BEREFT

Written by Chris Womersley

Review written by Sara Townsend

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group. http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/


BEREFT
Quercus
RRP: £10.99
Released: 5th January 2012
Pbk

Australia, 1909:  Twelve-year-old Sarah Walker is raped and murdered.  Her brother Quinn is found standing by her body, bloodied knife in hand.  Quinn maintains his innocence, but no one believes him.  Fearing being hanged for murder, he flees. 

 Ten years later, he returns to his home town of Flint, physically and emotionally scarred after serving in the Great War.  He discovers that everyone in town thinks he died in the war, and they all still believe he murdered his sister.  Afraid to let himself be known to anyone, he hides in the hills, venturing into town secretly to visit his dying mother, a victim of the influenza epidemic.  When his mother tells him she never doubted his innocence, and gets pleasure out of his visits Quinn decides to stay, even though he is unable to let anyone else see him.  He also feels he can’t tell his mother the truth about who really did kill his sister, as it would be too much for her to cope with.

 Meanwhile he encounters another resident hiding in the hills, 12-year-old orphan Sadie Fox, waiting for her brother to return from war.  Sadie is a little sister with a missing brother; Quinn is a big brother with a dead sister, and the two of them find comfort in each other.  Sadie is in hiding because there’s a man after her.  When Quinn discovers that it is the same man who killed his sister, he decides that he has to protect Sadie.

 This is not a crime novel in the traditional sense.  There has been a murder, and we know the identity of the killer, but it’s not about catching him.  It’s a dark, melancholic novel.  The violence of war and the filth of the abandoned hovel that Quinn and Sadie choose to live in are portrayed in all their stark reality.  The two main characters are flawed, but they both possess a keen sense of survival, despite their grim situation. 

At the beginning of the novel, both Quinn and Sadie feel tied to the town they cannot be seen in – Sadie because she thinks her brother will return for her; Quinn because he doesn’t want to leave his dying mother.  The story follows the emotional journey that Quinn and Sadie have to make, as they help each other to understand what they need to do to move on – both psychology, from the past; and physically, from the town of Flint.  In doing so, they both find solace, in themselves and in each other.

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