Author: Fleur McDonald
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: 2 November 2021
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

My reading has been fabulous this last few months, but my reviews have fallen a little by the wayside; there are just not enough hours in my week, or quiet in my house.

I received a copy of the book from Allen & Unwin in return for an honest review, and was invited to take part in the Virtual Blog Tour. I’m always thrilled to be involved in release events and I was happy to put my hand up. Unfortunately I didn’t write and schedule the review like I planned, I picked up another book (x4) and now have to take my mind back to Detective Dave Burrows and the characters in Barker.

Deception Creek is the latest present day story of Det. Dave Burrows and the small town of Barker, that has more than it’s fair share of crime it seems.

This was a story with more than one mystery and a couple of twisty little side stories that kept me turning pages long into the night.

I love the way that Detective Burrows and his partner Senior Constable Jack Higgins are so focused on community policing; they know their town, they know their constituents and they care about all of them.

Deception Creek is a present day story, which still encompasses a couple of timelines, and that means that Det. Burrows isn’t the leading man here; he’s a supporting character. Even if he does always seem to steal the limelight.

Emma Cameron is the leading lady, and owner of Deception Creek – the farm owned by three generations of her family and the property the book takes it’s name from.

Recently divorced, Emma spends all her time focused on making Deception Creek a success; which is a big part of why she’s divorced. Her ex-husband always accused her of being married to the farm and not enough fun for him. Now that Emma is divorced the future looks a little lonely but is online dating really the right option in such a small town where news travels fast.

Emma can usually convince herself that she’s independent, self-sufficient and more than happy with her single life, but sometimes she gets a little lonely and wishes that she had someone who loves her land as much as she does.

Joel Hammond is another of our lead characters, someone who Emma knew in passing growing up but there was no real connection between the two. I wasn’t sure how he fit in to the story for a long time, but it seems he too had a story of his own to tell.

He has just been released from prison in Adelaide and returned to his childhood hometown because he had nowhere else to go. He lost his parents while he was incarcerated so doesn’t really have anyone to go home to but has inherited the family home and returns to the only place he really knows and ever loved.

Many of the Barker townspeople are loath to see him return, for a reason completely unrelated to his incarceration. He was friends with one of the town’s sweethearts as a teen and he was the last person to see her alive, being with her when she plunged to her death off a water tower. A large part of the town has never forgiven him, even though he was cleared of any involvement.

Joel is back in town to return the family home to it’s former glory and live a quiet life, but some people refuse to let him do so. Small acts of vandalism escalate and even though Joel seems happy enough to ignore it the police don’t want to see this type of behaviour in town and start to do a little digging.

Emma is also still recovering from the trauma of witnessing a horrific car accident. She remains in sporadic contact with the driver of the other vehicle, as they share the traumatic experience to an extent, and he picks this time to visit her in Barker; adding another element to the story, and another piece to try and work out where it fits in the puzzle.

As always McDonald brings all of the elements together in a tightly woven and cohesive suspenseful story that I absolutely loved. I adore Dave and his lovely wife Kim, they are so invested in their community – and each other. Definite life goals those two.

Watching the development of some of the other Barker characters is also quite satisfying. I love being able to look back in and see what’s happening with Dave’s partner Jack, and his girlfriend Zara. That was an interesting pairing from the start because it’s quite easy to slip into conflict of interest territory when a police officer pairs with an investigative journalist. There have been some sparks previously with Zara getting a little too zealous and ending up at loggerheads with Dave, the two seem to have come to an understanding now.

Zara plays quite a role in one of the mysteries as she becomes intrigued with Joel’s protestations of innocence over the charges that lead to his incarceration. She sinks her journalistic teeth into the case to see if there was something missing from the original investigation.

Deception Creek is suspenseful and engaging with characters you can’t help but connect to; many mysteries, both historic and current, and more than one situation to leave your skin crawling.

Pick up a copy of Deception Creek and reacquaint yourself with old friends, or meet a band of new ones. You won’t be disappointed.

Fleur McDonald loves to hear from her readers and you can find her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Deception Creek is published by Allen & Unwin and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold. 

Deception Creek is read as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2021, though I couldn’t tell you what number read, or review it is. I didn’t keep up with that one very well this year.