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Haunted by her failures, Detective Isabelle O’Connell is recalled to duty by DCI Alec Goddard to investigate the abduction of yet another child from her home town. They have only days to find the girl alive, with few clues, a town full of suspects, and a vast wilderness to search. It soon becomes a game of cat and mouse, with Bella firmly in the killer’s sights.
For Bella, this case is already personal; for Alec, his best intentions to keep it purely professional soon dissolve, and his anguish over Bella’s safety moves beyond the concern for a colleague.
Their mutual attraction leaves them both vulnerable to their private nightmares – nightmares the killer ruthlessly exploits.
A difficult setting, and a difficult task for the debut novelist. Bronwyn Parry does a fine job with bringing a small Australian bush town to life and this is the great strength of the read. You can taste the dust in the air and truly really picture everyone talking out the sides of their mouths (so thus to avoid the blowflies). Where it would be a stretch is in calling this a a crime novel, or even one of romantic suspense as there is no real mystery to solve or any pretense in constructing one. As a developing relationship drama it serves very well, and will draw the reader in with their concerns for the couple of the hour and allows time to mourn the passing of small town trust.
The unsettling and claustrophobic feeling of isolation and fear carries the reader from chapter to chapter, giving the reader a taste of the "closed room" or "apartment building" drama as the characters are all introduced relatively early in the piece and there is no chance any unseen characters will come into play due to the geographic restrictions of the setting. It also makes it slightly ridiculous that for example someone could fire off a shot in a main street unseen, or that a police investigation could be conducted at such a lackadaisical pace. If we don't concern ourselves with such things, the read is more than able to be enjoyed being that a novel set in the Australian outback is a rare find, and Parry makes excellent use of both landscape and cast in her economically styled narrative.
There are small cultural anomalies here and there, probably for the American market ie truck rather that ute or utility etc but they are not a huge detraction.
AS DARKNESS FALLS is the first in a series of loosely-linked novels. The manuscript of this novel was awarded the 2007 Golden Heart Award by the Romance Writer's of America. The author's background includes a Honours Degree in History and English and she is undertaking a part-time PhD in online communities of romance readers and writers. Brownwyn Parry lives in country New South Wales.
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