Book review: Dying to Know by Rae Cairns

Sunday, April 9, 2023 Permalink

Dying to Know by Rae Cairns is the second book by the Australian author and I very much enjoyed her first, The Good Mother, despite it being about one of my less-favourite topics… of parenting-related angst and judgement.

In her latest novel she very deftly introduces an historical crime without belabouring it, which is something I very much appreciated. The backcover blurb made me wonder if there’d be a lot of back and forward in time (which I don’t dislike, but imagined might be drawn-out) when in reality Cairns cleanly and succinctly introduces the events of twelve years earlier and moves on to the present.

Book review: Dying to Know by Rae CairnsDying to Know
by Rae Cairns
Published by HarperCollins - AU, HarperCollins Publishers Australia
on 05/04/2023
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1460761952
Pages: 384

Twelve years ago budding journalist Geneva Leighton received a phone call that stopped her life in its tracks. Her terrified sister, Amber, was locked in the boot of a moving car and begging Geneva for help. Amber was never heard from again.

Since that night, Geneva's days have revolved around caring for her traumatised niece and nephew, despite the unpredictable behaviour of their father ... and keeping the search for her sister alive. But the knowledge it should have been her in the boot of that car haunts her waking hours.

When Sergeant Jesse Johns turns up with shocking new evidence about Amber, Geneva's world is thrown into chaos again.

The police leads hit a dead end and desperate for answers, Geneva becomes Amber's lone warrior for justice.

As she edges closer and closer to the truth, she uncovers dangerous secrets that have the power to destroy everyone she loves.

I appreciated that Cairns changes Geneva’s character so completely. When we meet her briefly on the night Amber disappears, she’s kinda self-centred and immature. Although probably quite typical for a 22 year old. She’s razor focussed on a career in journalism and making a name for herself. Twelve years later she’s working in a coffee shop and has devoted her life to caring for her niece and nephew (now 16 and 12).

She’s got a turbulent relationship with their father (Hugh), who was hard to gauge. There seems to be real affection for his kids but he’s distant with other obvious priorities, which was also the case in the lead up to Amber’s disappearance. His movements were investigated at the time but he had an alibi so the police looked elsewhere and eventually gave up.

The discovery of Amber’s remains brings the past crashing back for Gen. Interestingly Amber’s kids react differently – and I suspect it’s confronting for Gen to realise she’s the only one who wants answers. Well, along with Jesse, the young police officer investigating Amber’s disappearance.

Cairns narration of what follows is realistic and she instilled (or incited!) some very genuine feelings here as I found myself angry and frustrated on behalf of Gen when Hugh and his parents try to remove her from the kids’ lives and seemingly for no reason other than to get her to stop asking questions rather than the kids’ welfare.

I liked Cairns’ inclusion of both cop Jesse and Gen’s former journalist friend Toni who begrudgingly help her to try to uncover what happened to Amber.

I kinda guessed the who here but most certainly not the what or why and liked the way Cairns offers us some surprises and a few ethical dilemmas. (So… perfect for bookclub debates!)

I’m really enjoying Cairns’s work and appreciate both novels have been well-paced, twisty and really quite different.

Dying to Know by Rae Cairns was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.

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


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