It is possible that the reader of a lot of mystery fiction could come to BAY OF FIRES with a predisposition to like it very much. It's an unusual twist on what is, frequently, a rather formulaic style. More importantly, it's a lot more about the people involved in a community than the tragic death.
The story revolves around Sarah Avery, who was second on the scene when the bikini-clad body is found on the beach. She and her family are long-term holiday residents at the Bay of Fires, so they were there the year before when a young girl went missing. As were a lot of the characters in the story, this being the sort of holiday destination where people own shacks and return every year.
The only incomer in the story is Journalist Hall Flynn, sent to the coast to write a story on the dead girl, he soon finds himself attracted to the odd little community, and to Sarah.
The people who occupy this mostly transient community are a very quirky bunch, and because of the style of BAY OF FIRES there's an intense and concentrated view of them. Avery herself is quite a character, a fishing fanatic, obviously running away from a relationship that went pear-shaped in Queensland, she's a prickly, tricky character. Her encounter with the local teenage peeping tom is just one of the problems she's trying to process, her attraction to Flynn another big problem. Although Flynn quickly comes to share her feelings of protectiveness for the local intellectually disabled town loner who is picked on, bullied and suspected of both the murder and the disappearance.
Cleverly there's no shortage of suspects within the community, and whilst there's not a lot of overt concentration on the actual murder, or even, until towards the end, the disappearance of the young girl, there is a slow build up of possible suspects, of strange behaviour and odd occurrences that make you question the tranquillity of the location.
Being a huge fan of the why's of crime fiction, BAY OF FIRES ticked just about every box for me. It's not absolutely perfect, and there are some parts that do wander around a bit, as well as the occasional feeling of disconnection or lack of purpose. Minor problems in what is overall an interesting, and refreshing debut novel.