Review: Dark Country by Bronwyn Parry

Publisher: Hachette Livre Australia, Piatkus Books.
Where did you get this book: Review copy from author.
Release Date: Out now.
Blurb taken from author’s official website:

Most people in the small town of Dungirri have considered Morgan ‘Gil’ Gillespie a murderer for eighteen years, so he expects no welcome on his return. What he doesn’t expect is the discovery of a woman’s tortured body in the boot of his car, and new accusations of murder.

Wearied by too many deaths and doubting her own skills, local police sergeant Kris Matthews isn’t sure whether Gil is a decent man wronged by life, or a brutal criminal she should be locking up. But she does know that he is not guilty of this murder – because she is his alibi . . .

Between organised crime, police corruption, and the hatred of a town, Gil has nowhere to hide. He needs to work out who’s behind the murder before his enemies realise that the one thing more punishing than putting him back in prison would be to harm the few people he cares about.

Kris is determined to help him, but will their search for the truth make her the next target?

Dark Country makes a return to Dungirri, Australia, where the town is left recovering from the events in the first book, As Darkness Falls, and trying to rebuild their broken community.

Kris, the heroine, is a police officer in the small community. She has a feisty attitude and takes no bullshit from anyone. But Kris is doubting her instincts as a police officer after working the case in the previous book, involving a psychotic child abductor and killer. Kris knew the killer, and feels that she failed the town by not knowing who the person was.

So when Morgan ‘Gil’ Gillespie arrives back in Dungirri, she doesn’t know if she can trust her instincts around him as an officer – and as a woman who is attracted to him. Gil is not an easy character with easy emotions. He doesn’t see things as black or white, and I would describe him as someone who has shades of grey which can be put down to his past life. Gil grew up with a horrendous and vicious father, and was labelled a murderer by his home town for killing a girl in a car accident, and then going to prison for the alleged crime. And what I liked so much about Gil’s character was that he doesn’t do a turnabout in the book and become lovey dovey at the sight of the heroine. He is who he is, and doesn’t make apologies. But he’s not without strong emotions; he just holds them extremely close to his chest and reserves them for the few he cares about.

There is a great contrast between these two protagonists and Isabelle and Alec in the first book. I found that Dark Country’s protagonists are edgier characters that give the tone of the book a different slant. While Dark Country once again has the fantastic authenticity of the Australian outback, it has a slight urban feel with connections of the Mafia being a vocal part in the story.

The relationship between Kris and Gil is fraught with charged tension, but their romance is very slow, and their first kiss doesn’t happen until after 200 pages or so and romance lovers may not like the lack of romance. I thought it was realistic as sometimes in a romantic suspense book, I think: How on how earth do the hero and heroine have time to fall in love, have a relationship while people are trying to kill them, and solve a crime at the same time? But Bronwyn Parry manages to make the romance realistic by making it a sub-plot, and leaving the suspense as the driving point of the book. But even though the romance was slow, Kris and Gil have this connection between them that’s very much in the forefront throughout the book. Gil considers himself a loner, but he can’t shake off the pull he has for Kris, and she becomes the only person in Dungirri that he can fully trust to help him get out of this situation of being a murder suspect again. And while trying to clear his name completely, Gil also has to contend with the ghosts of his past, and the suspicion and distrust the people of Dungirri still have for him.

I thought that the suspense aspect in Dark Country doesn’t have the gripping and intense impact that As Darkness Falls has. Dark Country’s baddies are from organised crime, and it’s a not a matter of not knowing who the bad guys are, but wondering and guessing what the bad guys are going to do to Gil – and potentially others who get caught in the middle. I did wonder how much trouble this small town could have and is there a limit? I did find it somewhat hard to believe that some of the folk in Dungirri were tied up with the mob from Sydney, and towards the end of the book everything came together in a rush that I thought was hurried.

But despite the ending – and a sub-plot that I wanted to be more developed regarding Gil and a surprise family member of his – Dark Country is a book that I couldn’t put down with characters that are compelling and diverse. And reading this series, it makes for an awesome change with the setting being in the Australian outback.

I give Dark Country 4 out of 5 stars.

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