Book review: Deception Creek by Fleur McDonald

Tuesday, November 2, 2021 Permalink

Every time I review one of Fleur McDonald’s Detective Dave Burrows books I feel compelled to mention there are TWO series featuring Burrows. A contemporary series in which he appears but the lead character is often loosely linked to one from the previous book in the series. And then there’s the young Dave Burrows series, set a decade or two earlier, when he first becomes a police officer.

I also always comment on the authenticity McDonald’s own background as a farmer lends to her work. Not only does she effortlessly drop in details about farming life (stuff about cattle or crops and prices or new technology) but many of her characters promote the role of women in agriculture and which the author herself does as well.

Book review: Deception Creek by Fleur McDonaldDeception Creek
by Fleur McDonald
Series: Detective Dave Burrows
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
on 02/11/2021
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 9781760878825
Pages: 376

Emma Cameron, a recently divorced farmer and a local in Barker, runs Deception Creek, the farm that three generations of her family have owned before her. Every day Emma pushes herself hard on the land, hoping to make ten-year-old memories of a terrible car accident disappear. And now there are more recent nightmares of an ex-husband who refuses to understand how much the farm means to Emma.

When criminal Joel Hammond is released from jail and heads home to Barker, Detective Dave Burrows and his officer Senior Sergeant Jack Higgins are on high alert. Joel has a long and sorry history with many of the townsfolk and they are not keen to see him home to stay.

Not all of the Barker locals want to see Joel run out of town though. Some even harbour doubts about Joel's conviction. The town finds itself split down the middle, families pitted against each other with devastating outcomes.

I very much enjoyed this book but it broke my heart as well because {warning rather than spoiler alert!} McDonald doesn’t necessarily give us the story arc involving redemption, or the happily-ever-after I’d expected.

I was a smidge confused for a while about the links between some of the characters, though I realise (of course) that some of that is done on purpose to keep us guessing. We meet a young couple in the prologue – a man and his wife involved in an accident, arguing after her father has accused him of taking money from the family business.

And in the present we meet Joel, recently released from a stint in prison after being accused of embezzling money from an employer, and who escaped town when younger after his teenage girlfriend plunged to her death from a grain silo and he was blamed by her prominent family.

Although some nasty online blackmail pops up late in the novel, there’s actually no crime committed in the present other than the local family’s harassment of Joel on his return to Barker. Dave and Jack find themselves coming to Joel’s defence and believe that Joel may be innocent of the white collar crime that sent him to prison… though it’s Jack’s journalist girlfriend Zara who pursues that investigation.

Dave and Jack however have some suspicions about the 1992 accident involving Joel’s girlfriend so start digging up the past.

And then there’s the newly divorced Emma. (On the surface) her story doesn’t really seem related to anything else so I had everything crossed that romance would blossom with Joel, even though there’s a likely candidate on her doorstep.

Of course McDonald eventually brings it all together, so I guess I just needed to be more patient this time around.

Deception Creek by Fleur McDonald was published by Allen & Unwin on 2 November 2021.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers for review purposes.


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