“Deception Creek” is the latest in Fleur McDonald’s long-running series featuring Dave Burrows, and it’s one of the best of the series.
Police detective Dave Burrows is a continuing character in McDonald’s work, sometimes taking centre stage, and sometimes as a more minor character. In all of these novels, other characters recur in roles of varying importance.
However, each novel also contains an independent, complete, story. If you read all the novels you’ll gradually build up a stronger picture of certain characters, and although that adds depth and enjoyment, it’s not essential to appreciate any individual novel.
Here Dave is only one of a broad cast of characters; indeed, McDonald is so even-handed in her treatment of them that it doesn’t really feel as though any one character is central. This benefitted the multiple, entwined stories, and made it feel all the more realistic.
Joel Hammond, newly released from jail, has returned to small-town Barker. He’d left town years ago, all but run out of town in the wake of the accidental death of his girlfriend. An unrelated jail term years later destroyed his life, and he’s back to try to rebuild it. Unfortunately, small towns have long memories, and many residents don’t want him back.
Trying to keep the peace, Dave Burrows and his offsider Jack Higgins find themselves re-examining the investigation into Maggie Douglas’ death. This leads them to take a closer look at Joel’s later conviction too. And because life isn’t simple, there’s an internet fraudster affecting people in town and the daily realities of policing a small town too.
Meanwhile, another resident, Emma, is celebrating her divorce – or is she? She doesn’t regret the divorce, but she’s not thrilled about the shape of her life either. Being a farmer is hard work and sometimes isolating. Emma is considering what changes she might want to make.
One of the things I appreciate about McDonald’s work is that it doesn’t fit tidily into one genre; like life, it sprawls across several. There are elements of romance, but it’s not always the main storyline. There are elements of crime, but it’s a gentler approach than many crime readers might expect. Domestic and relationship drama plays a part too. And although it’s not prominent, McDonald frequently touches on contemporary social issues.
Consequently, this novel should appeal to readers who favor all sorts of genres. It’s well written and strongly characterised (whether you’ve read any other of McDonald’s novels or not).
I particularly appreciated the plotting. Multiple stories overlap and intersect. This feels credible in a small town, where almost everyone has some acquaintance and lives get linked whether you want them to or not. All of the plot elements were interesting and kept me reading.
I have read a number of the earlier novels, and enjoyed revisiting characters I’d met before and seeing what they were up to now. Although not the main purpose of “Deception Creek”, it gave it an interesting layer that added depth.
The reason I think it’s one of the best McDonald has written to date lies in the plotting. I’ve already noted the way the plots link and intersect. It means that no single plot has a lot of depth to it, but it feels very real in the way you have to deal with more than one thing at once. I also appreciated the resolution of the novel. It’s not as upbeat as some might want, but I found it satisfying and believable.
Fans of McDonald won’t need a lot of prompting to pick this up, but new readers should also give it a try. It’s not a difficult read, but it has something to offer readers across a number of genres. I enjoyed it a great deal.
Author: Fleur McDonald
Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin (2021)
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Deception Creek by Fleur McDonald. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I love sharing that joy.
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, across all genres. There’s not much I won’t at least try. I’ve been an enthusiastic book reviewer for years. I particularly enjoy discovering writers new to me, and sharing good writing with others.
My career has included time spent writing and editing technical documents, but it’s fiction that really moves me. I’ve reviewed for a number of different outlets over the years, and have been a judge in literary competitions.
I’m now raising little bookworms of my own, which brings a whole new kind of joy to sharing books.
More of my reviews can be found on my review blog www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog .