Book review: Where the River Runs by Fleur McDonald

Friday, October 26, 2018 Permalink

I’ve been enjoying this series by Fleur McDonald – featuring Detective Dave Burrows (and a range of related characters). I also liked her last release, Fool’s Gold, which featured a young Dave – when he first started policing, giving us more insight into his history.

We’re back to the present now (well, mostly) and this is another great read – one which has a mystery to be solved in the background – but is more about family and relationships.

Book review: Where the River Runs by Fleur McDonaldWhere the River Runs
by Fleur McDonald
Series: Detective Dave Burrows
Published by Allen & Unwin AU
on November 1st 2018
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: General Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9781760633141
Pages: 328

Nine years ago, thirty-year-old Chelsea Taylor left the small country town of Barker and her family's property to rise to the top as a concert pianist. With talent, ambition, and a determination to show them all at home, Chelsea thought she had it made.

Yet here she was, in Barker, with her four-year-old daughter, Aria, readying herself to face her father, Tom. The father who'd shouted down the phone nine years ago never to come home again.

With an uneasy truce developing, Chelsea and Aria settle into the rhythm of life on the land with Tom and Cal, the farmhand, who seems already to have judged Chelsea badly. Until a shocking discovery is made on the riverbed and Detective Dave Burrows, the local copper, has to tear back generations of family stories to reveal the secrets of the past.

It’s interesting that McDonald’s books are released around the same time as Jane Harper’s. I mentioned (two years ago) that Harper’s very popular The Dry, for me, actually suffered in comparison to McDonald’s Sapphire Falls – as both books were very similar.

Like Harper, McDonald writes about the landscape and the outback beautifully. There’s a really strong sense of place and McDonald – in particular – knows farming and rural Australia well and (as well as the terrain) includes a lot of detail, adding texture to this tale. (And I know that McDonald has long worked the land / owned a farm herself.)

In a short prologue (set in 2001) we meet a young Chelsea. She’s precocious but a good kid. Music is her world and she’s naturally gifted though not as dedicated to the art of the basics as she should be. She’s also not the daughter she thinks her mother would have chosen, given her preference for music and horse riding over netball. She has an opportunity to pursue her music and leaves home at just thirteen years of age to head to the city. And she never really properly returns.¬†The fact she’s not returned to support her family (father in particular) in times of grief means she’s not hugely welcomed back into the community she left so long ago.

Her father – fortunately – cannot help but adore Chelsea’s 4yr old daughter, Aria so there’s a polite tolerance towards his daughter on her first visit in 10 years.

We’re in Chelsea’s head so we know her secrets… ones she’s wanted to keep from her parents and hometown, but – in retrospect¬† – her failings aren’t as bad as the sins she commits to hide them.

We also spend time with Detective Dave Burrows whose world collides with that of Chelsea and her father Tom when some bones are found on their property. Tom’s family’s owned the land for several generations so there’s a likelihood that the buried skeleton is metaphorical as well as literal. (#sorrynotsorry)

Dave soon learns the buried body (now bones) held more secrets than initially obvious but he’s not sure if he can justify resources on a crime so old no one could be brought to account. And yet….

So, while there’s a mystery in the background here, no lives are at risk and it’s not suspenseful as such. It couldn’t even be deemed a ‘thriller’ in the true sense of the word, but it’s a tale of intrigue – in relation to the old bones and buried secrets; and one of regret and loss – when it comes to Chelsea and her relationship with her father and the secrets they’ve kept from each other.

McDonald also writes about loss poignantly and there’s a beautiful scene in which Tom talks about his wife – not wanting to finish a book and read past her bookmark because… “Why should I know more about the book than she did?” p 171

I really enjoyed this read and await the next book in the series with some impatience. (Or another instalment featuring young Dave Burrows would also do nicely!)

Where the River Runs by Fleur McDonald was released on 24 October 2018 in Australia by Allen & Unwin.

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


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