Strange things have been happening at Calico Mountain Lodge in Tasmania where it appears that a serial killer is on the loose, even though some of the townspeople would rather deny the unusually suspicious pattern of murders and disappearances. Although reluctant to take up the assignment in the beginning, it’s up to Detective Indiana (‘Indy’) O’Meara to unveil the faceless killer in this twisty rural suspense, skillfully crafted by the author of the bestselling Hunters Ridge series.
Tough-as-nails, celebrated Detective O’Meara is first notified of the case when a young girl disappears from the lodge where she worked. Calico Mountain Lodge is a remote Tasmanian country retreat and cattle property – hardly the usual stage for a psychotic serial killer. Then again, Detective O’Meara has encountered stranger things in her time.
Problem is, this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Two years earlier, a group of fishermen found the body of a young woman snagged on debris in the Tyenna River. She was identified as twenty-four-year old Latisha Nolan who worked at Calico Mountain and had disappeared two years earlier. Before that, a backpacker who’d been missing for years was found a few kilometres from where Latisha’s body washed up. She was alive and rambling about escaping ‘him.’
Detective O’Meara leaves her Sydney headquarters to head off to investigate the strange goings-on, forcing her to relinquish a hot case involving a well-known drug lord D’Angelo. In Tasmania she joins forces with Detective Mark Robinson who has been pursuing the Calico Mountain case to no avail. O’Meara is suspicious of his laid-back demeanour and apparent incompetence, so much so that her prime suspect – an enigmatic, elusive man by the name of Logan Atherton – was found just mere kilometres away from the murder scene of Latisha.
In Bloodtree River, with its fish-out-of-water representations of small town Australia, there are unmistakeable echoes of Kenneth Cook’s eerie classic, Wake in Fright. Barrie’s novel, however, is far less claustrophobic, and instead employs an ensemble cast of suspects and roadblocks that make this thriller deliciously hard to predict.
When our protagonist goes undercover at Calico Mountain, she realises that everyone is hiding something, and that their secrets are way darker than O’Meara could have ever imagined. Things only get worse when O’Meara commits the ultimate sin and finds herself falling madly in love with a prime suspect.
Although author Sarah Barrie has been lauded for her ability to blend suspense and romance in her fiction, when we heard she wanted to create a new hybrid thriller it seemed it might be a bridge too far – but it works fantastically well, and the inclusion of a romantic subplot in Bloodtree River adds depth and complexity to an already bamboozling mystery.
Go to Calico Mountain if you dare!
About the author
Sarah Barrie’s debut novel Secrets of Whitewater Creek earned her a spot as one of the Top 10 breakthrough authors of 2014, and her next three books, the Hunters Ridge series, also reached bestseller status.
Sarah has also worked as a teacher, a vet nurse, a horse trainer, and a magazine editor. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her ferrying children to soccer or gymnastics, or trudging through paddocks chasing cattle, sheep, chickens or the Houdini pig that never stays put for very long.
Her favourite place in the world is the family property, where she writes her stories overlooking mountains crisscrossed with farmland, bordered by the beauty of the Australian bush, and where, at the end of the day, she can spend time with family, friends, a good Irish whiskey, and a copy of her next favourite book.