We apparently met Taylor Bridges in the first book of this series (The Crossing), but The Falls by B Michael Radburn very much stands alone and newcomers (like moi) can catch up very quickly with minimal backstory.
Indeed, I was pleased to find another Australian author offering readers a tense and twisty novel of suspense.The Falls
by B. Michael Radburn
Series: Taylor Bridges #2
Published by Pantera Press
on July 27th 2016
Source: NetGalley, Bloomsbury ANZ
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Thriller / Suspense
Damaged but not yet broken, park ranger Taylor Bridges believes his ghosts are in the past - until a raging forest fire in an isolated canyon of The Falls lays bare the remains of a young woman… and a decade-old killing ground.
After the police enlist Taylor in their investigation, the evidence bizarrely points to a deranged preacher who reigned over The Falls a century ago.
But when a crucial witness and a policewoman disappear, it’s clear that a disciple of The Falls’ dark history is on the loose.
The opening scene of this book was a bit like something out of a horror movie. Though not gory. Aroha and Dylan are climbing Jacob’s Peak (looking for its namesake’s long lost treasure) when they stumble across the body of the young woman and realise her killer could still be nearby. Add a bushfire into the mix and it’s edge of your seat stuff as we wait for them to befall some horrendous fate. (Hence the horror movie comparison.) Needless to say it’s a great start which piqued my interest.
The novel changes a little after that point from a thriller into one of more evenly paced suspense.
Thankfully the pair took a photograph of their find, because when they return with local Sergeant Quade Marsden, the body’s gone.
On Aroha’s suggestion, Marsden accepts Taylor’s offer of help and before long it becomes obvious that the body they discovered was not a one-off and there’s something and someone more malicious at play.
The novel is set against a backdrop of cliffs and caves, and a legendary old goldmine inhabited by a cult in the late 1800s. The cult was led by an American preacher, Jacob Muller rumoured to have favoured the practice of sacrifice… in exchange for rain. And over a century later it seems the Eldritch Falls community still has links back to the time of Jacob and his flock.
I should mention that I liked that Radburn doesn’t include too much backstory from the first novel in this series, so it doesn’t make it redundant and I’d be keen to learn about more about Taylor and his first heroic outing.
I also liked that Radburn seems to know what he’s talking about, and the narrative around the fire, terrain and native flora all sounded very authentic.
The only slightly disturbing fact for me is that we seem to keep changing the focus of our attention and I wasn’t sure who I needed to care about. I don’t usually mind multiple narrators but I didn’t really centre in on Taylor as the protagonist.
I initially assumed Aroha was to be a lead character. But then she kinda disappears and we meet local Sergeant Marsden. We learn about his fall from grace and eagerness to get back to the city. Later there’s Detective Sandra Norton who takes over the investigation. And for most of the novel there’s Taylor. I actually liked all of the characters but it felt a little ADD-like and possibly prevented me engaging with the various characters as much as I could have.
However, this was an interesting psychological thriller / novel of suspense which is given extra texture by the history of the goldmine and the mystery around the cult, its macabre practices and the disappearance of its leader many years before.
The Falls by B Michael Radburn was published by Pantera Press (Bloomsbury) on 27 July 2016.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.