The Yarra Yowie
The Yarra Yowie. In the dark forests of 19th century Australia, something big and awful is lurking ... and super sleuths Burke and Wills are on its trail!
According to official histories, the security and intelligence business kicked off in Australia with ASIO in 1949. However, files found in a concealed metal safe – discovered only recently during renovations to an old Melbourne office block – suggest that the colonies had their own secret service, one which concerned itself not just with espionage and foreign threats, but also with domestic issues likely to cause fear or panic.
The “Yarra Yowie” case, taken from the Colonial Secret Service files for the year 1897, highlights the rather unorthodox methods employed by two of the organisation’s most respected undercover agents. In the years just prior to federation, Mr James Burke Esq. and Miss Stephanie Wills conduct their cloak and dagger activities under the cover of a respectable Melbourne law firm…but no law firm ever confronted such a diabolical mystery as this! People are disappearing, and the trail leads toward a bewildering bevy of suspects.
Is it a monster from the mists of folklore – the legendary Yowie or “Hairy man”? Or is it an unidentified beast from the disreputable circus come safari park, recently set up in the Gippsland countryside? Then again, perhaps it’s got something to do with a certain eccentric newspaper proprietor, known to wander the bush tracks in bare feet? This is what Burke and Wills (not to be confused with the famous explorers) must find out… and quickly, before the panic and mayhem spread.
The exploits of the redoubtable Burke and Wills demonstrate once again that the steam age belonged to a rich tapestry of personalities, not just to the side-whiskered men seen in sepia photographs. It was an age of variety, thrilling adventure and scientific discovery…of women determined to gain their rightful role in a man’s world… and of strange, hirsute empire builders, pushing their own agendas.