Today’s read is from an Australian suspense writer that I came across only recently in Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors (2017). Our female protagonist, Gabriel, rapidly ends up in one heck of a pickle after a girl is found drowned in Larapinta Creek. It is said she fell from the bridge but was it accidental or something worse? A woman matching Gabriel’s description is seen leaving the scene by various witnesses and the police, as well as the community at large are wondering why this woman didn’t call for help and equally why she didn’t come forward afterwards. It doesn’t help that Gabriel was in the area, though her chaotic thought patterns, (she is 3 months a widow after a difficult yet short lived marriage), make her an unreliable character and the reader cannot be sure she is telling the whole truth. As rumours and gossip abound throughout the area Gabriel has to deal with the victim’s parents who are past masters in blackmail and turning the screws on people. Of course by giving into their demands initially to buy herself some time she makes her situation even worse and it is not long before the police are knocking on her door, as the circumstantial evidence piles up against her. Even her cousin Phil thinks she must have been the running woman. But can she somehow prove otherwise?
Despite the intriguing premise I initially struggled with this book, mostly because of Gabriel. I appreciate that she might not be in the best place emotionally or mentally, given recent events in her personal life, but the naivety of her actions at the start of book, along with her prolonged inability to clearly state that she was or wasn’t the running woman irksome. I know why she is that way as a character, I really do, and I have read stories with similarly evasive or nincompoop characters, but for some reason it just got on my wick this time. Thankfully it wasn’t like this for all of the book and as events and people turn against her, besieging her house and lying to save their own skins, I started to warm to her. The central mystery also gets more interesting when it seems those closest to Gabriel are holding information back and that it looks like the drowned girl may have known something about a woman who died at the Creek a year earlier. It was also interesting to see the supposedly bereaved parents in such a hideous and appalling light and it was quite unusual to see them less as victims and more as aggressors and plotters. The final solution was good, though perhaps not the option with greatest wow factor. Additionally the ending was a bit abrupt but I suppose it is better than an ending which is overly long or emotionally flowery. So quite a mixed read this time round, but I think I would probably give Carlon another try at some point.