Broad River Station by Fleur McDonald is the latest release in the interrelated series featuring Detective Dave Burrows who heads up Barker Police Station. McDonald tends to keep the focus on outback / farming related crimes and I like that about these books and her young Dave Burrows series. It very much sets them apart from other outback or rural (Oz) crime fiction. I know nothing about farms or rural life but thanks to her own knowledge and experience, McDonald manages to effortlessly engage readers in the unfolding plot – giving us enough detail that we understand the context (and receive a smidge of education at the same time) – but aren’t overwhelmed with superfluous complex information.
Broad River Station
by Fleur McDonald
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Mia, a newly graduated constable, on her first post is assigned to Broad River, a small country town. And as certain as she is about her ability to do the job, on day one she's already in conflict with colleagues who believe that women shouldn't be coppers.
It takes the shine off coming home, where her grandmother, Clara, is in the early stages of dementia. Clara is in a nursing home, living between her present and the mist-covered past of her life as dementia slowly steals her memories. Mia is accustomed to their conversations often not quite making sense but when Clara hints of veiled family secrets, Mia isn't sure what she should believe.
In the midst of all this, a local child goes missing and Mia is confined to barracks. When Detective Dave Burrows realises she has skills that could be put to use, Mia's career takes a new turn, and she must decide down which road to walk.
Here the main crime under investigation is one involving a poisoned crop. More specifically an organic farm, laced with chemicals that could threaten a farmer’s livelihood (and organic certification) given the years it will take for the chemicals to leave the dirt.
Dave’s on the case and comes across Mia when she’s in Barker to visit the family store she thought her grandmother had sold decades earlier.
I often get angsty when there are a couple of cases on offer, but here Mia’s story is very personal and there’s certainly intrigue given the fact that the store looks like someone just closed up one day and never came back.
I enjoyed the way McDonald writes Clara, Mia’s grandmother who has dementia as we get some snippets from her confused and frustrated point of view.
I was somewhat surprised to see the references in the book blurb about Mia not being accepted as a female officer as I would have thought we were many many decades past that. Though I do wonder if it’s because of the type of work done in outback communities, if it’s all about rural blokey farming machinery and stuff. Having said that, the issues Mia faces are probably more about the bully-boy culture of the Broad River Station and I assume the officers there would judge any newcomer.
Thankfully Mia has Dave and I was sufficiently invested to breathe a sigh of relief when he comes to her aid. McDonald hints at some attraction Mia has to her own boss back at Broad River Station but – the jury (ie. moi) is still out on him. He’s a bit of a prick to Mia in one instance, but perhaps has her back as well. I’m keen for the next book in this interrelated series to see where that goes.
I really liked Mia and hope she hangs around for a while. Though she’s young and newly graduated she recognises her own capabilities and doesn’t take things lying down. She’s not prickly but Dave does need to remind her of the honey vs vinegar approach on a few occasions. We’re in Mia’s head though so can see she’s watching how Dave works and learning from him.
I think McDonald usually writes one young Dave Burrows book and one from this interrelated series each year and though I love young Dave, I must confess I’m actually more excited about the continuation of Mia’s story.
Broad River Station by Fleur McDonald will be published by Allen & Unwin on 1 November 2022.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.