Rain fall by Ella West
Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760296834
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Murder. Crime. Thriller. New Zealand. Coal mining. Rodeos. Horses. Living in Westport on the south island of New Zealand, where rain is measured in metres, Annie is stuck at home one afternoon when the police surround the neighbouring property; the owner, Pete, having fired at the local police station the night before. Without warning the house blows up, shattering Annie's windows, and muffling their eardrums, but Annie's first thought is for her horse, Blue, fractious at loud noises. She takes him for a ride on the beach, and there meets Jack, the son of the detective sent to the area to help with the search for a missing body. The idea that her neighbour, Pete, was involved with any of this is puzzling, the reclusive young man still grieving for his mother who recently died.
The crime thriller that follows is taught and involving, set in the most inhospitable of places where it never seems to stop raining. West evokes the setting with ease, informing us of of the coal mining that underpins the community, Annie's father a train driver who take the coal south to Greymouth, where it is taken by other drivers across the ranges to Christchurch. But the worldwide downturn in coal production is seeing the demise of the town and its population, and layered within the story are varying points of view about coal, tree felling, rodeos and isolation.
West's writing is compelling, far better that the adult thriller I recently put aside in disgust, after being lured by the idea of 'a bidding war' for its publication. Readers can breath in West's atmospheric, if soggy setting, she peoples her novel with credible players, and makes their interaction absolutely believable. The climax builds steadily, drawing the reader into this small world and its undercurrents, as Annie and Jack follow a light, headed into the mountains.
This is a terrific crime story, and would make a good class text with its layering of themes and ideas, smart central characters and stunning setting. I was excited to see this new book
by New Zealand author, Ella West after reading Night vision (2014) and was just as absorbed reading it from cover to cover in one sitting.