REVIEW: The Shearer’s Wife by Fleur McDonald

In brief: In the small rural town of Barker, someone is sending drugs via the mail. How does this link with a story of a young couple in the 1980s? Detective Dave Burrows is on the case.

The good: Just the right level of action, tension and mystery.

The not-so-good: I read it in a weekend!

Why I chose it: The Detective Dave series never fails to entertain. Thanks Allen & Unwin for the copy.

Year: 2020

Pages: 373

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Setting: Rural South Australia

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I haven’t read all the Detective Dave Burrows books in Fleur McDonald’s series, which is kind of stupid on my behalf. (It does mean that I have a lot to look forward to though). Detective Dave doesn’t disappoint in providing the reader with a solid story, intriguing mystery and unforgettable characters. The Shearer’s Wife puts together two seemingly unconnected stories and holds the reader’s interest as the links are gradually revealed. It certainly makes no difference if you haven’t read the previous novels, as the characters and their relationships are all clearly explained.

The narrative of The Shearer’s Wife goes between two storylines, one set in present day and one set in 1980. Back in the eighties, Rose and Ian are making their way to another shearing shed. Rose is heavily pregnant with twins and isn’t doing so well. When she goes into labour early, Ian stays at the shed to continue working. This is the start of the breakdown of their relationship. Meanwhile in the small country town of Barker, Detective Dave Burrows gets a visit from the Federal Police. They are in town to intercept a package of drugs sent through the mail to a local resident. Dave is left in the dark about the identity of the recipient, but left to deal with the fallout of the arrest. His wife Kim helps to care for a child left without family and negotiates to assist the accused. Local reporter Zara is also on the case, making her relationship with her boyfriend Jack (a policeman) difficult. As Zara struggles with her past, she is determined to find out the truth. She just might be the one who links the two stories together…

The Shearer’s Wife is a perfect weekend read. It was just the right book to sit down and read over a lazy Sunday afternoon. Fleur McDonald tells the story well, switching timelines just when the reader becomes desperate to know what’s happening with Rose (or Dave and Zara). It’s a great mix of police procedural entangled with the lives and consequences of regular people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. The latter part of the novel is laced with tension as Dave, Jack and Zara close in on their suspect making for an urgent not-moving-from-the-couch reading session. The novel doesn’t end there though, but pulls together the last threads of the two timelines and brings them together in a heartfelt way. It is a really uplifting ending to a novel with multiple missed chances and some poor decisions by particular characters. The pacing of plot is done well, as is the reunion with familiar characters like Kim, Dave and Jack and the new characters of Rose and Ian. The story combines together to bring the best of an Aussie outback novel, bringing the natural elements of the bush together with great characters. A fun read.

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