Was stoked to score an ARC of this new Aussie crime novel due to hit shelves next month! Here's my review. :)
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this novel through a Goodreads Giveaway.
This is an Australian crime novel set in a small town in New South Wales during a particularly trying summer. As with any small town, everyone knows everyone, though there are plenty of secrets. The murder of a local girl forces everyone's business under the microscope, and this novel is as much about those secrets as it is about solving the mystery of who killed Rosalind Ryan.
I have to be completely honest, I disliked the protagonist, Gemma, from the very start. The reality was addressed before her emotions were revealed and the cold facts of her situation had me instantly appalled. It was unclear what her relationship with the victim was, and this aspect created a darkness around the mystery that admittedly made it quite fascinating. However it also made it hard to get into the story, as I couldn't relate to Gemma in the slightest. I had no sympathy for her or her struggles so all that held my attention was the mystery itself.
Rosalind (Rose) Ryan is an enigma, with many characters professing to have known her but only superficially. As a teacher at the local high school she was loved by many, but it becomes increasingly clear that no one had any clue who she really was. There are subtle references to the past she and Gemma shared, but never enough for us to really sink our teeth into. Beyond being beautiful, we never really get a clear picture of the victim, which again creates a sense of detachment that makes the mystery a simple curiosity rather than something we can be invested in.
It's obvious the crime has something to do with the past, but we're given very little information in that regard. There are never really any clues for us to play with, and the detective work feels messy and unsatisfying. We discover a lot of the town's secrets but none seem relevant to the mystery at hand. We meet a lot of characters but get to know very few of them. There's nothing to create attachment to any of the main players, really, which is a shame because with an invested element this could have been a ripper of a read. Instead the reader is left impartial, and there's little to propel the narrative. Even the mystery of the past seems patchy and the slowly revealed glimpses of it are unsatisfying and anti-climatic.
The relationship between Gemma and Felix seems more of a focus than the mystery which was a little disappointing to me, particularly as I didn't approve of it. It made the story drag and detracted from the suspense. It made a rather long, tedious novel of what could have been an intriguing, fast read. This novel is all about Gemma and her tumultuous life, but there's little for the reader to relate to on an emotional level, making it a redundant angle. Even with her as a mother, we're given little to work with. Her relationships are ill-defined and we're given very little reasoning for the way she thinks and acts.
I was quite interested in the crime and its relation to the past, with lots of loose strings revealed throughout the novel. Unfortunately, when the conclusion came, I felt that a lot of things were left unanswered or nonsensical in their inclusion. I just couldn't understand a lot of what happened and the resolution left me feeling impartial and unaffected.
This is a rather ambitious story with beautiful prose in parts, but it's tied messily together and seems like it could have used a lot of tough love from an editor. It has a lot of potential and is still an entertaining read, but I feel like it missed the mark a little. Hopefully further work from the author will iron out the kinks in her storytelling.