Into the Night by Fleur McDonald is the latest in the young(er) Dave Burrows series. I’ve explained in the past that McDonald has two series on the go featuring the likeable rural crime squad detective – one early in his career, and one…. well, later. I love both and it’s fascinating to see how much older Dave has been influenced by mentors we meet earlier in his life.
Another thing I always comment on when reading McDonald’s books is how effortlessly she is able to place readers in their rural settings and relay complex details about agriculture, farming and life on the land in a way that is palatable and relatable to a non-lover of rural life (or being outside in general!) like moi.*Into the Night
by Fleur McDonald
Series: Detective Dave Burrows
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Detective Dave Burrows is devastated. After an acrimonious divorce, Dave has no choice but to let his ex-wife and her father Mark call the shots: supervised, one-hour visits are all he's allowed if he wants to see his two young daughters. And he knows he'll jump through any hoops to see Bec and Alice.
On Leo Perry's farm, sixty kilometres out of Yorkenup, the only positive in Leo's day is the unswerving loyalty of his dog, Coffee. Thanks to yet another power outage, Leo is out in the morning heat, refuelling the water pump. But seconds later he watches in horror as the tank explodes. Flames engulf wooden beams and sparks ignite grass just as Leo realises he's at the end of a one-way petrol trail, the fire roaring straight for him.
When Dave and his partner Detective Bob Holden are called to Leo's ravaged farm, they're unclear if they're dealing with arson, suicide or something else. There's been no sign of Leo anywhere, and his wife Jill is distraught. Leo and his dog appear to have vanished. But, when Dave and Bob begin their investigation, what they find makes no sense at all.
This felt a little different to McDonald’s usual books and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because it opened from the point of view from someone who becomes the ‘victim’. In some ways I felt like I engaged a bit with Leo and assumed he’d be a key player featuring prominently, but he is – in fact – the subject of the mystery as he goes missing.
As we’d been inside his head and understood some of his thinking in relation to challenges on the farm, I found it hard to reconcile the guy we’d met with things we learn. It didn’t seem to gel and in some ways that’s part of the problem Dave and his partner/mentor Bob have as well. Everyone thinks Leo was a great bloke and an open book but no one can offer up any reason why he’d disappear willingly. So, as a result I was quite thrown by some of the events of the book as they seemed unlikely.
But in some ways, much of the book was about the investigation rather than Leo’s disappearance and the ‘why’ (whodunnit / unravelling of this mystery) comes quite late in the book.
As usual McDonald offers up some meaty topics (she’s previously had themes around environmental protection, adoption of new technology and domestic and family violence for example). Here the issue of family farming legacies and the nature of succession planning comes under some scrutiny. Much is made of the fact that Leo remained at home to manage the farm and is paid a wage to do so – as an employee – but that his parents and siblings (who live elsewhere) share in the profits. And… it’s likely he won’t be favoured in any way in his parents’ will. It’s something Dave can relate to (given his own family experience) and I suspect something farming families grapple with constantly.
I keep commenting that we must be getting closer to the two series merging (though we’re only up to 2002 here) and might need to go back early books to remind myself how it all started. In some ways it feels like McDonald is transitioning the characters so I suspect things may become a little fraught for Dave and we readers, as we know there’s both happiness and heartache ahead.
Into the Night by Fleur McDonald was published by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
* I was going to call myself a ‘city slicker’ but realise I can’t say that as I live in regional Australia and – though I’ve lived in ‘cities’ – no longer have any desire to do so.