To The Sea, Nikki Crutchley

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Iluka, perched above the Pacific Ocean, is a beautiful, isolated, place, home to Ana and her family. Her grandfather's sanctuary, somewhere more complicated for her mother and Ana. It is, however, a place where creativity abounds, and Ana's aunt runs an artists' retreat there, her grandfather is a furniture maker and her uncle tends the land. Ana and her mother Anahita seems less settled, less in tune, perhaps not helped by living in the main house with the grandfather, a difficult man to say the least.

TO THE SEA is a shifting timeline novel, with two main narrators - Ana and her mother. This added a level of complication to the story for this reader, which felt very deliberate, crafted, as this is a complex, tricky story full of portent and mystery, steeped in the past and decisions out of the hands of Ana and Anahita, but affecting them, more than just about anybody else. Ana, perhaps because she's so young, seems to constantly be searching outwards, whereas Anahita seems more resigned, ghostly for want of a better word. Everything about their lives is controlled by this place, that seems so idyllic, so safe, so freeing, and yet there are secrets. As is often the way in these sorts of novels, it's the arrival of a stranger - an artist in residence - that forces Ana to make a decision - protect everyone and everything or tell the truth and watch the edifice of their lives collapse.

Atmospheric (in spades), with a terrific sense of place, TO THE SEA is a tense, page turning thriller, with a multi-layered plot that is revealed via the parallel timeframes. It will require commitment from the reader - both in terms of keeping up with the shifting storylines, and in sticking with the growing sense of foreboding and dread. The resolution, I must admit, took this reader by surprise, and looking back to see why, the hidden crimes, the motives, they were all there, it was just the overwhelming sense of foreboding that made me miss some of the clues.

Definitely a page turner, definitely one of those creepy, worrying, disquieting sorts of thrillers that are equal parts fascinating and equal parts designed to make you want to keep all the lights on and question every single place ever defined as paradise or an idyll.


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Keep a secret. Tell a lie. Protect the family. At all costs.

A compulsively readable suspense thriller from Ngaio Marsh Award shortlisted author, Nikki Crutchley, which will keep you guessing and reading up until late into the night.

Iluka has been the only home that 18-year-old Ana has ever known. The beautiful wild pine plantation overlooking the Pacific Ocean where her grandfather builds furniture, her aunt runs an artists' retreat and her uncle tends the land, is paradise, a private idyll safe from the outside world.

But the place holds a violent secret and when a stranger arrives, Ana will need to make a choice: to protect everything - and everyone - she holds dear or tell the truth and destroy it all.

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