Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Review – Clarke

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Serena Kirby, ARR.News
Serena Kirby, ARR.News
Serena Kirby is a freelance reporter, writer and photographer based in regional Western Australia. With a background in public relations, education and tourism she’s had 30 years experience writing and photographing for local, national and international publications. Her current focus is on sharing stories from the sticks; its people, places and products and the life that lies beyond the city limits. She enjoys living in a small town while raising a tall teenager.
Clarke cover

I found Holly Throsby’s latest book, Clarke, to be strangely intriguing. As this book would easily fit into the genres of both drama and murder mystery that statement might sound like an obvious one to make. But there is more to this book than readers may first think and the mystery is far more than a singular one.

Set in the fictitious regional town of Clarke, the book begins with the arrival of police at Barney Clarke’s home (no relation to the name of the town) as they start searching his backyard for the body of a woman who went missing several years prior. Many readers will immediately feel familiar with this scenario as it is loosely based on the cold case of missing Sydney woman Lynette Dawson.

In Clarke the missing woman is Ginny Lawson and the story follows the day to day lives of two main characters, Leonie Wallace and Barney Clark, as the police investigation into what happened to Ginny is reopened. Barney rents the house where Ginny and her husband lived before she disappeared and the story zig zags between Barney’s life and that of Leonie who lives next door.

Leonie was friends with Ginny and she’s sure Ginny’s husband killed his wife but with no witnesses, no proof and no body, he cannot be charged. Over the handful of years since Ginny’s disappearance many questions and theories had been raised about what happened. Did she flee to escape domestic violence? Did she leave to join a commune or was she killed by a controlling husband? And, if she was in fact murdered, where on earth is her body? 

But sitting in front of the mystery surrounding Ginny is an intimate look at the lives of Leonie and Barney and others living in the street. Gossip, innuendo, and personal connections are explored and anyone who lives in a small town will recognise how rumours gather momentum. 

Anyone who also remembers the 1990s will note the author’s carefully placed references to this era in which the book is set.  Polo shirts, instant coffee and polystyrene cups all get a mention as does Harvey World Travel where Leonie works as a travel agent (even though she’s never travelled). 

The lives of Leonie and Barney also present their own mysteries. Leonie lives with four-year-old Joe, but where is Joe’s mother? Barney has a ring on his wedding finger, but where is Barney’s wife? There is grief and longing in both these character’s lives and the fragility of their personalities is incredibly touching. 

As the book progresses readers are given little breadcrumbs of information about the character’s backstories. This is where things get particularly intriguing as the mystery and investigation surrounding Ginny’s disappearance seems to be placed at arm’s length from the reader. This made me particularly eager to discover where this story would lead and what revelations it would bring to light.

Obviously every good mystery novel has a few twists and turns but even as a regular reader of this genre I didn’t see this story’s twist coming. The fact that this book has lingered in my mind long after I finished reading it is testament to this author’s talent at her craft. I’ll certainly be getting my hands on another of Holly Throsby’s books.

Author: Holly Throsby
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781760878740
Available: 1 November 2022
Recommended Retail Price: $32.99
Price through Booktopia (August 2022): $26.25

Buy through Booktopia

This book review is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.


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