12 February 2017

Review: WHAT REMAINS BEHIND, Dorothy Fowler

  • first published 2009 by Black Swan
  • ISBN 978-1-86979-208-4
  • 279 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (back cover)

Everything leaves a trace. Chloe, a contract archaeologist, is excavating the site of a religious Kaipara Harbour community, which burnt to the ground in the 1880s. As the site is uncovered, what unpalatable truths will be revealed about the events on the night of the fire? Chloe's own family has farmed this land, and she is caught in the conflict as local resistance to the excavation mounts. When Chloe digs up more than shards of pottery, she realises that the site holds secrets that will not stay buried, and their effect on the present is devastating. Moving between a diary written in the 1880s and the current day, this compelling novel has murder, mystery, love, lust - and archaeology.

My Take

A carefully constructed mystery on at least two levels. The historical site that Chloe is investigating has been part of her family for a century. It is about to be sold for land development and so the owner, Chloe's cousin Shane, has commissioned her to do an archaeological survey. Over a century ago this was a reclusive mission station, but then it was burnt down. There are some bodies buried on the site and they need to be found and moved to a nearby cemetery.

Chloe's family seem to have lost whatever they knew about the Mission, and they don't even know where the mass grave is.

The reader has the advantage of being privy to a diary written in the 1880s before the fire and so we chart a mystery on that level, at the same time as participating in Chloe's dig. But there is at least one person who doesn't want the past dug up, and local vandals do their best to impede the progress of the excavation. And there is something more serious than vandalism underneath everything.
 
Dorothy Fowler wrote this novel in 2008 as her coursework for the Master of Creative Writing at Auckland University. 

My rating: 4.5 

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1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

I liked this one very much, Kerrie - glad you did, too.

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