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The Great Divide by L.J.M. Owen

I love L.J.M. Owen’s Elizabeth Pimm’s series, so was really looking forward to her starting what promises to be a new and even darker crime series. I am pleased to say, the result is fabulous.

The Great Divide is set in a small, rural town in Tasmania – a place fast becoming popular for crime writers across a range of media. And it’s no wonder (but maybe, as a local, I’m biased J). For readers familiar with Tassie, the setting is so authentic in many ways – from the climate, to the suspicious welcome of the townspeople, their quirkiness and infuriating familiarity with each other, to the natural surroundings. To those not so conversant with Tassie topography or towns and their folk, there’s no problem as newly-arrived, Detective Jake Hunter, becomes the lens though which this troubled place and its rather secretive inhabitants are viewed.

Believing he’s escaped an uncomfortable situation in Melbourne, giving himself professional and personal breathing space, Jake’s illusions are quickly shattered when the body of a former headmistress of a children’s home is discovered in a nearby vineyard.

What follows is a case filled with half-told truths, bigotry, lies, enigmas and a dark past that many of the townsfolk are reluctant to shed light upon. But as the death toll begins to mount, Jake understands that not only must he get the bottom of what’s going on, unearth that which too many wish to keep buried, but do it before anyone else is murdered.

This is a grim tale which ratchets up the tension with each chapter. It is moody, dark, and hard to put down. Equal parts disturbing and compelling, the pace is perfect and the characters well drawn. Jake, especially, is an interesting and beautifully flawed human being that it’s easy for the reader to relate to – he is the outsider you root for.

I have to say, Australian writers are excelling in the crime genre. There are some sensational reads out there, so many great narratives, that draw you in, hold you by the collar, shake you like there’s no tomorrow, and then release you when they’re ready. This one is no exception.

Very much looking forward to what L.J.M. Owens does next – whether it’s Dr Pimms, DI Hunter, or something else from her inventive mind.

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