Dead Horse Gap by Lee Christine is the third book I’ve read by the New South Wales-based author. They’re part of a series but Christine’s able to fairly easily provide context so it’s not problematic if you come in partway through. Reading them as a series though, does allow you to know the characters a little better and gives readers a sense we’ve travelled on that journey (#sorrynotsorry) with them. It’s particularly true in the case of two newer police officers, Mitch and Nerida, who benefit from the guidance and experience of their boss DS Pierce Ryder.
The series is set in and around the Snowy Mountains and as it’s not an environment I’m at all familiar with, I love the ease with which Christine is able to place readers amidst the snow fields, reflecting the crisp clean icy weather and the difficult terrain.Dead Horse Gap
by Lee Christine
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction
When a light plane crashes at night in the midst of the New South Wales Snowy Mountains, Sydney Homicide's Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder and Detective Constable Mitchell Flowers are sent to investigate what immediately looks like foul play.
As Ryder and Flowers investigate the crash they uncover a generations-old feud between two local families. Could the bitterness that has been carried through the years have anything to do with the death of the pilot?
Meanwhile, Detective Constable Nerida Sterling is already deep undercover in the Snowies, her assignment to infiltrate a drug ring operating in the mountains and to ultimately hunt down a murderer. As her cover becomes more and more tenuous, what lengths will Sterling go to in order to get the information that she needs?
In my review of Christine’s last novel, Crackenback, I pondered whether we’d see more of Nerida Sterling in this outing and we certainly do. She’s undercover (following a murder involving drug dealers) and I appreciated the sense of realism Christine offers here with Ryder regularly checking in with her to see how she’s coping. And interestingly it’s the isolation and lack of camaraderie she usually gets from her colleagues that Nerida struggles with, rather than the lie she’s living or any real sense of danger.
Initially it seems unlikely that there are linkages between the murder Nerida’s investigating and sabotage to a runway that resulted in the plane crash, but then we learn the now-dead pilot was involved in drugs years earlier. Of course Christine complicates things with intra and inter-family feuds.
I love the balance Christine brings to her work – we get some insight into the personal lives of our key players (Ryder, Nerida and Mitch) and though it impacts on the cases to an extent – it doesn’t overwhelm the investigations so we’re offered consistency good (and complex) crime fiction. Although Ryder’s role is (again) pivotal here, much of the novel unfolds from Mitch’s viewpoint and he’s certainly an engaging lead. (As an aside, Christine refers to him by his surname but ‘Flowers’ for me conjures up images of John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers… so I’m sticking with Mitch!)
I’m enjoying this series and was slightly worried it might wrap up soon as changes are afoot for a couple of team members but… like previous novels, not everything is resolved here so potentially Christine will revisit elements of this plot in the next book in the series.
Dead Horse Gap by Lee Christine was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.