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A Wild Ride: Fear is the Rider

fear is the rider  Fear is the Rider by Kenneth Cook

What better way to celebrate Australia Day this week than to read and review an outback thriller!

A young man driving from Sydney to Adelaide for work decides to take a short detour into the desert. He turns his hatchback on to a notoriously dangerous track that bisects uninhabited stone-covered flats. 
He’s not far along the road when a distraught young woman stumbles from the scrub and flags him down. A journalist from Sydney, she has just escaped the clutches of an inexplicable, terrifying creature.
Now this desert-dwelling creature has her jeep. Her axe. And her scent…

First Impressions: Oh, I am hooked! You are straight out there on the Obiri Track and I knew my Sunday afternoon had been hijacked!

Highlights: Oh my, what an adrenalin rush! I never would have imagined detail about gear changes and road surfaces would have me enthralled. The only reason I didn’t read this in one sitting is because I had to take little breaks whenever the tension briefly subsided in order to calm my heart!

If I was an editor: There is absolutely nothing to critique about the pacing! I will only say that I would have liked a bit more depth to the myth of the man/monster that was chasing them, and, as for the other solitary characters stumbled across in the frantic chase, I’d have liked them to be a little more interesting and not so cardboard cut out. However, both of these wishes would alter the story and it is fair dinkum brilliant in its current form.

Overall: Kim at Reading Matters summed it up perfectly: Wolf Creek meets Mad Max. I suspect I will be launching straight into Cook’s other novels.

*Kim felt the ending was somewhat unbelievable. I think I was too traumatised by this point to notice.

Thank you to Text Publishing for a copy of the ARC.
UK Reviewers – this will archive on Netgalley on the 27th. I’ve never given out such a warning before so take my recommendation seriously if you want an adrenalin raising outback chase!

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The Silent Stockman: Coal Creek

Coal CreekCoal Creek by Alex Miller

Stockman Bobby Blue decides to take a job in Mount Hay as the new constable’s offsider. Daniel, the constable, his wife Esme and their two girls, Irie and Miriam, are new to the western country and, struggling to understand its inhabitants. They invite Bobby to stay in a hut on their property where he is educated alongside their daughters. Eventually there’s an abrupt and ruthless change in attitude from Daniel and Esme towards Bobby. When tragedy strikes at Coal Creek theconsequences will haunt Bobby for decades.

First Impressions: The narrator’s (Bobby Blue) tone was so wistful I almost felt like crying!

Highlights: This novel is quite slow moving but I was gripped by the final few chapters when there was a bit more action. I thought Deeds was an interesting character and maybe would have liked to see more of her.

If I was an editor: I know this novel is intended to be a slow burner – this no doubt reflects the pace of life in Mount Hay and similar outback towns – but for me it was too slow and Bobby’s thoughts were sometimes repetitive to annoyance. When I get down to it, the character of Bobby Blue irritated me with his simple outlook and sparing use of words. For instance, when Bobby and Daniel went out to hunt a criminal in the police vehicle, Bobby knew they wouldn’t be able to cross the creek and would need horses but as Daniel didn’t ask, Bobby didn’t illuminate him with this vital piece of information until they reached said creek. Aaarrrghhhh!

Overall: Speak up!

Coal Creek: 3 Stars

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Cracking Outback Thriller: The Burial

The BurialThe Burial by Courtney Collins

In the early 20th century, Jessie has been released from prison after being convicted of horse rustling. The condition of her release is that she is to be apprenticed to Fitz, a man she immediately has a bad feeling about. In the remote valley Jack Brown, an Aboriginal stockman, also comes into Fitz’s employ to help Jessie continue with illegal horse rustling. Disaster strikes the Fitz property and Jessie goes on the run with Jack Brown leading the chase.

First Impressions: The story is told from the perspective of a buried baby and this point of view is incredibly touching. Once the story gets going the pace is thrilling.

Highlights: I loved all the characters. Just when I thought I was spoilt with all the exciting characters, in walked Sergeant Andrew Barlow. The Seven Sisters settlement was a great addition to the atmosphere of the story (can’t say more or I will spoil it). The descriptions of returned WW1 soldiers with no farming skills living on isolated government granted farms was haunting.

If I was an editor: I would have liked the cracking pace to continue for the whole novel. As the chase continued through the second half of the novel the pace was still good but it took on a bit more of a melancholy feel.

Overall: Fantastic. A wonderful description of life in early 20th century Australia.

The Burial: 5 stars

 

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