Devil's Lair, Sarah Barrie
Bit of housekeeping first because I got myself a little confused early on here. DEVIL'S LAIR is a standalone novel from prolific Australian author Sarah Barrie, sharing some location similarities with an earlier novel - BLOODTREE RIVER. Sarah's past books seem to lean towards the romance side of the equation, with DEVIL'S LAIR billed as romantic suspense.
The novel starts out with events leading up to the violent death of Dale Jones, unfaithful husband and business partner of Callie Jones. Fleeing the aftermath of his death, Callie lobs up in a neglected mansion house, in a small Tasmanian town, which comes with the requisite spooky stories, creaks in the night, odd neighbours, and general decay and foreboding.
From the opening pages I suspect some readers may be aware that we're looking at that form of suspense that comes well telegraphed, with atmospherics to spare, and a cast of millions. There were points in the book where a hand written cast list including connections to who / how was the only hope I had at keeping up. Especially if the book had been put aside for a few days to go on with something else, when getting back into the swing of it required heaps of concentration and that list. Having said that DEVIL'S LAIR feels very much like the opening salvo in a series as there plenty of hints of future directions as well.
So - lots of characters / lots of ideas / a pretty stereotypical setting ... can be gone along with, but what stayed with me for the longest time after reading the book was the juxtaposition of all of that, and a sort of cozy narrative with an oddly laid back attitude when faced with a particularly gruesome body count. Whilst you'd think you could possibly live with things that move or bump in the night in a house that's supposed to be haunted, the somewhat lackadaisical approach to murder after murder, and oddity of never once having that referred to ... I don't know ... a major crime squad or something, didn't make sense. Add to that the budding romance - our plucky widow and the gorgeous local bachelor and the balance wasn't pitched at reader's of my ilk obviously.
Extra heavy on the romance, extra light on the suspense side, where the murder and mayhem seems to be somewhat secondary to the personal relationships, DEVIL'S LAIR will undoubtedly appeal to fans of that balance.
For readers of The Dark Lake and The Dry, comes this taut psychological suspense set in a dramatic Tasmanian landscape from bestselling author Sarah Barrie.
A lonely widow, a sinister act, a remote mansion with a dark past...
After the violent death of her husband, Callie Jones retreats to a cottage in the grounds of an old mansion in Tasmania. The relative remoteness of the place and the wild beauty of the Tasmanian landscape are a balm to her shattered nerves and the locals seem friendly, particularly horseman Connor Atherton and his siblings at the nearby property, Calico Lodge.
But all is not well: the old mansion has a sinister past, one associated with witchcraft and murder. As Callie is threatened by odd events in the night and strange dreams overtake her sleep, she begins to doubt her own sanity. What's really going on beneath the surface of this apparently peaceful town? Are her friends and neighbours really who they seem? As events escalate, Callie starts to realise that the mansion may hold the key to unlocking the mystery, but the truth might have as much power to destroy as it does to save.