You discover whodunnit at the end, but this is one of those books that you wish continued after it stops. How did everyone react after? Harper brings to life a small Tasmanian coastal town, the feel of which will be familiar to many Australians. Kieran, Mia and baby Audrey return from Sydney to help Kieran’s mum Verity pack up the house. Dad Brian has dementia and Verity has booked him into a facility, planning to buy a small place nearby. As Kieran and Mia meet up with old friends, they make the acquaintance of Bronte, a young art student down from Canberra who’s waitressing at the local Surf and Turf. Twenty four hours later, Bronte is dead. In between advancing the current case, Harper fills us in on traumatic events twelve years earlier when a superstorm caused tremendous damage and two deaths for which Kieran feels much guilt. As the book progresses, we discover that the story everyone believed is not quite right.
Apart from being a riveting story set in a beautiful place, the thing I particularly admired was the way Harper adds nuance to her characters, giving them a subtlety of psychology that you often don’t get in a murder mystery. There’s a particularly real feel to this book, in that the ultimate cause of the deaths wasn’t that someone was malign - it’s more a case of small town psychology with its attendant shame, fear and guilt operating powerfully on an otherwise very decent person. As such, it has notes of ancient tragedy. As in many recent books, the bad behaviour of anonymous people online is a feature. Too many ids on display.