Voices in the Dark by Fleur McDonald

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

For readers of Fleur McDonald’s books, they will be pleased to follow the storyline of Mia as she takes up her job, as new recruit, for the Barker police force under Detective Dave Burrows. Dave has been a familiar figure in these books and the reader knows that with the breakup of his previous marriage he has lost contact with his two daughters. In this story he has just learned that one of his daughters is about to get married.

Although these two people have a big part to play in this book, they are just the supporting cast. Sassi Stapleton has received a phone call telling her to come home to the town where she grew up, as her grandmother was ill.  Unfortunately the woman who raised her passed away before Sassi could see her. Somebody else also received the same phone call, and when Sassi’s birth mother turns up, unhealed wounds flare up. It is the members of this family who take centre stage in Voices in the Dark.

This book explores issues such as abandonment, empathy, elder abuse, racism as well as the open supporting friendships so often more evident in small country towns.

Fleur McDonald’s latest book is presented beautifully, like all her books, with the front and back covers depicting the Australian bush which is so familiar to the author. She has been given the title The Voice of the Outback for her writing and has sold over 750,000 copies of her books, solidifying her position as one of the country’s favourite storytellers. Fleur continues to write two books a year, releasing one in April and one in November.

Her first novel, Red Dust, made her the highest selling debut author of 2009. Since then, she’s gone on to write 16 novels and two children’s books. She writes about what she knows, stories set in regional areas around Australia with salt-of-the-earth characters. The people always seem so real with issues all of us encounter at some time in our lives.

One thing I really enjoy in McDonald’s books is the snippets of wisdom that crop up during the telling of her tales e.g., ‘Anger is a symptom of hurt’ (139). This is something we all need to remember especially in family relationships. Also, the idea that ‘Life is just like the sea…ever moving and ever changing. You never know what you are going to get, but the minute you’re comfortable, it changes’ (205). We all need gentle reminders and Fleur McDonald does this so well.

Fleur McDonald’s books are easy to read as the print is broken up on the page by paragraphs and dialogue and the situations the characters find themselves in are just like what the reader might experience.

Another enjoyable read from the Voice of the Outback.

Voices in the Dark

(2023)

By Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 978-1-76106-648-1

$32.99; 368pp

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