I loved Aoife Clifford’s first two books, All These Perfect Strangers and Second Sight so am not entirely sure why it took me so long to get to her latest release, When We Fall. I didn’t receive it for review but reading her books are no-brainers for me so I finally dragged myself to the store to get a copy… and I wasn’t disappointed.
Like Second Sight, it’s an atmospheric read and Clifford captures small seaside living well. And… the book opens with a bang, grabbing our attention with a macabre discovery. If I knew more about fishing I’d make some clever analogy about hooking we readers and reeling us in, given the fishing-village-like setting, but sadly I got nuthin…When We Fall
by Aoife Clifford
Published by Ultimo Press
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
In the wild, coastal town of Merritt, Alex Tillerson and her mother make a shocking find on the beach. The police claim it’s an accidental death but there are whispers of murder and that it is not the first.
Bella Greggs was found dead at the bottom of a ravine but drowned in salt water. Maxine McFarlane was pulled from the ocean but with no water in her lungs. Black feathers were found with both bodies but what do they mean?
As Alex fights for answers to honour the dead, and to discover why her mother fled town as a teenager, good people keep looking the other way, memories become unreliable and secrets threaten to reveal the past.
Alex discovers the truth never dies but it can kill…
I read this easily in a sitting and it’s certainly the kind of book that compels you to do so. Clifford builds steadily to an action-packed climax but it’s paced well so doesn’t drag at all.
I really liked Alex though would have liked a little more context. There were a lot of references made to her marriage breakdown and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know more about that than I felt I did? Similarly, she’s struggling financially – despite being a Barrister and I wasn’t sure if there was an incident or a reason her caseload was so light or she wasn’t in demand. Perhaps we were just to assume she wasn’t as ambitious as she needed to be?
The backcover blurb also mentions Alex’s eagerness to understand why her mother Denny fled town as a teenager – and I assumed she meant, other than being pregnant – as we already know her grandfather made it clear he didn’t want Denny to keep the baby (ie. Alex). Again, there’s some backstory offered but I think I’d have liked a little more.
Having said that, I enjoyed the complexity of Alex’s relationship with her mother and Clifford does a good job of giving readers insight into life with someone who starts to lose their memories and their sense of time… and the combination of confusion and / or ignorance sufferers have of their condition. My father had vascular dementia and so I could certainly relate to both Alex and Denny’s predicaments.
I liked the way Clifford links the latest death with a previous murder and appreciated that we weren’t expected to believe in too many coincidences in one small town (a pet hate of mine). In some ways the motivation behind the first murder seems anticlimactic but at the same time, it felt very raw and realistic. I also liked that Clifford threw in an extra twist at the end, when we think everything’s been resolved.
This is another great read from Clifford. Her writing seems effortless, or at least makes reading it so. She’s given us a great array of characters, all offering some glimpse into small town living. Of course there are some deeper themes on offer, including the (former) practices of forced adoption as well as the impacts of climate change and the preservation of the environment.
When We Fall by Aoife Clifford was published in Australia by Ultimo Press and is now available.