This is actually the first book I’ve read by Australian author Sarah Barrie though she’s penned the Hunters Ridge series and I understand this is loosely linked to her 2018 release, Blood Tree River.
I kinda guessed the ‘whodunnit’ part here which is eventually partially handed to us. The why wasn’t as predictable though and sets up the suspense in this book quite nicely.
by Sarah Barrie
Published by Harlequin (Australia) TEEN/MIRA
on June 17th 2019
Source: Harlequin, NetGalley
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Romantic Suspense
After the violent death of her husband, Callie Jones retreats to a cottage in the grounds of an old mansion in Tasmania.
The relative remoteness of the place and the wild beauty of the Tasmanian landscape are a balm to her shattered nerves and the locals seem friendly, particularly horseman Connor Atherton and his siblings at the nearby property, Calico Lodge.
But all is not well: the old mansion has a sinister past, one associated with witchcraft and murder. As Callie is threatened by odd events in the night and strange dreams overtake her sleep, she begins to doubt her own sanity. What's really going on beneath the surface of this apparently peaceful town? Are her friends and neighbours really who they seem? As events escalate, Callie starts to realise that the mansion may hold the key to unlocking the mystery, but the truth might have as much power to destroy as it does to save.
Barrie creates a great sense of place here. We visit the Hunter Valley briefly but most of our time is spent in Tasmania and her descriptions of the Central Highlands and views of Cradle Mountain are striking. And alluring. I’ve only been to Hobart (and surrounds) but would love to explore more of that part of Australia.
I loved the characters Barrie offers us and assume readers met the Atherton family from (fictional) Calico Mountain in Blood Tree River. Here, they’re linked to our lead character Callie through her friend, Paisley.
Originally from Tasmania Paisley knew Callie’s husband and worked for the couple on their Hunter Valley property, becoming Callie’s best (and now, only) friend.
Paisley’s family (the Waldrons) and Athertons are neighbours (kinda) though the ‘Weirdo Waldrons’ have been beset by rumours and innuendo since Paisley and her brother Ned were young – thanks to her mother’s job at a mental health institution and outreach work.
Indeed, when Callie moves into a cottage on Paisley’s childhood property she finds the house quite eerie and hears stories of witches and devils.
Callie’s just killed her husband however (oops sorry, #spoileralert) and needs solitude and respite from the press. Alas however, whatever had suddenly plagued her husband and led to him behaving VERY out of character (killing someone himself) seems to have followed her to Tasmania. Though we learn pretty quickly it was there all along and it’s she who ran headlong back into it all.
I liked the balance of romance and intrigue Barrie offers we readers. Callie’s presented with a romantic interest pretty quickly (and I don’t mean Paisley’s persistent and possibly sociopathic brother Ned) but struggles with the idea of moving on after so recently ‘losing’ her husband. And of course the Atherton family seem to be genuine and morally upright characters. I gather Connor’s brother Logan and his (now) wife, police detective Indy were the focus of Blood Tree River so we don’t spend much time with Logan, rather it’s Connor and Tess (their sister) who befriend Callie and recruit her to help with their bed and breakfast business, Calico Lodge.
In the background people are getting killed after receiving an envelope similar to that which Callie saw her husband ignoring just before his death. There’s obviously a link but it takes a while to piece it together.
I must confess to not being completely convinced by the backstory which resulted in the revenge attacks decades later. There seemed to be a few extra secrets floating around or some paranoia at least. Some who knew the history weren’t particularly worried by the events of the past but others (a two staff members from Calico Lodge) seemed very nervous. There were also some linkages that weren’t fully explained and were ultimately incredibly coincidental.
Of course I’m being picky in my usual logic-loving way, and need to remember we’re talking fiction; and this is an enjoyable read. In addition to an atmospheric sense of place, Barrie has created great characters readers come to care about so keeps us riveted to the end.
The Devil’s Lair by Sarah Barrie will be published in Australia by Harlequin / MIRA and available from 17 June 2019.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.