December 1st, 1993, and summer has arrived in Cedar Valley. A few hours south of Sydney, Cedar Valley is a town where everyone knows each other by name, and in the warmer seasons it’s something of a hotspot for tourists, who pop in for a browse of the antiques store and a bite at the local bakery before hitting the road again on excursions up or down the coast.
But on December 1st, 1993, two particularly interesting people arrive in Cedar Valley. One is Benny Miller, freshly graduated from university and in search of answers about her mother Vivian, who has recently died. Vivian was largely absent from Benny’s life, and when Vivian’s old friend Odette had called Benny with an invitation to come and stay in Cedar Valley – Vivian’s hometown – Benny accepted in a heartbeat, thinking of all she could learn about her mysterious mother.
The other person who arrives in Cedar Valley that day is a well-dressed man of indeterminate age. He arrives around midday by bus, and walks calmly down the main street to Cedar Valley Curios and Old Wares, where he stops and sits on the pavement with his back to the store window. The locals who walk by cast puzzled glances at the man but still he sits, for a good few hours in fact, until the owner of Cedar Valley Curios comes out to ask that he move along, and realises that the man is stone dead.
As the locals ponder and fret over the mysterious death, Benny Miller begins her own search for answers. But as she learns more about her mother from Odette and the other inhabitants of Cedar Valley, she realises Vivian led a wilder life than Benny could ever have imagined, and that there may just be a connection between her mother and the man who died outside the Curios store on Benny’s very first day in town.
Set in the same world as her critically acclaimed debut Goodwood (the town of Cedar Valley is mentioned briefly in this first book), Holly Throsby’s Cedar Valley is another triumph from this brilliant storyteller. Throsby has spoken about her love for small towns as places to both visit and write about, and this affection is more than evident in Cedar Valley. Throsby’s beautiful descriptions of shops, homes and surrounding nature bring the town to vivid life, and the main character Benny finds the town and its inhabitants so welcoming and comforting that in following her story, we too come to fall in love with Cedar Valley.
Every character in this novel is perfectly formed, and it’s a real pleasure getting to know both Benny and the eccentric and endearing locals. While some mystery stories set in small towns focus on the isolation or paranoia that can manifest in such places, Cedar Valley is delightfully different, focusing instead on the strong sense of community and connection between the townsfolk. It’s a town and a story with warmth and heart, and the mysteries at its centre will keep you guessing until the end.
If you loved Goodwood, we just know you’ll love Cedar Valley, too.
About the author:
Holly Throsby is a songwriter, musician and novelist from Sydney. She has released five solo albums, a collection of original children’s songs, an album as part of the band, Seeker Lover Keeper, and has been nominated for four ARIAs. Holly’s debut novel, Goodwood (2016), was a critically acclaimed bestseller, shortlisted for the Indie and ABIA awards as well as the Davitt and Ned Kelly awards. Cedar Valley is her second novel.