The Bluffs is the debut novel by Kyle Perry and a lot of reviewers I know have loved this book. So… my thoughts deviate a little from the norm.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the book. I read it in a sitting and (eventually) turned the pages quickly, keen to learn more.
But it took me a while to get to that point. In fact I almost put it aside (to read later) a few times in the first few chapters.
The structure confused me as did the obvious reference to Picnic at Hanging Rock. I adored Joan Lindsay’s novel but HATED the posthumous final chapter that leapt into the supernatural. So, talk of portals and other realms here almost had me running for the… (ahem) bluffs.The Bluffs
by Kyle Perry
Published by Michael Joseph
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
When a school group of teenage girls goes missing in the remote wilderness of Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers, the people of Limestone Creek are immediately on alert. Three decades ago, five young girls disappeared in the area of those dangerous bluffs, and the legend of ‘the Hungry Man’ still haunts locals to this day.
Now, authorities can determine that the teacher, Eliza Ellis, was knocked unconscious, so someone on the mountain was up to foul play. Jordan Murphy, the local dealer and father of missing student Jasmine, instantly becomes the prime suspect. But Detective Con Badenhorst knows that in a town this size – with corrupt cops, small-town politics, and a teenage YouTube sensation – everyone is hiding something, and bluffing is second nature.
When a body is found, mauled, at the bottom of a cliff, suspicion turns to a wild animal – but that can’t explain why she was discovered barefoot, her shoes at the top of the cliff, laces neatly tied.
I’m conscious of course that my initial antipathy is partially about taste, given the dip into the fantasy / otherworldly genre (which I dislike).
The book opens with a prologue and then takes us back in time a little. Here Perry gives us a lot of background information and there seemed to be a lot of ‘telling’ rather than showing and the prose felt a little clunky. I know Perry works with young people but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the girls’ voices in the early stages.
But then we settled into the story and I enjoyed our early narrators Murphy and Jasmine. However—for me anyway—it feels as if Perry pulls us out of the narrative to take us back to the events of the prologue earlier than needed.
I would have preferred we remain with Jasmine for longer. Until closer to the girls’ disappearance. I think it could have been done without offering any spoilers as our removal felt quite sudden. And I kept waiting for Perry to go back to the events in the lead up to their departure from camp.
Once we got to the investigation I settled in more.
I liked the premise. The plot is clever. I really liked our out-of-town coppers, Con and Gabriella (Gabby). We eventually got some backstory on Con’s post-traumatic stress but I would have liked a little more. Why, for example, does he take his own sheets and curtains to a motel? I wasn’t sure we needed his boss and a new partner to arrive but I guess they provided a little more context about his history (and fragility).
I really really liked Murphy and think Perry did a great job with his character development. He’s flawed but likeable.
There were a lot of characters here and it took me a while to remember who was who. But it means Perry can offer many red herrings and a lot of small town texture. His descriptions of the misty atmospheric mountainous terrain also felt very vivid and real.
Perry offers twist upon twist at the end here and I really didn’t see many of them coming. In fact, the plot (once I got past what I ‘thought’ it was going to be) is a clever one. Perry’s reflection of the lives of young people in small towns is insightful and I liked his use of contemporary culture (YouTube etc).
I’m not a big trigger warning kind of person but I think it’s important here to note suicide, self harm and sexual abuse feature in this book and in a way that may be difficult for some to read.
This is a great debut as it certainly offered me a lot of fodder for contemplation. It’d be a good bookclub read and I wonder if it’s also suitable for a YA audience discussion.
The Bluffs by Kyle Perry was published in Australia by Penguin (Michael Joseph) and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.