All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Crackenback by Lee Christine

on February 3, 2021

Lee Christine
Allen & Unwin
2021, 272p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder of the Sydney Homicide Squad is on the hunt for notorious fugitive Gavin Hutton.

After months of dead-ends, the breakthrough Ryder has been hoping for leads him back to the New South Wales Snowy Mountains on the trail of the suspected killer.

Meanwhile, when an injured man bursts into the remote Thredbo lodge managed by Eva Bell, her first instinct is to protect her daughter, Poppy. The terrifying arrival of Jack Walker turns Eva’s world upside down as the consequences of Jack’s presence become clear.

With a killer on the loose, Jack Walker and Ryder are tangled in the same treacherous web – spun across the perilously beautiful Crackenback Range.

This book was a nice surprise – I had lost track of time I think and hadn’t realised it was coming out! I really enjoyed Lee Christine’s last book, Charlotte Pass and this one is connected. We are back with Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder and his hunt for Gavin Hutton. The trail has gone a bit cold but Ryder still believes that he’s deep somewhere in the Snowy Mountains, holing up in the dense forest. He’s got survivalist skills and even though winter is close, Ryder is confident that he is still around. Keeping off the radar, using cash, stealing what he needs….waiting for his next opportunity.

Eva is the sister of Ryder’s partner Vanessa. She’s running a lodge in Thredbo on her own, getting prepared for the season with mostly only her young daughter Poppy for company. She has a neighbour that pops in, an older man who also runs a lodge, as well as the local who delivers her firewood but unless there are guests staying, Eva is pretty isolated. She’s stunned by the reappearance of Jack Walker in her life – he’s injured, desperate and ready to make Eva do whatever he says. Desperate to protect Poppy, Eva has no choice….but why is Jack really here? What does he want? And can she trust him with what is the most precious thing in her life?

This is fast paced and builds the suspense so neatly. Lee Christine expertly uses the isolation of her chosen location, especially in regards to Eva and Poppy, who are deeply vulnerable in their lodge when they’re on their own. The snow is starting to fall, blanketing the area, making it feel even more isolated and dangerous. It’s hard to flee anyway, but even harder when the snow is deepening. Eva is going about her life, making rooms ready, cleaning for guests to arrive, completely oblivious to the fact that her life is about to be turned upside down and that she and her daughter are going to end up in grave danger, their lives under threat. When Jack arrives, Eva is shocked and defensive – he looks like a mess, he’s injured and she doesn’t trust him. She has little reason to trust him, considering their past and what Jack made clear to her. She’s confused as to why he’s here now and what he could possibly want. Her only thought is for Poppy and Jack’s early behaviour doesn’t exactly set her at ease. But the more he tells her, the more she’s forced to trust him, especially when he won’t hear of any other options.

It was good to check in with Ryder again – he and Vanessa are still happily loved up and Vanessa is working a new job. Ryder still has Detective Flowers on his team and he’s also added a new team member, a female Detective from up around the Manning Valley. The team works really well together as they gather information on Hutton in an attempt to guess where he is and why. If they can piece together the motive behind his seemingly unconnected murders then they might have a chance of figuring out who he’s targeting next – and get there before he can. But time is running out and Hutton is closing in on who he wants to hurt next for revenge.

I really enjoyed this! The setting is fantastic and the way the story builds in terms of Hutton’s motivation worked really well. Ryder and his team have to really dig deep to find out what happened, to find the relevant people to talk to that can give them the information they need to flesh out the story, to get the final missing pieces. Ryder splits his team up, having some in the office hunting down information whilst he and Flowers often travel to different places to see what they can learn. I like Flowers – he’s a fun offset to Pierce and I hope he might one day become a stronger focus of a book, likewise for the new detective. There’s infinite possibility for the team to keep investigating different situations in different combinations.

This is not a long book – every page advances the plot and builds the suspense incredibly well. The characters are well drawn and interact together well. I found it very difficult to put down and would definitely recommend picking it up when you can get through it in a single sitting. I hope that there are plenty more books featuring Ryder and his team in the future – sometimes I avoid suspenseful books because I can’t deal with the way they make my heart race but I find these ones irresistible. This was excellent again.


Book #14 of 2021

Crackenback is book #5 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

5 responses to “Review: Crackenback by Lee Christine

  1. I didn’t realise this was a second book. I never read the first.

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