Dark Horse by Honey Brown
On Christmas Day Sarah packs a picnic for one and takes her horse Tansy up into the mountains for a day of solitude. After being caught in an extreme weather event she seeks refuge in a former bushranger’s hut. Out from the mist emerges Heath. He says he is injured, lost and in need of shelter but how true is his story?
First Impressions: I liked the opening pages and wondered why Sarah was fleeing. I could just imagine how terrifying it would have been to be trapped in the storm.
Highlights: There is a lot to like about this story, particularly the mystery about Heath. However I would have liked even more mystery, tension and intrigue and less about the relationship between the two. In my mind Sarah needed to be a more unreliable narrator and Heath needed to be more dubious. I would have also liked to see the motif of the bushranger’s hut used more. I was surprised by the final section (in a good way!) and this was my favourite part of the book.
If I was an editor: I would easily see the rural and farming elements of Honey Brown’s life in the details of this story and guess that she has a great love of the bush and a particular fondness for horses. I suspect this novel is quite close to her heart. Unfortunately I don’t have this same background so found it hard to really get into all the details, particularly about Sarah’s relationship to her horse Tansy although I did respect it.
Overall: I now doubt I would survive for long if lost in the bush during an extreme weather event.
Dark Horse: 3.5 stars
The Red Queen by Honey Brown
I recently read Honey Brown’s After the Darkness and was disappointed to discover that none of her other novels are available to readers in the UK. Luckily, I had a relative visiting from Australia and ordered from Readings (free and very quick postage within Aus – worth a plug) a couple of Honey Brown’s books, including this one.
Deep in the Australian bush, Shannon Scott is holed up in a cabin with his brother Rohan waiting out the catastrophic event of worldwide disease and a breakdown of global economies. One night a mysterious woman slips under their late night watch and past their loaded guns.
Denny Cassidy is beautiful and a survivor.Her inclusion in the cabin brings about the need for a new set of rules but is she laying a trap? Could she be a cold tactician with a deadly agenda?
First Impressions: I was plunged straight into the lives of the two brothers. Their lifestyle and the dystopian situation were convincing, almost too believable. Furthermore, the events surrounding the woman’s arrival (it happens early) are realistic. Nothing about the introductory chapters felt stilted or contrived.
Highlights: The whole scenario of the plague was incredibly well done. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach adopted by the two brothers, and their necessary fear of outsiders, permeated the whole story. I supported any of their ruthless decisions because their situation was so precarious. The changing relationship between the woman and the two brothers was both bleak and atypical yet entirely possible in such exceptional circumstances. Finally, I loved the way that references to the Red Queen were scattered throughout the novel.
If I was an editor: I would be blown away by such a dark story about chaos and human nature! The whole premise is so plausible it’s best not to think about it. The ending was fitting and not necessarily happy; the glimmer of hope still felt depressing! I did like the ending but perhaps would have liked more fallout…
Overall: Genunie dystopian fiction for adults.
The Red Queen: 5 Stars
After the Darkness by Honey Brown
To say domestic psychological thrillers are on trend in the publishing world is an understatement. Some, such as Emma Chapman’s How to be a Good Wife, are brilliant but I often find myself somewhat disappointed after reading books in this new genre. After the Darkness sounded intriguing, if only because the thriller aspect is set on The Great Ocean Road, but was I to find it brilliant or disappointing?
Driving home from a holiday along a remote coastal road, Trudy and Bruce pass an art gallery they had never noticed before and decided to pull in to have a look. The gallery does not appear on any tourist map and there are no other visitors in the car park. Once inside, they begin to get a creepy feeling from the both the building and the owner. They were right to feel uneasy…
Trudy and Bruce manage to escape, battered, bruised and still partially drugged. They hope life can return to normal but a man is dead and someone is watching them…
First Impressions: The characters of Trudy and Bruce are incredibly realistic. Their knowledge of construction and building helped to develop their unease and events in the house, and this background information was naturally integrated into the story so it didn’t at all feel contrived.
Highlights: I thought the author was very clever at subtly scattering little clues here and there. After the one small mistake Trudy and Bruce made in the gallery I was holding my breath for quite some time waiting for them to realise! Their hesitation in immediately contacting the police was fully understandable, as were all their actions after escaping the gallery. In the hands of a less skilled writer, one event in particular could have easily become quite ridiculous but the author obviously has a talent for keeping everything understated and steady. The pace of the story was even throughout and luckily the events in the gallery weren’t too gory for me! Disturbing, but not gory. I had feared a Wolf Creek scenario…
If I was an editor: I would be thrilled to find such a great example of a psychological thriller! I personally didn’t enjoy the character of the youngest daughter but I guess she balances out the siblings and this really is nitpicking. I also don’t know if the cover gives an accurate indication of the content and may turn away some potential readers.
Overall: I want to read more Honey Brown!
After the Darkness: 4 stars