Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
The author of this novel, Annie Seaton, is a prolific writer having produced well over fifty books in ten years. She has been classed as a hybrid author, with a foot in different publishing areas. She has also written over several genres from contemporary historic romance to eco-adventure fiction set in Australia. Through her books, readers can learn about exciting places in Australia such as Kakadu, Undara, the Whitsundays, the Daintree and now central Australia.
The writing in all her books embraces her three main passions, to promote and protect the Australian landscape, to share with her readers some of the amazing places she has visited and to gently explore the human condition. She uses her stories to bring awareness to many issues affecting Australians.
Research into a place called Ruby Gap in the Northern Territory, where in 1886, explorer David Lindsay discovered what he believed were rubies, led to Seaton exploring the area for her latest book, East of Alice. The story has a dual timeline and foregrounds members of the one family and their relationship with this environment. The cover of this book is a photo taken by Rick Mont in 2019 just before the author arrived in this part of Australia to do her own research.
In East of Alice Seaton describes the beautiful scenery of the East McDonnel Range to the Ruby Gap National Park and brings to the readers unusual phenomena such as murmuration. The contemporary mystery aspect of the book allows her to highlight behavioural aspects such as lack of trust, integrity, and truth in government and corporations. She believes that through fiction she can raise awareness as to what is happening to some of our lovely, unique environments.
This is a lovely book to read. The storyline is easy to follow with not too many characters which might cause confusion. The segue between the past and present is seamlessly done and at the most appropriate times to allow the reader to follow the story without interruption. The characters seem real with their own challenges and regrets. Gemma Hayden had left Alice Springs after her twin brother had disappeared and her parents had split. After doing her teacher training in New South Wales she returns to Alice Springs to begin teaching. This is not without some trepidation as she still does not know what happened to Ethan and this was where her heart was broken and her trust in others was severely damaged.
On her first day of school, she is called to the principal’s office where she is informed that her brother’s car has been found out near Ruby Gap. The bearer of this news is none other than Saul Pearce, the boy from the other side of the tracks, who left without a word, shattering her trust. He is now a Parks and Wildlife officer in Alice Springs. Although there is tension between them, they are both determined to find out what happened to Gemma’s twin and Saul’s mate.
The tension builds when they discover a letter addressed to Gemma, from her brother, telling her not to trust anyone. The area where the car is found poses its own threat with helicopters, bearded men on motorbikes, skull and crossbones threatening signs on property gates, and the wildlife in the area.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story with its fascinating history, beautiful scenery, shifting personal relationships and adventure to right wrongs. I would recommend this writer’s work to anyone who enjoys a good yarn in a fascinating location.
East of Alice
by Annie Seaton