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Review: Devil’s Lair by Sarah Barrie

on July 5, 2019

Devil’s Lair
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin AUS
2019, 448p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A lonely widow, a sinister act, a remote mansion with a dark past…

After the violent death of her husband, Callie Jones retreats to a cottage in the grounds of an old mansion in Tasmania. The relative remoteness of the place and the wild beauty of the Tasmanian landscape are a balm to her shattered nerves and the locals seem friendly, particularly horseman Connor Atherton and his siblings at the nearby property, Calico Lodge.

But all is not well: the old mansion has a sinister past, one associated with witchcraft and murder. As Callie is threatened by odd events in the night and strange dreams overtake her sleep, she begins to doubt her own sanity. What’s really going on beneath the surface of this apparently peaceful town? Are her friends and neighbours really who they seem? As events escalate, Callie starts to realise that the mansion may hold the key to unlocking the mystery, but the truth might have as much power to destroy as it does to save.

Sarah Barrie has really become one of the premium voices in Australian romantic suspense. Her books always have a strong rural element and we return to a familiar setting here for most of the book, close to Calico Lodge in Tasmania, the setting for Barrie’s previous book, Bloodtree River.

Callie Jones is newly arrived in Tasmania seeking anonymity and solitude. She once thought she had an idyllic life but it all imploded in the most violent and tragic of ways and now she’s got to find herself again. She is befriended by some of the locals and finds herself getting back to basics, employed to develop a garden for Calico Lodge. That puts her in close proximity with Connor Atherton, who makes Callie question her decision to keep herself at arms length from people after everything that has happened to her.

As Callie settles into the community, there’s no denying that some weird things are happening. Several people working at Calico Lodge mysteriously vanish. Everyone seems to be linked, part of some intense inner circle and Callie’s friend seems to know more than she’s letting on. The mansion on the property Callie is staying on has its secrets too and it’s crusty old inhabitant swings between antagonistic and mellow. Callie finds herself taking care of him as part of her deal to stay in the cottage, cooking him meals and visiting the mansion with its curiosities. And always in the background is Connor and the happiness that Callie might be able to find with him……if she doesn’t become a victim of the strange and gruesome happenings.

Okay now normally I’m not a fan of books that are set within a realistic world but verge into the supernatural. I’m a bit of a skeptic. I can read a fantasy or a paranormal romance and it’s fine. But I don’t generally deal well with things that happen within a world that I inhabit. So when I read that this book had a few kind of supernatural elements in another review, I was a little apprehensive. But I absolutely should not have been – I’ve loved all of Sarah Barrie’s other romantic suspense novels and this one was no exception. The way in which she lays out the story, setting up various plot points in the beginning and then bringing everyone to Tasmania was well done. I immediately wanted to know more about what was going on and why. And then when Callie moves into the cottage on the property of the mansion she is immediately both impressed by it and yet there’s a vibe that things are a bit different here. And the longer she spends there, the more strange things happen, the more Callie starts to get pulled into a world where the supernatural seems a bit normal, where it’s acknowledged that the old mansion and surrounding area has been the place of some strange happenings. Callie finds her work at Calico Lodge satisfying, even though she’s worried about being discovered. She makes friends with Tess and Indy who both know of and understand her past and also her need for privacy. As the weirdness escalates, it envelops some of the workers of Calico Lodge too and Indy is working overtime to get to the bottom of everything.

This was done so well from the very beginning – expertly paced, the threads woven together in such a cohesive way to produce a really taut, brilliant story. I enjoyed Callie as a character and the complexity of what she had been through and how it continued to play out through the story as well as the relationships she forged. She had such a tight friendship with Paisley, who brought her to Tasmania and she became a part of the community despite her original determination not to get close to anyone. It was so good to drop in on Calico Lodge again and see how Indy and Logan were doing and I also really enjoyed Connor and the way his romance with Callie developed. Callie had a lot of baggage but she still actually had a remarkable capacity to trust and just…..find enjoyment in life. Callie’s situation is the sort that makes you question what you know about trials and cases you read in books and see on TV because there can be so many extenuating circumstances.

This was another gripping novel that had me invested from the very beginning. I raced through this, it was the sort of book where you just have to know the answers. And it didn’t disappoint.

8/10

Book #99 of 2019

Devil’s Lair is the 45th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


2 responses to “Review: Devil’s Lair by Sarah Barrie

  1. […] Devil’s Lair by Sarah Barrie. My review. […]

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