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Mystery in the Tasmanian Wilderness

The Bluffs by Kyle Perry

Cover of the book The Bluffs by author Kyle Perry to accompany the book review by The Reading Edit on the same page. Cover image features a rocky outcrop with a misty, rainy sky.

“I won’t walk alone by the mountain trees,
Or the Hungry Man will come for me….”

Four teenage girls go missing on a hiking track during a storm while on a school camp in the Great Western Tiers of Tasmania’s rugged wilderness. Detective Con Badenhorst, recently transferred to Tasmania from his native Sydney, is tasked with solving the case and finding the missing girls. His investigations into the disappearance of the four school girls from the small town of Limestone Creek involve a teenage social media sensation, local drug dealers and the urban legend of the Hungry Man – a bushman allegedly linked to the disappearance of five teenage girls taken from the same bushland in the 1980s (there’s even a creepy school yard rhyme to keep the legend of the Hungry Man alive).

Then the body of one of the girls is found, mauled, at the bottom of a cliff – barefoot and with her shoes placed side by side at the top of the cliff with the laces neatly tied, just like in the legend of the Hungry Man. Detective Badenhorst’s investigations soon lead him to discover that Limestone Creek is a small town where everyone has something to hide and everything is not as it seems.

In his novel, Kyle Perry’s characters challenge the way we see drug dealers as always being the bad guys, or teenage girls as always so innocent and harmless. Kyle Perry has real-life experience in both these areas. In his job as a counsellor and youth worker, Perry has worked extensively across high schools, dealing with at-risk youth as well as a counsellor and case worker in men’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinics. He grew up in a small country town, and his childhood was spent in the Tasmanian bush. He still lives in Tasmania today and notes in the introduction to the book that he himself has been lost in the Tasmanian mountains twice, once using pages ripped out of a journal to find his way out. The descriptions of the isolation and beauty of the bush in the Great Western Tiers only adds to the drama and appeal of the story.

Immediately they were enveloped by cider gums, their sap filling the air with a scent like honey, their leaves casting mottled shadows on the undergrowth of ferns and fallen branches.”

The Bluffs, page 396

If you love Jane Harper books, you’ll really enjoy The Bluffs. Like Jane Harper’s murder-mysteries, it features a distinctly Australian setting, the Great Western Tiers of Tasmania. Whilst The Bluffs doesn’t have the pace of a Jane Harper novel, the story unfolds in a way that lends itself to the reader really investing in the characters as well as the setting and builds to an absolute roaring finish that is equally exciting and unsettling.

Published 2020 by Penguin Random House Australia, 418 pages.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Image is the cover of the book Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Image features a girl swimming face down in the water. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

After reading Ng’s second book, Little Fires Everywhere, and being gripped by the Netflix series of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon, I was keen to discover more from this New York Times bestselling author. 

The title of Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, grabbed my attention and had me intrigued right from the start. My curiosity only grew upon reading the first line of the very first chapter:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

Who is Lydia? 

Why is she dead? 

Who doesn’t know?

So many questions! And all of these questions fuel a constant sense of wariness and dread which hang in the mind of the reader as the story of the Lee family unfolds over the decades to the current day when their eldest daughter’s body is discovered in the local lake. 

Set in small town Ohio in the late 70s, Lydia is the favourite child of blonde-haired, American born Marilyn, and her Chinese-American husband, James. Their other children are the older and much loved brother to Lydia, Nathan, and the youngest and often forgotten child, Hannah. 

As in her second book, Little Fires Everywhere, Ng explores the complex and delicate relationships that exist in families, with an undercurrent of race relations and an exploration of minority groups. Everything I Never Told You gives readers an insight into how we as parents, whether deliberately or unknowingly, pass on our own personal fears and shortfalls to our children, and the inevitable fallout and damage that can result, despite our best intentions.

Everything I Never Told You is not a new release. It was first published in 2014, winning’s Best Book of 2014. At 292 pages, it’s a great weekend or holiday read. If you’re feeling particularly busy and time poor, it is equally one that can be picked up and put down intermittently, and will capture your attention at each sitting. Either way, Everything I Never Told You is an intriguing read. Understanding this family from the different perspectives of each character will inevitably prompt the reader to confront their own familial expectations and family dynamics. 

Published 2014 by Hachette Australia, 320 pages.