Book review: The Drowning Girls by Veronica Lando

Saturday, July 1, 2023 Permalink

The Drowning Girls by Veronica Lando is reminiscent of her first novel, The Whispering as it offers up vivid imagery and again Lando manages to place readers in the north of my state of Queensland. And I was very much reminded of a trip I had earlier this year to Weipa (further north than the setting of this book), where we were welcomed to the ‘west coast of Queensland’. It was surreal to most as we tend to forget that my states’s entire west isn’t landlocked and there’s a whole coastline in the tropics – offering a dichotomous view of red dirt reminiscent of outback Australia against palm trees and blue sea.

Book review: The Drowning Girls by Veronica LandoThe Drowning Girls
by Veronica Lando
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1460763572
Pages: 352

Nate can't believe he's dragged himself up to this backwater town. Port Flinders would have fallen off the map years ago, except for one thing. Tourists flock to its mangrove-lined shores for the annual Drowning Girl festival: sacrifice a girl at sea, and the fishing hauls that keep the town afloat will prosper. Or don't and the whole town will sink.

But it's just a legend, a gimmick. Everybody knows that.

As fireworks light up the night sky, a woman's body is pulled from the inky waters of the gulf. Shock waves threaten to tear Port Flinders apart when she's identified as Kelsey Webb: a local teenager thought dead for twenty-five years.

As Nate tries to find the truth about what happened to Kelsey, he uncovers a string of deadly accidents over the decades. All women. All drowned. And always during the festival.

In his search for answers, the legend of the Drowning Girl begins to take hold of Nate, weaving its way into his head and threatening to pull him under, and he begins to question which sacrifices are truly necessary.

Like The Whispering, The Drowning Girls is based on a local myth and again I was slightly fearful we’d dip into the supernatural as it’s not a genre I read. However, though some of our characters are convinced by the folklore (ie. sacrifices bring wealth to the community), Lando keeps our feet in this realm. Of course the town isn’t without its tragedies and we learn about the deaths of a child and teenaged girl over two decades before Nate arrives to teach at the school.

We move about in time a little and I initially struggled with the introduction of multiple characters. However Lando’s intent becomes obvious, as you move through the book with some surprises on offer when you least expect them. Lando offers us complex characters and it’s hard to get a read on some as – as in real life I guess – they’re not good OR bad – there’s shades of grey and though we’re offered a villain (or two), I finished this feeling that some of our players received fates they didn’t entirely deserve. And others… did not.

That said, Lando’s writing is beautiful particularly as the story nears its end and there’s a poignance to her prose. Long descriptive sentences balanced with short sharp phrasing. I got a little lost at the very end, but think that was because I too was swept away by what was real and what was not.

The word sacrifice scratches in my ears, like fingernails on a chalkboard. I try not to look out the small window next to me. It’s smudged and a thin layer of crusty salt has built up on the outside. I look anyway. Across the water, the long jetty stretches out into the ocean. It’s empty. p 317

The Drowning Girls by Veronica Lando will be published by Harper Collins in early July 2023.

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


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