Author: Fleur McDonald
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Fleur McDonald is a talented West Australian author writing suspenseful stories of life in small towns. She is an author I always quite enjoy but haven’t read nearly enough of. Fool’s Gold is her 11th novel but she has gone back in time to start at the beginning for a character we have come to know in other stories.
I am actually going to start by saying that Fool’s Gold comes with a bonus short story, The Farmer’s Choice; which come to think of it I’m pretty sure I purchased digitally and didn’t get around to. I read it tonight after finishing Fool’s Gold and I just want to say that if you read my review before you read the book…. read the short story first, it goes back even further in the life of Detective Dave Burrows. At the same time, I read it after the novel and still enjoyed it immensely. It’s another short insight into the events that made Detective Dave Burrows a detective.
We have met Detective Dave Burrows in more than one of McDonald’s novels as a passionate and dedicated detective working the cases that come up, always as a secondary character with a bit of background. Fool’s Gold gives him a starring role and takes us back to the beginning. Detective Burrows has just been promoted to husband, and detective. His first posting as a detective is to the rural gold mining town of Barrabine, in 1997, with his wife of two weeks.
Dave and Melinda are a perfect example of opposites attracting; Dave grew up on the family farm and always dreamed of spending his life there and Melinda is a city girl whose family are less than smitten with her choice of husband. The move to Barrabine is one they discussed in depth but it still wasn’t quite what they expected and there were times Dave was left wondering if his marriage would be over before it really began.
Fool’s Gold explores the early days of marriage when the honeymoon period ends way too soon and you are left questioning whether you made the right decision, whether you have given up all that’s important to you for the good of your partner and whether that sacrifice is worth it in the end. We have a front row seat as Melinda questions it all, with her family at the end of the phone encouraging her to give up and move back to them.
McDonald explores Melinda’s grief and loneliness well, and also her slow embrace of her new life. She may have trained as a paediatric nurse but those skills, and all of the reasons she chose to follow that field, can be applied to other roles when you open your mind to other opportunities.
Detective Dave Burrows has his eye on a spot in the stock squad but it’s something he has to work his way up to and the first stop on the journey is a country posting in the gold squad.
Barrabine might be a tiny mining town but where there’s gold there’s gold fever, and that often leads to trouble. There is quite a lot going on for such a little town and I was captivated with the way it all unfolded.
Late night trespassing, mining companies trying to buy up all the leases, a missing person, urban legends and an unidentified body make for interesting reading and some surprising twists. There were elements that left me wondering how that could possibly be, and even at the end of the book I’m not quite sure, but that was quite minor and didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story.
I am left completely enthralled by Detective Dave Burrows and his story and I can’t wait to find out how he gets from where we leave him at the end of Fool’s Gold in 1997 to where we first met him in the present day.
McDonald has woven a couple of different mysteries into the narrative and the clues were well placed to keep me guessing but still put some of the pieces together to form an interesting and intricate tale of mining town life.
I can not wait to see what McDonald has in store for Detective Burrows in the next book.
Fools’ Gold is book #16 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.