‘Love, losing it and finding it again is the big theme in a brooding mystery that examines love of all kinds and its power to do good or evil…’
In her latest book, Under The Midnight Sky, popular Australian author Anna Romer has crafted an intriguing tale about love and obsession, revolving around a creepy old house.
It’s in rugged bushland outside a small Australian town that we first meet the heroine of this brooding mystery, Abby Bardot, on her daily run. Not only is she pounding the turf, Abby seems to running away from something and gradually, we learn of her troubled past.
Now a local newspaper reporter, Abby blames herself for the murder of her best friend years earlier. When an injured teenager who bears a strong resemblance to her friend and two other young women brutally murdered, goes missing in the same area, she is determined to uncover the truth.
Although the man found guilty of those crimes is well and truly behind bars, Abby fears the killer may still be on the loose. Enter Tom Gabriel, famous crime writer who moves into a remote, once grand old house called Ravensong. Sent to try to interview him for the paper, events conspire to force Abby to stay at the house for a few days and it’s during this time a secret room is discovered, along with a few pages of a diary. A mutual attraction is also borne.
I confess I’m a big fan of diary entries and their slow reveals and it’s very well done here, with the diary unlocking a dark and scary story of two sisters kidnapped and cruelly locked up in the secret room in the 1940s. Strange stains on the bedding imply terrible things have happened.
A link between the imprisoned sisters all those years ago and current day events is established, but it takes Abby, with the help of Tom, a lot of searching to get to the bottom of it all and there are many twists and turns along the way.
As well as the unfolding mystery, Under The Midnight Sky has some historical elements and the relationships are important, critical in fact to understanding what’s gone on. Love, losing it and finding it again lies at the heart of a story that examines love, it’s power to do good and evil and love in its many forms
Alongside love, jealousy and madness are never far away in Under The Midnight Sky. They’re always there, lurking, casting long, dark shadows that keep you looking over your shoulder, on tenter-hooks.
It has to be said as well, considering the seriousness of the crimes committed, the incompetence of the police is gobsmacking. Understandable though when you think about standards of policing way back when, the likelihood of Mr Plods in small towns – and as the story reminds us, how police attitudes to those of a lower socio-economic bracket, especially to a single mother reporting a crime, are not always what they should be.
Alongside the skittish but likeable Abby, the wild Australian bush and the house itself loom over the plot in a distinctly Gothic manner, like characters unto themselves. The story switches between different time frames and voices, but it’s deftly done, easy to follow.
The writing in the diary entries in particular is first class, bringing to life the claustrophobic horror of being imprisoned for years in a dark, dank room, the slow, painful disintegration of a human mind held captive for so long, the birth of a passionate, loving relationship and the sad destruction of another.
The ending is credible too, somewhat sad, but importantly, with all questions answered, satisfying.
Ranked in the Librarians’ Choice top ten favourite books of the month, Under The Midnight Sky is indeed an excellent read that will have you up beyond…midnight.
About The Author
Anna Romer was born in Australia to a family of booklovers. She led a nomadic life for many years, travelling around Europe and Britain in an ancient Kombi van where she discovered a passion for history.
These days she lives in a little old cottage surrounded by bushland, writing stories about dark family secrets, rambling houses, characters haunted by the past, and settings that feature the uniquely beautiful Australian landscape. Anna’s debut bestselling novel was Thornwood House, followed by Lyrebird Hill and Beyond the Orchard. See AnnaRomer.com.au