Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Wild Place by Christian White

 I received this book from NetGalley on exchange for an honest review.

I loved Wild Place. I loved The Wife and the Widow by Christian White but this book surpassed the sheer creative power that White showed in The Wife and the Widow.

Wild Place centres around the disappearance of a teenage girl from a seemingly perfect Australian suburb in 1989. It begins deceptively simply, but soon draws in so many different characters, all connected in one way: they lived in the suburb and they had varying connections to the missing girl.

I read this as an E-ARC, and I highlighted so many sections that at one point my kindle rebooted itself. There are so many quirky 80s references, funny one liners and witticisms it was easy to forget the crux of this was the disappearance of a teenage girl, and then White would ratchet the tension up and you’d be thrown back into the high stakes mystery with your head reeling. This yo-yoing of tension made the tension all the more delightful. You'd forget you were reading about a horrible disappearance as the main character cracks silly jokes with his son for a line or two but then his son would ask about the missing girl and you'd be jerked back into the fear of the unknown. 

With the addition of a callback to the Satanic Panic of the 80s and too many twists and turns to count, I read this entire book in one 6 hour sitting and then immediately picked up my iPad to write this review.

Every single character served an intricate purpose in the plot, nothing is wasted, every single word counts.

If I had one criticism I would say that at the halfway point 2 characters make a decision that derails things and I did wonder if the plot would get back on track, but it did and that plot choice led to several “what the f*ck?!” Plot twists that made me love this book. Christian White is the new master of books that make you gasp right until the very last line.

Our main character Tom Witter, is a high school english teacher who has Tourette's syndrome which show itself as facial twitches and tics, which led to him being bullied in high school and given the nickname Twitchy. 

Tom has a seemingly perfect marriage, 2 kids (one of whom is about to move out of home and start his own life in the big scary world) and lives in a perfect suburb. 

Other characters include Tom's neighbours, some of whom are laidback and funny (and maybe drink a bit too much!) and some who are the archetypal nosy neighbour, who run the local crime watch and want to have neighbourhood meetings at the merest hint of trouble. 

These characters are an interesting ensemble and the reader is able to get a real sense of life in suburban 1980s. The parents of the missing girl are in the midst of a messy divorce due to infidelity and both parents blame themselves for their daughter's disappearance though neither believes she ran away. 

The way Christian White describes Wild Place (a large swathe of bushland/park in which the kids of the neighbourhood explore, play and use as a shortcut to and from school is so evocative you begin to think of Wild Place as its own character. 

You won't see the end coming, and if you do, hats off to you because I gasped and nearly dropped my kindle half a dozen times in the last two chapters, everything lines up and falls down like perfectly placed dominos leading to a finale that will break your heart and shock you. 

Wild Place is out on the 26th of October, get your hands on a copy ASAP. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Searcher by Tana French

This review contains spoilers in the "BAD" section, I'm also adding a trigger warning for misgendering of a person and queer baiting. 


This is a mystery "thriller" from Tana French. Set in Ireland and follows the story of a retired cop from America. It's definitely more mystery than thriller and definitely a slow burn book, leaning more toward literary fiction than straight up thriller. 


Cal has moved to Ireland after his retirement from the police force and divorce from his ex wife, the mother of his adult daughter. 

Cal meets Trey, a teen whose brother has gone missing. Trey is the only one who seems to care where Brendan went and asks Cal to help look for him. 


The writing of The Searcher is all over the place, at times it's taut and thrilling, and at times it meanders so slowly that whole chapters go by with nothing happening. I'm a little surprised this isn't a debut. If I didn't know it was written by Tana French who has seven other novels published I'd have assumed it was a debut thriller. 


I liked the characters a lot, particularly Cal who was flawed but inherently likeable even if he did occasionally do stuff that was downright stupid, reckless and unbelievable. 

I loved Trey, but a lot of what I liked is a spoiler unfortunately. 

The good

The Searcher is in parts captivating to the point where I couldn't put it down, but then it would slowly drop off and be boring for 50 pages at a time. I really struggled to finish this book unfortunately. 

The bad

Buckle up bitches, I got mad about this. So, Trey is a teenager who meets Cal right? Shows up at Cal's place one night, watching Cal's place, kind of sussing him out. Eventually Trey gets the guts to ask Cal for helping finding Brendan. 

Trey's a boy's name, Trey is described as a boy, Cal uses he/him pronouns all the way through the book until just over halfway, when Cal finds out that Trey is in fact a girl named Teresa. Now, here's what pissed me off: Firstly, Cal continues to misgender Trey after finding out she is in fact a girl. When he's done misgendering her, he listens to another character say that they believe Trey is a lesbian purely because she dresses in boys clothing. All in all, it's just a really cheap, gross reveal that's designed to put the reader on the back foot and make you mistrust Trey for no reason other than shock value. 

Trey is not trans, it's revealed she dresses in masculine clothes to avoid people's attention and focus on her body. But Tana French lets the reader wonder just long enough whether Trey might be trans that I think it's queer baiting. 

Trans people are not plot devices. Being gay is not a plot device. I personally think it's a really shitty move on the part of the author. And while Trey isn't trans the implication is there and it just sits poorly with me. I find it uncomfortable that Trey's gender is some big reveal in order to build suspense and suspicion. 

Final thoughts:

This is a meh mystery book in my opinion. Parts of it were very gripping and I couldn't put it down but once the reveal about Trey happened I found that the book fell apart. Cal falls back on some weird old stereotypes and suddenly instead of Trey being perceived as taciturn and surly, the character arc becomes about fear and vulnerability. Cheap plot device, meh ending, all in all not worth the read for me personally.

I wish I could say more about this book but honestly, it's not worthy of a lengthy review and that disappoints me.  

Wild Place by Christian White

  I received this book from NetGalley on exchange for an honest review. I loved Wild Place. I loved The Wife and the Widow by Christian Whit...