Author: Fleur McDonald
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: 3 November 2020
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Detective Dave Burrows is back in a dual timeline mystery set in the rural South Australian town of Barker. The supporting cast of partner Jack Higgins, wife Kim and investigative journalist Zara are well drawn and it was nice to check back in with them, catch up on what’s been happening.
I love the way McDonald manages to weave two tales together in a way that you know has to somehow be connected… but it takes almost the whole book to put the pieces together. I had theories from early on, most a lot darker than the actual connection so I’m glad I was wrong. There were some pretty impressive twists right throughout this tale and there was more than one occasion that saw me with my heart in my throat with concern for the characters.
We open in 1980 with a young married couple living the nomadic life of shearers, following the work from town to town. The nomadic life was fun for a while and Rose loved the freedom that was so different from her sheltered Christian upbringing but things start to change when she becomes pregnant. Ian is determined to retain his nomadic lifestyle, he never planned to put down roots, and he’s such a blokey guy that gets caught up in the atmosphere of the shearing sheds and the lifestyle of the single guys that he catches up with shed after shed. He’s a man that really does want it both ways, he wants his lovely wife by his side but he also wants the work hard and play harder lifestyle of a nomadic shearer.
Ian and Rose Kelly stop in Barker for fuel on their way to the next job, with Rose nearing the end of her pregnancy with twins. On the first day in the shed, before she’s even unpacked, she goes into premature labour and right from this moment I began wondering what our past timeline mystery is going to be.
In 2020 Detective Dave Burrows is an engaged and empathetic member of the Barker community, and senior officer in the local police station. A visit from the Federal Police sets off a chain of events that often left me guessing.
The AFP turning up at the station isn’t something Detective Burrows was expecting and it gets his back up that they won’t share more information than is absolutely necessary. The lead officer and Detective Burrows lock horns and it is soon clear that there is prejudicial animosity on both sides. The Feds don’t see the human side of the small town and immediately assume Detective Burrows will jeopardise their investigation by being too close to those involved.
It is soon made clear that Detective Burrows is both capable and intuitive, not to mention tenacious and good at his job, with a wife sharing many of his altruistic characteristics, which lands them in a bit of hot water and makes unraveling the case much more difficult.
The Shearer’s Wife is captivating and kept me up way later than I should have been because I didn’t want to stop not knowing how it all turned out, and how it all came together.
Detective Dave Burrows is a dedicated and capable officer that anyone would want in their corner and the small town of Barker definitely has a network of individuals that band together to offer the small town hospitality and security that we all need at some point.
Zara Ellison is a character that we met previously and has suffered loss that is affecting her in a way that has those closest to her worried. Grief is different for all of us but she’s beginning to worry those that care about her because she’s acting so out of character. She’s an interesting character to get to know and I look forward to following her through more of this series.
The Shearer’s Wife picks up not long after Starting From Now and I love the fact that I am following this series sequentially but I really think that you could also enjoy this as a stand alone. I am enjoying following the journeys of all the characters, but the story still feels complete without the previous novels.
I am left eagerly awaiting the next present day story featuring Detective Dave Burrows because I want to know what comes next for his supporting cast. Well worth the read and I recommend wholeheartedly to all who love a good mystery.
The Shearer’s Wife is book #25 read for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2020.
The Shearer’s Wife is published by Allen & Unwin and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold. In these uncertain times it would be great to try and support a local bookstore, many of the ones in my area have put systems in place to fulfil orders even though their physical stores may be closed to the public.