When Audrey Kepler inherits an abandoned homestead in rural Queensland, she jumps at the chance to escape her loveless existence in the city and make a fresh start. In a dusty back room of the old house, she discovers the crumbling photo of a handsome World War Two medic – Samuel Riordan, the homestead’s former occupant – and soon finds herself becoming obsessed with him.
But as Audrey digs deeper into Samuel’s story, she discovers he was accused of bashing to death a young woman on his return from the war in 1946. When she learns about other unexplained deaths in recent years – one of them a young woman with injuries echoing those of the first victim – she begins to suspect that the killer is still very much alive.
And now Audrey, thanks to her need to uncover the past, has provided him with good reason to want to kill again.
As Australian novels goes, this was a well-received one with our group. The storyline and plot kept us interested and with believable characters and an unpredictable conclusion, it ticked all the boxes for an enjoyable read.
Opinions did vary slightly when it came to the writing style though. Some felt the descriptive passages enhanced the story, providing a clear, well-defined image of the setting. Yet others found them a little too drawn out. A classic example of how different reader interpretation can work.
At times, the parallel stories (those of Audrey and Samuel), became a little muddled and mingled, so a clear head was needed, no wandering thoughts allowed! And although there were hints scattered throughout, if you were set on working out the mystery of Thornwood House, chances are you missed the boat. We know we did!
The multiple characters and their roles within the story brought to mind a few of our past reads and we felt there was a definite formula to Romer’s writing (that of rural relationships and secrets). In saying that, most of us are keen to read her newest novel Lyrebird Hill, and we welcome this author as a new and upcoming talent on the Australian fiction scene.