Book Review: Suddenly One Summer

Genre: Australian Rural, Mystery, Drama
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Brianna Donahue has always lived the farming life, and has always known just how dangerous that life can be. There’s never a dull moment on a farm, especially when you’re essentially a single parent to two tearaway boys. Even so, this summer looks set to be far more intense than she’d anticipated.

Brianna hadn’t expected much on her birthday, not even a kiss goodbye from her husband before he flew to Perth for work. She certainly hadn’t expected to find her oldest son missing, with no trace of him visible. As Brianna and her father search the property, and the neighbours join the hunt for the wayward boy, Brianna realises that this might just be the end of her marriage.

Things are changing, and like the weather, those changes look set to be the bad kind.

Thousands of kilometres away, Detective Dave Burrows and his partner Jack are set to investigate a claim of stolen sheep, at least, until it becomes clear that the farmer, Guy, might just be struggling through the early stages of dementia. Were there really sheep missing? And a strange woman who shows up a few times a year? Or are they the fancies of a failing mind? Though the case looks likely to go unsolved, Dave is determined to help the crotchety old farmer.

He’d hoped to find a relative, someone who could come and help out around the farm. Not a mystery just begging to be investigated. Rumour has it that Guy had a sister, one who vanished without a trace when he was young.

Fleur McDonald is one of Australia’s most prolific writers, with a flair for realism in her rural dramas, and characters that you can’t help but love. In ‘Suddenly One Summer’, the characters are sympathetic, empathetic, and far too relatable.

This is the sort of book that’s really hard to put down, so if you’re planning to read it, consider hiding yourself away for the day and settling in. ‘Suddenly One Summer’ is sweet without being sickeningly so; dramatic and compassionate in its exploration of family secrets and duties in a way that’s uncomfortably familiar to anyone who struggles through their Christmas reunions.

Crime readers are likely going to solve the main mystery rather quickly, and yet, that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment here. The characters are more than enough to keep interest alive, and it’s incredibly hard not to want to see whether these characters will find their happily ever after. Those who like their crime heavy with gore and forensics might not enjoy the read, but fans of the cosier end of the genre’s spectrum are probably going to love ‘Suddenly One Summer’.

If you like your mysteries with a lot of heart, you’re going to want to get yourself a copy of ‘Suddenly One Summer’ ASAP.

‘Suddenly One Summer’ is published by Allen & Unwin, and is available through the publisher’s website, and at leading retailers.

Rating: 4 stars

Review by Kylie Thompson

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