3 October 2009

Review: AS DARKNESS FALLS, Bronwyn Parry

Hachette Australia, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7336-2322-6, 358 pages.

Some failures are worse than others. Most of us, when we fail, can mark it down as a lesson learned, and move on. But when your failure results in, first, the death of a child, and then, the death of a man you believe to be innocent, then moving on is almost impossible. For Detective Isabelle O'Connell, it was all made worse by the fact that it has happened in the town of her own childhood, and the dead child is that of people she grew up with. That was a year ago.

The disappearance of another little girl in Isabelle O'Connell's home town of Dungirri sends Detective Chief Inspector Alec Goddard from the State Crime Command in Sydney to offer Isabelle a chance of redemption, a chance to find and stop the perpetrator. Again the child is that of friends from Isabelle's childhood.

It is soon clear that by returning to Dungirri Isabelle is putting her own life on the line. Not everybody is pleased to see her.
From the start too it is obvious that under other circumstances Isabelle and Alec would find each other very attractive.

The copy of AS DARKNESS FALLS that I borrowed from my library has a promo that says If you enjoy reading Nora Roberts you will love...
I went into reading WHEN DARKNESS FALLS knowing that it was a finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award 2009, in the Romantic Elements category. Prior to publication, the manuscript won the Romance Writers of America 2007 Golden Heart Award, for best unpublished Romantic Suspense.
Now, I have read Nora Roberts, but mainly prefer her more noir writing as J.D. Robb, and romantic fiction is not generally on my reading platter, even when combined with crime fiction.
I read WHEN DARKNESS FALLS so I can participate in an online discussion at oz_mystery_readers early this month.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. It was Bronwyn Parry's first novel, apparently scheduled to be the first of a batch of 3. The romance element is well done, as both Isabelle and Alec struggle to maintain their separateness. I thought the crime fiction bit was well plotted too, and comes to a satisfying denouement. Parry clearly sets this in a dusty, parched, hot Australian environment but that really didn't feel overwhelming. Dungirri is really just a closeknit Australian town on the edge of the bush, where every one knows every one else. It is town like most other small rural towns, where those who live there have mainly been there all their lives, where memories are long.

My rating 4.4

When I reviewed Nick Gadd's GHOSTLINES recently, I remarked that "For an Australian novelist it has an unusual blend of crime fiction and the paranormal."
I feel much the same about AS DARKNESS FALLS: it is an unusual blend of romance and crime fiction, to the point where in the book shops you will find it on the Romance shelves. Recently the Books Alive catalogue listed DARK COUNTRY, the sequel to AS DARKNESS FALLS, as "Mystery, romance, and suspense in the outback", but not in the crime fiction titles.
Perhaps, because I usually read a darker flavour of crime fiction, I don't often come across this end of the genre.

Bronwyn Parry's own website is a goldmine. You can download the first chapter of AS DARKNESS FALLS, and also some Reading Group Notes.

5 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Many authors don't do well combining romance and mystery. It seems that this one does! It sounds like quite a good read - thanks for sharing, as always.

gautami tripathy said...

This sounds really good. Hope I get it here in India!

Belle said...

This one sounds interesting. I normally wouldn't pick up romantic suspense, but now that I've read your review, I think I might like this one.

Marg said...

I received this when I went to ARRC earlier this year. I haven't picked it up yet, but I have heard good things about both this book and her next book.

Kerrie said...

I think she has chosen a difficult "sub" genre - true criem fiction afficionados may not like the romance element (although you have a romantic thread in your novel Margot, don't you), while romance readers dislike the gruesomeness of crime (I presume) - Marg you would know about that.
Belle- perhaps romantic suspense is a better description.
Gautami - do you get much Australian fiction penetrating the INdian market?

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