This is book number 1 in the Dinah Pelerin Mysteries series.
The Top End of Australia is a land teeming with crocodiles, poisonous snakes, and curious Aboriginal myths. It's a strange place to choose to end one's life, but that is what Dinah Pelerin's wealthy American uncle has done. Dying of cancer, he has summoned his entire family—current wife, ex-wife, assorted children and niece—to a remote, comfortless lodge where he intends to rewrite his will and commit suicide with the aid of a rogue Australian physician with whom he shares a mysterious history.
Dinah sees this time with her uncle as a last chance to learn the truth about her father, who died during the commission of a felony when she was a child. But when she arrives, she discovers that the truth has more and darker ramifications than she'd bargained on. Her artist brother thinks he's possessed by the spirit of snake god who is moving his hand metaphysically across the canvas; her uncle, who isn't really her uncle, is obsessed by a woman he married but could never possess; the rest of the family is seething with resentments; and a man none of them claims to know is murdered on a nearby island, impaled on the back of a sea turtle.
A wannabe anthropologist with a passion for mythology, Dinah tries to sort out the complicated song lines of her own ancestors while struggling to understand Dreamtime and solve not one, but two bizarre murders. The Aboriginal concept of payback law takes on a terrible new meaning.
“Jeanne Matthews' Bones of Contention has it all: clever plotting, corkscrew twists, and lively, entertaining characters. And then there's the bonus of the Australian locale— and lingo—both of which are laid out for us with verve and wit. What Matthews has done, and done cleverly, is to take that most traditional and charming of murder-mystery settings, the country-house party, fill it with Americans instead of Brits, plop it down in the wilds of Australia's Northern Territory, and invest the whole thing with an unmistakably modern sensibility. It's a first-rate debut, and that's the dinki-di.” – Aaron Elkins, Edgar-winning author of Old Bones