REVIEW

When We Fall, Aoife Clifford

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

Given the juxtaposition of this review, and my recent one for THE STONING, I probably should mention that Aoife Clifford was the author I was discussing rural noir versus rural crime with. To my eye, Clifford is one of the great writers of rural crime in Australia at the moment, and she's right when she says the difference between her books and the more noirish styled ones like THE STONING is her self-professed affection, and sense of hope for the small towns that she sets her action in.

WHEN WE FALL is the story of Alex Tillerson and her mother and the small coastal town of Merritt, as much as it is the story of two murdered women. Alex is back in town for some very complicated reasons - a pending divorce, and a career as a barrister that's tanking; her mother's gentle slip into dementia requiring some difficult decisions to be made; and there's family history in Merritt that's complicated and challenging for all. The quote from the blurb sums it up beautifully:

‘It isn’t strangers you need to worry about here. Blood lines run deep and in unexpected places. Every victim, every accused, we’ll know. The past runs alongside us all the time. Some days it spills into the open.’

When Alex and her mother make a shocking find on the beach one morning, the local police seem to be almost desperate to call it an accidental death, but there are whispers around town, and there's some odd connections between Maxine McFarlane, the latest victim, and the death of Bella Greggs a year earlier. She was found at the bottom of a ravine, despite having drowned in salt water. Maxine was found on the beach, supposedly drowned but her death quickly becomes more complicated as well. Nobody has ever explained the black feathers found with both bodies.

Cleverly interwoven with the deaths of these young women are many current day issues, from environmental activism, climate change, addiction, forced adoption, and the prejudice and unemployment that seems to blight so many small Australian towns these days. Elegantly plotted, tightly paced and littered with red herrings, readers are going to be left adjusting guesses at motive, and possible perpetrators right from the outset, with a lot of people - locals and incomers - with a lot of secrets to hide.

Aoife Clifford really writes descriptions of place, people and impact well. As with earlier novels, there's a clever juxtaposition of architecture and atmosphere, something, somewhere in the location that speaks to the central theme - in this case a lighthouse that looms, creating dark corners, and then shining bright, clear light in them. There are problems in her small town Australia locations, but there is always that sense of hope, and affection that peaks through. Her characters are beautifully nuanced and complicated, many of them with a sneaking sense of hope: that they didn't do it; or they will get to the truth; and will find a way of living a good life, in a place that deserves a second go.

 

Book Source Declaration
I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author.
BOOK DETAILS
BOOK INFORMATION
ISBN
9781761150197
Year of Publication
BLURB

‘It isn’t strangers you need to worry about here. Blood lines run deep and in unexpected places. Every victim, every accused, we’ll know. The past runs alongside us all the time. Some days it spills into the open.’

In the wild, coastal town of Merritt, Alex Tillerson and her mother make a shocking find on the beach. The police claim it’s an accidental death but there are whispers of murder and that it is not the first.

Bella Greggs was found dead at the bottom of a ravine but drowned in salt water. Maxine McFarlane was pulled from the ocean but with no water in her lungs. Black feathers were found with both bodies but what do they mean?

As Alex fights for answers to honour the dead, and to discover why her mother fled town as a teenager, good people keep looking the other way, memories become unreliable and secrets threaten to reveal the past.

Alex discovers the truth never dies but it can kill…

Review When We Fall, Aoife Clifford
Karen Chisholm
Monday, March 21, 2022

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