BOOK GIVEAWAY: Read on for a chance to win a free copy of Dark Country. The contest ends midnight on Friday, December 11 AEST.
Bronwyn Parry’s second novel is a much more intricate thriller that balances romance and suspense in a way that should appeal to the broadest possible audience.
Dark Country opens with Morgan ‘Gil’ Gillespie’s return to Dungirri, hinting at his troubled past and discomfort at returning to a place that holds nothing but bad memories. He’d been involved in a fatal car accident that landed him in prison, so he’s not expecting a warm welcome from the town. Along the way, he meets police sergeant Kris Matthews. Gil is wary of cops, but an incident sparked by old grievances puts him under Kris’s care for the next 24 hours.
The next day, a dead woman is found in the boot of Gil’s car, and as violence escalates, Gil realises he’s endangering the people he cares about and that it may be impossible to walk away from the town this time around.
Dark Country’s suspense plot is an intricate mystery that pulls together Gil’s unresolved childhood issues and current tensions within the Dungirri community. I know nothing about small community policing, but Parry’s writing reflects how I imagine the system would work in a town like Dungirri. This isn’t a CSI-esque novel—police investigations are under-resourced for the events that unfold, and everyone just has to work around these types of constraints.
The romance in the story takes more of backseat in Dark Country than is typical in romantic suspense—the story is mercifully free of untimely groping while on the run from murderous villains. At ARRC, Parry mentioned that she wrote her first book, As Darkness Falls, originally with an American market in mind. I’m assuming Dark Country was written to suit the Australian market from the beginning, and I think it shows. This isn’t a criticism, but for me it explains the shift in focus. In her previous book, Parry focused on the heroine’s point of view; Dark Country feels very much like Gil’s story. This works because the suspense revolves around him, but also because Kris has fewer demons than he does. Parry keeps the interactions between Gil and Kris simple, honest and realistic—a good foil for the fast-paced suspense plot.
‘If I wanted to play safe, Gil, I’d never have joined the police force. Or…’ She smiled, an honest, wistful smile that wrapped around his heart and made it hard to breathe, ‘or kissed you. But since I’ve chosen to do both, don’t think for a moment that I’m going to let you go alone when there’s probably a contract out on your life now. Nor…’ A shadow crossed her face. ‘Nor am I going to just stand by and not take whatever action I think is necessary to protect this town. I failed them once. I’m not going to do it again.’
But while the protective male part of him raged to keep her safe and defended, the part of him that respected her—her courage, skills, strengths, choices—knew that to deny her would be to deny who she was. And the truth was, he wanted her by his side.
In between, Parry layers the story with that of a small town trying to recover its sense of community. Dungirri has become dysfunctional, and In Dark Country we see some of the underlying causes of the problem, as well as attempts to rebuild the spirit of the town. I love, love, love the way Parry renders this outback community. The characters are diverse in a way that feels natural.
The ending of the suspense plot was a bit of disappointment after the subtlety of most of the book. The climax involves much mayhem, much racing around the clock and miraculous survivals. It all felt a little rushed, and Parry could’ve afforded to simplify the plot a little. I found it difficult to get my head around the back stories, alliances and ensuing twists.
Yay or nay?
Dark Country was listed in this year’s Books Alive guide of 50 Books You Can’t Put Down. I can’t argue with its inclusion. The plot is complicated enough to sustain the suspense, and the love story is believable, although hardcore romantic suspense readers might find it a little sparse—more so than in Parry’s first book—and probably reflects its Australian target market. I may not have missed any meals reading this book, but it was definitely a page-turner.
An uncorrected proof of Dark Country was generously provided by Hachette Australia. The Australian edition was published in September 2009. The UK edition will be released in March 2010. There’s no ebook version at the moment, but I noticed that The Book Depository has an ebook listed for release in March 2010.
DARK COUNTRY GIVEAWAY
For a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Dark Country, in 25 words or less tell us who you consider the most romantic Aussie couple and why. It can be a book, film, real-life story, or you can make up your ultimate Aussie romance.
Some rules: You must post your answer as a comment to this post. Multiple entries are fine. By entering, you give us permission to quote your entry in future blog posts and articles. Overseas readers are welcome to join in. The giveaway ends midnight on Friday, December 11 AEDT. Wandergurl, Decadence and I will pick our favourite answer. We’ll announce the winner the following week, and they’ll have a week to send me their delivery address before the prize is forfeit.
Where you can buy this book
AUSTRALIA: Abbeys | Australian Online Bookshop | Booktopia | Borders | Dymocks | Ever After | Fishpond | Nile | QBD | Readings | More
EBOOKS: Not available
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Book Depository
Books in the series (Australia)
Books in the series (UK)