Darcy Tindale’s debut Australian rural crime novel The Fall Between has an intriguing cold open. It clues readers in to the general identities of some of the criminals to be uncovered and foreshadows plenty of death and mayhem. But it also allows the reader some deeper understanding that can take them behind the procedural elements that follow. Even when events in the novel seem a little random, knowing they all connect back to this initially outlined series of events helps to keep readers hooked in.
The story itself revolves around Detective Rebecca Giles, a Sydney-based police officer who has relocated to her home town of Muswellbrook, in the Hunter Valley about three hours north of Sydney. Giles has come back to care for her elderly father, a former well known local policeman now in a nursing home. But she is also trying to finally get to the bottom of the mystery of her mother’s death during a massive flood event when she was a baby. Giles’ first case, a missing teenager, throws some light on some local robberies. This and the discovery of a decomposing body (mentioned in a second prologue) sets Giles off on the path to unravelling the twisted chain of events foreshadowed in the cold open.
The Fall Between revolves around a hard living police officer who has returned to her roots partly to solve a mystery from her childhood, has to deal with workplace tensions but has a supportive boss with links to her family and past. The narrative includes a cast of colourful but reasonably stereotypical characters, and builds up to a tense finale in which the protagonist has to race to the rescue and face off against the perpetrator while also dealing with revelations about her past. In these respects The Fall Between is solid and engaging Australian rural procedural crime fiction debut that ticks many of the boxes for this sub-genre without pushing the form. Tindale has an easy style and it will be interesting to see what she does next.