All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Dark Country – Bronwyn Parry

Dark CountryDark Country (Dungirri #2)
Bronwyn Parry
Hachette AUS
2012 (originally 2009), 391p
Read from my TBR pile

Morgan ‘Gil’ Gillespie has been away from the small country town of Dungirri for a long time. Given most of the population believe he’s a murderer and that he didn’t serve long enough in jail for his crime, it’s no real surprise to him that there’s no warm welcome. But Gil is back to help someone that helped him at a time he desperately needed it and if that stirs up the locals, so be it. He owes someone and he always pays his debts.

When he is driving into town, he meets the local police sergeant bogged off the country road. He ends up giving her a lift back into Dungirri and they cross paths later on that night after a brawl at the local pub puts Gil in her station as she keeps an eye on him for concussion. The nearest hospital is 60kms away so Kris Matthews takes it upon herself to give Gil somewhere to sleep and she checks on him constantly. Turns out, that saves Gil’s bacon.

The next morning investigators from the city arrive and find the dead body of a woman in Gil’s car. Kris knows he didn’t do it – she saw the boot of his car last night when he offered her a lift and it was perfectly clean. He also spent most of the night either with her, or seen by others at the local pub so she becomes his alibi. Gil has a pretty good idea of who is out to get him and that this murder was a warning and that he’s going to be next. But he’s going to have to battle organised crime, police corruption, his reputation and his growing attraction for a red headed police sergeant and he may still not get out alive.

Prior to this I’d only read one of Bronwyn Parry’s romantic suspense novels set in country New South Wales, which was Dead Heat and I loved it. With the release of her latest book Darkening Skies recently, which is the third Dungirri book, I thought I might give the other two a look before I read that one. I found this one pretty cheap and although they are linked by the town, they can be read as stand alone novels.

There’s nothing like having the local police officer as your alibi and that’s what happens to Gil after barely 12 hours back in Dungirri when all of a sudden city detectives descend upon him and search his car, finding a dead body inside – the body of a woman Gil knew and warned to get out of town. It seems she didn’t heed the warning and now Gil finds himself being questioned extensively by the police, even though Kris has vouched for him saying he couldn’t possibly have had time to kill anyone between her placing things in his boot when he gave her a lift and seeing him again later that night when a brawl broke out at the local pub. Gil doesn’t want Kris to get involved because he knows what’s going on and exactly what he’s gotten himself into. It stems back in Dungirri and a protection racket and organised crime ring. They think Gil has something that one of them in particular, the new ‘boss’ needs and they’re going to stop at nothing to get it. They’ll kidnap and threaten his colleagues, kill people, torture him. All until he gives up what they think he has.

But it seems they didn’t bank on the investigative skills of Sergeant Kris Matthews who makes it pretty plain that she believes in Gil’s innocence and that also, she wants to get to the bottom of exactly what’s going on. The more time Gil and Kris spend together, the more the attraction between them builds. Gil sees them as utterly different – he’s the one the town loathes, because they believe his irresponsible ways killed one of their own. His father was a no good drunk and as far as most are concerned, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Kris came to town well after Gil left so she has none of those prejudices and she can see for herself what sort of a man Gil is. He’s had it hard, of that there is no doubt, and he’s been mixed up in a thing or two but he’s fought his way out of it to get where he is today, standing on the right side of the law but with those on the other side coming after him. She wants to help him, especially when it looks like quite a lot of it might be coming from her own backyard.

Gil is my very favourite sort of character – that sort of bad-boy, rough around the edges, traumatic past, is-he-or-isn’t-he-bad? I loved his interactions with Kris – as a redhead, I’ve been called Blue on and off for most of my life (it’s one of the ‘affectionate’ nicknames I prefer, particularly against the rising popularity of ‘ranga’ these days) and so I liked his little tendency to reference her hair. This novel is very much about the crime and suspense, which is excellently done. I loved the whole story and the way in which Bronwyn Parry teased it out and with it, more and more of Gil’s past and his character. But I also liked the little hints of romance between Gil and Kris. It was never going to take over, but it simmers enough there in the background. I think that perhaps this book didn’t show the town in its best light at first, given how hostile they are towards Gil (they believe they have their reasons and Gil doesn’t discourage this thinking) so I’m looking forward to the other two in the series to get a bit more of an idea of it.

This is a great thriller, further cementing Bronwyn Parry as a master of the rural romantic suspense and a definite auto-read for me.

8/10

Book #256 of 2013

AWW2013

Dark Country is book #93 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

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Dead Heat – Bronwyn Parry

Dead Heat
Bronwyn Parry
Hachette AU
2012, 352p
Read from my local library

Jo Lockwood is a National Parks Ranger who has recently taken up a new job at a newly-declared State Forest in north-western NSW. The solitary life doesn’t much bother her, she enjoys her own company and the peacefulness that comes from working with nature. That peace is shattered when she discovers the dead body of a man who has been brutally tortured not far off a walking track.

Detective Nick Matheson is also starting a new job. He’s a former undercover officer who was involved in a scandal when an operation went wrong and now he finds himself in a supposedly quiet area in northern NSW where the peace is disrupted by Jo’s discovery of a body. Nick is immediately suspicious about certain things about the murder and crime scene – to him this doesn’t look like a once off. It isn’t long before they dig up some links to an unsolved murder on the Mid North Coast of NSW and some whispers of an infiltrating overseas group.

Jo and Nick realise before long that it seems Jo may have inadvertently spoken to the leader of this organisation and because of that, could identify him. Her life is now in great danger and Nick wants to protect her. Jo is determined not to leave the area though, consenting to police protection in her own house but the bodies keep coming and before long Jo realises that this danger is not going to go away until one of them – her or the leader – is dead.

Dead Heat is the latest novel from Bronwyn Parry and it had been on my radar for a little while. I’d seen some good reviews and I do love a good suspenseful mystery. When I finally got my hands on it by way of my local library, I was definitely not disappointed. Dead Heat opens with a bang with Jo discovering the body of a dead man that, they later discover, has been tortured horribly before finally being shot.

I’ve been reading a lot of rural lit lately, a genre that I have mentioned before on the blog as gaining a lot in popularity in recent times. Usually they’re set on farms and although I’d include this in the broad spectrum of rural lit there are a few differences. The setting is undeniably rural, deep in north-western NSW in a made-up town that sounds suspiciously like a couple of real towns, name-wise. A large area has just been given over to official National Park status and it’s Jo’s job to keep law and order around the various camp grounds, walking tracks and also to supervise backburning and/or the putting out of deliberately or accidentally lit fires with the support of the CFA (Country Fire Authority). There’s a lot of appreciation for the land in this book, Jo in particular has a real affinity for it and it’s clear she loves her job. She suffered a trauma in recent times and she’s moved location to perhaps escape the memories. She seems very comfortable in her own company either at home or out in the bush, alone out there with only her camera.

In terms of characterisation, I felt that both Nick and Jo were very strong. Nick comes from a very poor and violent background, dragged himself out of it and made detective in the police force, going into some very dangerous undercover operations. He has an inner strength and discipline that is necessary for his job, that has allowed him to do things for his work. He has played many roles and sometimes feels as though it is hard to be just ‘Nick’ and that people are wary of him because of the rumours and scandal that has surrounded him.

There is an element of romance in this book but it remains mostly in the background. There’s an immediate attraction between Nick and Jo but both of them work hard to suppress it. The story of the murders and who is behind them is always first and the most important part of the book. Parry takes a long time to build her story, carefully fleshing out details and weaving an intricate crime web that is quite impressive! Nick and Jo spend a lot of time together under the guise of Nick protecting Jo from a very real danger and I appreciated that – they get to know each other with Nick being able to relax himself just a bit and actually talk to someone as his own person, rather than just a character he has undertaken in order to complete a job. Both of them have had some pain in their past and they aren’t sure they can see a future together, given Nick’s job. They talk about things, primarily the case and I thought that Nick sharing things with her and Jo sharing things that she finds out, was very refreshing. All too often I read mystery/crime novels where the characters all keep secrets from each other, presumably to draw out the suspense and lengthen the time until things are solved which usually only serves to frustrate me! I appreciated this novel because the criminal is identified early on into the story and the book then revolves around actually catching him.

Dead Heat was a wonderful read – it drew me in right from the beginning and kept me intrigued all the way. It’s Bronwyn Parry’s third novel and I’ll definitely be tracking down her previous two to read as well because I very much enjoyed the way she writes. I also enjoyed the unique setting, showcasing the lovely natural bush that can be found in much of the north of my home state.

8/10

Book #70 of 2012

Dead Heat qualifies for my 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s the 23rd book completed so far.

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