All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Waterhole by Lily Malone

on December 6, 2021

The Waterhole
Lily Malone
2021, 359p
Copy courtesy of the author

Blurb {from}: When a backyard dare to discover the source of a fabled waterhole uncovers human bones, small town detective, Marley West, leaps at the chance to kickstart his stalled career. But it’s more than two decades since developers filled the Cowaramup creek. The woman who owned the land—the Ross family matriarch—has passed away. Relations between her sons, Jack and Bill, are colder than the case.

Then the Ross family learn Marley is the grandson of notorious police sergeant, Alan West, the corrupt cop who once ruled the town with an iron fist. To solve the case, Marley must gain the trust of three people with no reason to trust each other and less reason to trust him: Bill, who left the love of his life to fight in Vietnam; charismatic Jack, who could always catch the eye of a pretty girl; and city school teacher, Annette, whose move to Cowaramup in 1966 would change the Ross brothers’ lives forever.

As he navigates a tangled web of lies and betrayals, jealousies and murder, Marley has to ask himself: are these bones better left buried?

I really enjoy Lily Malone’s romances so when she contacted me and asked me to review a new book she had coming out, I was enthusiastic. This is a departure from her previous work and it delves into a much darker type of story but don’t let that put you off. This is a very well put together mystery with well rounded characters and complex backstories for days.

Detective Marley West is called to a small Western Australian town when a couple of guys with a backhoe find human bones in an attempt to find a waterhole that used to exist before it was filled in during the subdivision development. A careful excavation of the site reveals not just the bones of one body but two.

There was so much I loved about this! Firstly, I really enjoyed the character of Detective Marley West. His story is doled out slowly and I still think there’s a lot we don’t know about Marley. His grandfather Alan West was a crooked cop who controlled the town during his time, having half of it in his pocket and the other half terrified of him and what might do. Although Marley isn’t him, he bears the legacy his grandfather’s disgrace left upon the family and how it impacted on other members as well. It also cost him his marriage and Marley isn’t in the greatest of places. He fights not to be taken off this case when it might be connected to his grandfather – perhaps this is a chance of some sort of redemption for Marley who isn’t the one who needs to be redeemed but still bears the stigma of it anyway. I also loved his interactions with his younger partner, Brigit Winger. The two of them are great together.

I found myself so intrigued by the story of Bill, Jack and Annette. It was hard not to really feel for Annette and the triangle was much more complex than it first appeared. It would’ve been really easy to simply demonise Jack I think but he had hidden depths and I felt like his friendship with Jed really showcased how genuine he’d been in his desire to live a better life when he was given the chance to be free. All three of them had suffered at the hands and whims of a person who enjoyed manipulating people and having power over them and that suffering had continued for years.

As well as there being the “present day” time period, which I think is 2018 and the time period when Bill and Jack meet Annette and how that plays out in the 60s, there’s also a brief foray into 1994 and a significant event that happens during that time. That part of the story gave me shivers because I’ve lived in a small town, I’ve experienced how laid back and casual things can be in that environment and this is an excellent example of how things like that can be taken advantage of and it’s always the sort of thing that you think would never happen in such a small town.

I don’t know if Lily Malone plans this to be a series, but I hope so because I honestly feel like this has a huge amount of potential. We’ve only scratched the surface with Marley West, the shadow that hangs over his head from his grandfather and how his career can progress from here. There’s some issues in his personal life as well, which could definitely be developed further. I also wouldn’t mind exploring Brigit as a character also but I feel like West in particular, could quite easily carry a series of some weight.

This was excellent – I found it riveting from the very beginning. I loved the setting, I thought the characters were done incredibly well and the overall mystery was compelling and kept me invested. This is a clever and polished foray into the world of mystery and crime.


Book #220 of 2021

The Waterhole is book #91 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge

5 responses to “Review: The Waterhole by Lily Malone

  1. Lily Malone says:

    So super cool! Thank you!

  2. Mic says:

    sounds good. i guess i will definitely have to make that my next read.

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