Author: Fleur McDonald
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Fleur McDonald has made a name for herself in the rural genre but the novels I have read of hers have been more suspenseful. Suddenly One Summer is her tenth novel and another colourful rural fiction heavy on suspense.
I finished reading this too long ago and let life get in the way, now I’m unmotivated and procrastinating so have spent too much time thinking about some of the characters in McDonald’s work.
The leading lady in Suddenly One Summer is Brianna Donahue, a West Australian farmer, wife and mother whose own mother mysteriously disappeared when she was just three years old. Her body has never been recovered so there has been no closure for Brianna and her father Russell as they continue to farm in Merriwell Bay where she disappeared from.
Brianna is spread thin with her work on the farm and raising the boys almost single-handedly while Caleb is a fly-in fly-out criminal lawyer in Perth.
In a horrific birthday disaster her eldest son Trent goes missing early one sweltering summer morning. The search is heart-breaking and enough to bring back memories of a long ago search that didn’t end so well. Trent is found but this sparks a series of events that leave us questioning much of what is going on in the story.
Across the border in small town South Australia Detective Dave Burrows, who has featured in previous novels, receives a call from an elderly farmer reporting stolen sheep. The first visit to the farm shows Dave and his parner that the farmer is beginning to show signs of dementia, and he is living all alone. Detective Burrows is not one to turn his back on someone who is clearly in need and does his best to try and find help for him.
Detective Burrows is the character I spent too much of the afternoon thinking about because I know he is a recurring character in at least some of McDonald’s novels but I’m not sure just how many. These novels are all stand alone, there is no series, but Detective Burrows and his wife Kim have featured in multiple though I’m not sure how many.
Alternating chapters tell the unfolding story of Brianna, her rocky marriage and life on the farm; and the interesting case Detective Burrows is investigating of the missing sheep. All the while you are left wondering how the stories are connected.
As if speculation about the connections between Brianna and the Burrows case isn’t enough to keep you turning pages long after lights out there is also the scattered snippets about a mysterious badly beaten woman found wandering the highway with complete amnesia.
McDonald has written a suspenseful jigsaw of a story that doesn’t fall into place until the final long held secrets are brought to light.
I live in a small country town, it’s a town that’s growing and isn’t that far from suburbia, but I really have no idea about life on a farm. I know that things are different on a farm and life for kids is different, there are different responsibilities and different rules but I couldn’t get past the ages of the children in this one, I feel that I would have connected better had they been a few years older. This may be normal freedoms for farm life but I couldn’t get my head around it or come to grips.
Suddenly One Summer was a book that kept me guessing with suspenseful storylines, slow burning clue drops and a big finish. I really enjoyed it and it was another one that made me want to go back and catch up on all the novels in her backlist that I have missed.
Suddenly One Summer returns McDonald to her rural roots after the release of The Missing Pieces of Us earlier this year. She is definitely not an author to miss and I will be keeping her on my watch list. Her next release is another novel with Det. Burrows and I will keep it on my radar.
Suddenly One Summer is book #47 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.