All Fall Down – Cassandra Austin
is a contemporary gothic horror novel set in the outback. It immediately hooks the reader as it launches with brief images of three of the main characters doing inexplicable things:
– Janice driving her car across the Mululuk bridge in the middle of the night when it breaks apart
– Rachel and her dog Moustache getting off train at Mululuk in the centre of a desert and falling asleep on the station in the dark and my favourite
-Charlie who is hearing voices and burying a bag of knives after walking for several hours in the desert.
Mululuk is a typical country town; given that people see everything that everybody does, they all gossip, they also keep secrets, they overlook the inevitable adulterous affairs, they form unusual relationships but they look out for each other – sort of.
After the collapse of the bridge, the town is severed in two and everyone has to drive an inconvenient distance to get around the deep chasm which the bridge had spanned. Furthermore, due to the inexplicable failure of the old bridge even when a new bridge is built it remains frustratingly closed.
The tension builds up from the beginning with eerie references and presence of dingoes, plus the isolation and the dry, barren expanse of the land predicts more hardships to endure. In addition the author’s use of one-liners, maintain the chilling forecasts
– “the desert eats dogs” Gussy when she picks up Rachel, and
– “Someone is going to die!” …..”The bridge fell because the land needs -…” Charlie
Meanwhile the gossiping and the running of public meetings and the characteristic townspeople who will take matters into their own hands are woven into the fabric of the typical country town life.
Regrettably, I found Richard’s presence throughout the novel rather perplexing; his presence in the hospital was questionable and I thought the reference by him to Damocles ambiguous and did not add to the tension building in the story. His attendance certainly added to the strange combination of guests at Gussy’s dinner party.
The descriptions of the desert, the underground homes or dugouts, the “moaning” mines, the red earth, red dust, the spinifex, and the insufferable dust storm are excellent and I would have liked more of them. Having lived in a mining town in Western Australia and stayed in an opal town with underground houses – White Cliffs in NSW, I especially appreciated the author’s knowledge and understanding of the ambiance of the Outback.
All Fall Down is a welcome addition to the genre Australian gothic novel.
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
Simple, entertaining and makes a lot of sense regarding changing your lifestyle for better peace of mind.
Sapphire Falls by Fleur McDonald
A notable detective/crime novel set in an Australian country town. Fleur McDonald understands and imparts the feel and lifestyle of living in a farming area. In Sapphire Falls she develops a credible story around the working relationships of her protagonists, the possible connections between their friendship groups and the mischievous gossiping that often happens in a rural community. She places many plausible options and motives for the crimes that are linked in the story and kept me reading to almost the end to reveal the criminal and their reasons for their wicked intentions.
Her main character Fiona Forrest, is a likeable young woman who willingly becomes a farmer after falling in love with her husband who had inherited his grandfather’s farm. Like many contemporary country women, she is tough and determined and readily adapts to the life in the small rural community. When she suddenly becomes a widow, after her husband commits suicide, she doesn’t buckle but is desperate to remain on the farm especially. Nevertheless, when things go from bad to worse and she is maliciously targeted by unknown persons, Fiona finds it all almost unbearable.
I enjoyed Fleur McDonald’s detective Dave Burrows. He is an old school decent detective who is being reprimanded for not “following orders” but realises this wouldn’t have happened earlier in his career “but policing is changing and he wasn’t sure he was up to it”. Dave has the unpleasant job of re-examining the deaths of Eddie and Charlie because the “bright young” policeman who originally attended both scenes did not thoroughly consider all possibilities.
An excellent holiday/weekend read.