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Clever, Compelling, Bone-Chilling: Review of Blood River by Tony Cavanaugh

July 10, 2019

Brisbane, 1999. It’s summertime, the humidity is stifling, and the rain just won’t stop. The Brisbane River is close to overflowing, its swollen banks nearly at breaking point. Then a mutilated body is found near the river, nestled under a towering pink bougainvillaea on the bank. It’s the body of a wealthy-looking man in a crisp grey suit, and his throat has been cut with such force that he’s nearly decapitated. Days later, two more bodies are found. They’re also well-off middle-aged men, and they’ve both been killed in the same brutal, ritualistic way.

Detective Sergeant Lara Ocean and her partner, Detective Billy Waterson, are called in to work the case. They’re an odd couple, and the other members of the Homicide Squad wonder privately how they haven’t killed each other yet. Billy is a veteran detective with the fiercest reputation in Queensland, while Lara, the youngest member of the squad, is a new breed of cop—brute force isn’t her style, and she and Billy have clashed more than once over how to do their jobs.

But there’s a serial killer on the loose, and Lara and Billy know they need to work together to crack the case. They soon identify three main suspects, and as public frenzy grows, the media latch on to the most scandalous of the three—a seventeen-year-old school girl named Jennifer White, who they dub ‘The Slayer’. In her gut, Lara doesn’t feel as if Jennifer is guilty, but she and Billy are under pressure from higher-ups and the media. Jennifer is eventually accused and convicted, and although the evidence against her is still flimsy, the killings stop once she’s behind bars.

Twenty years later, Lara has moved on—she’s scored a coveted job as the Queensland Police Commissioner, and her crotchety old partner, Billy, has retired. Although the 1999 Slayer killings still cross her mind, and she sometimes feels pangs of guilt about the case, Lara has bigger things to worry about now. But then she learns that Jennifer White is being released on parole. Will the killings begin again? Or was Jennifer wrongfully imprisoned all those years ago? As the weather heats up and the rain begins to fall, tensions rise and rise, and soon, the shocking truth is revealed…

From acclaimed Australian writer Tony Cavanaugh, Blood River is a clever and compelling new crime novel with a bone-chilling murder mystery at its heart. Female detectives are becoming more common in Australian crime fiction, with James Patterson and Candice Fox’s Harriet Blue series, Anne Buist’s Natalie King stories, and Sarah Bailey’s Gemma Woodstock books all topping the bestseller charts, and Detective Sergeant Lara Ocean is a worthy addition to this list. Nuanced and flawed, Lara has an intriguing backstory and an absorbing inner life, and her story is fascinating to follow.

The pitch-perfect dialogue is another highlight of Blood River, as is the scene-setting. Cavanaugh effortlessly conveys the humidity and heat of a Brisbane summer, and the stifling atmosphere only adds to the tension that builds and builds as Lara works to uncover the real truth of the Slayer killings. With twists and turns galore, this novel will keep you guessing right until the end, and the dramatic, unexpected final scenes are some of the best in recent crime fiction.

Disquieting, atmospheric and utterly addictive, Blood River is an authentically Australian crime story perfect for fans of Chris Hammer, Dave Warner, Peter Temple and Garry Disher.

About the author:

Tony Cavanaugh is an Australian crime novelist, screenwriter and film and television producer. He has over thirty years’ experience in the film industry, has lectured at several prestigious universities and has been a regular guest on radio commenting on the film and television industry. His Darian Richards novels which include PROMISE, DEAD GIRL SING and THE TRAIN RIDER, have been highly praised.

For more information about Tony Cavanaugh visit his Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/tonycavanaugh888) or follow him on Twitter (@TonyCavanaugh1).

Buy a copy of Blood River here


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