets begin to emerge. But is his dogged pursuit of justice helpful or harmful to those most affected by the man’s death?

Man at the Window is the first book in the Detective Cardilini series: an atmospheric and unforgettable crime novel with a burning moral dilemma at its heart.

Set in Perth, 1965, Man at the Window wasn’t at all what I expected.

The book is a slow burn, introducing readers to Cardilini and his past in the beginning as much as the case itself. Readers learn that he is still grieving his wife, who passed away a year ago, and that his relationship with his son Paul has suffered because he has become a drunk.

From there the case begins in earnest, with Cardilini investigating the school, students and beginning to question the story his superiors have been selling — or rather telling him what his findings should be. In an effort to ensure this, they offer Paul placement at the police academy, something he never thought he would have because he was arrested.

Cardilini grows ever more irritated at the manipulations. The school itself, and it’s reputation is almost a character on it’s own, with the students, current and former and teachers closing ranks around it, despite the fact that the murdered teacher was abusing the kids in his charge. I also thought added chapters from the POV of a certain student within the school, highlighting what the school was actually like, gave more of a perspective of this institution that everyone was trying so hard to protect.

Soon enough, he realises just how how far this old boy network extends, and what the students themselves are capable of as he’s taken off the case due to unfounded accusations against him.

Cardilini continues his investigation though, and the ending is the kind that makes you feel satisfied and unsatisfied too because there are no easy answers to a case like this.

The strength in this book is in the characters, where everyone is in shades of grey, and I found myself sympathising with them as much as I was angry and frustrated too within the context of this plot.

It’s a strong beginning to a new series, and I am eager to see where Cardilini goes from here


  • Sounds like a complex story, one with a lot of layers. I like it! Wonderful review, Verushka! 🙂

    • Verushka says:

      This one really surprised me by the end because I was expecting a more straightforward mystery and didn’t get anything like that. It explored some interesting things in terms of character.

  • “Shades of gray” grabbed my attention right away. I love when a book has complex characters like this. You have me very curious to learn more about Detective Cardilini.

    • Verushka says:

      Very much shades of grey. I didn’t know which way the book was going to go, and I didn’t know which way I wanted the book to go.

  • Lark says:

    I’m always drawn to books with that boarding school setting. And Detective Cardilini sounds like an interesting character.

    • Verushka says:

      The school and the way people reacted to being part of it was such a big part of this book. Cardilini is definitely an unexpected and welcome addition to Australian crme, methinks.

  • Jen Mullen says:

    I’m not sure why we are so attracted to boarding school settings. Maybe because they are an expanded locked-room mystery or that young people are isolated from family and subject to whatever philosophy the school presents or the glimpse into lives of privilege for those of us who attended neighborhood schools. Or all of the above and more. At any rate, I rarely turn down a boarding school mystery, and this one sounds good.

    • Verushka says:

      I think I fall into the group of never really thinking about boarding school settings other than just being a setting. I like the reasons you listed above — I never really thought of it like that but it totally makes sense too.

  • Sounds interesting how the school has so much personality as to almost be a character itself. And maybe a flawed but redeemable MC? Seems like a lot of good stuff so far!

  • That sounds quite complicated but in a good way. Always nice to find a new series you enjoy. I am more inclined towards the easy and fluffy cozy mysteries, but I may have to give this one a try.

  • Excellent review Verushka. There was a lot to like about this novel… an understated grittiness and authenticity. Agree, definitely a strong start to a series I intend to follow.

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