2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · mystery · rural fiction · small town

Book Review: Front Page News by Katie Rowney


Title: Front Page Newsfront page news.jpg

Author:  Katie Rowney

Published: May 16th 2016

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 288

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Australian, Rural, Mystery

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

Cadet journalist Stacey McCallaghan is struggling to find anything newsworthy to report on in the small country town of Toomey. Front-page stories consist of the price of cattle and lawn bowls results, and Stacey spends more time laying out the crossword than covering actual news.

Until the first dead body turns up.

While the local police fumble the investigation, ambitious Stacey is just pleased to have something other than cattle sales to write about. Plus, she now has an excuse to spend more time with the arrogantly attractive Detective Scott Fitzgerald. But when Stacey shows up at one crime scene too many, she moves to the top of the most wanted list. Stacey must uncover the truth before anyone else gets hurt – or the police put her behind bars.

Light-hearted and laugh-out-loud funny, this charming novel will have readers falling in love with the surprisingly deadly town of Toomey.

My review:

Former outback journalist Katie Rowney turns her hand to fiction with her first novel, a cosy Australian mystery novel, titled Front Page News. This debut centres on the story of a freshly graduated journalist, Stacey McCallaghan, who receives her first big reporting break when she attends the scene of a crime, in the tiny town of Toomey. The junior reporter soon finds she is investigating more crime scenes as the bodies mount up and the local police appear to be out of leads. Stacy becomes both a suspect and detective figure in the hunt to clear her name in the town of Toomey.

The fictional regional town of Toomey, central Queensland is where cadet journalist Stacey McCallaghan is sent to work on the local newspaper, The Toomey Times. With the news focussed on stories such the local dart championships and the price of cattle, the town receives a big shake up when a dead body is found. It seems Stacey’s struggle to find the ideal story piece to form front page news on her newspaper is over. When more dead bodies turn up, Stacey begins to wonder if it is simply a coincidence or if these deaths could be linked. Frustrated by the work of the local police, especially when they suspect her of the deaths, Stacy decides to take matters into her own hands. Stacy becomes a super sleuth, trying to identify the real killer and exonerate herself from blame. Trying to ensure she doesn’t get put behind bars is a tough task, made even harder by her attraction to local detective Scott Fitzgerald. Front Page News is a story filled with ambition, crime, mystery, light humour and romance.

Katie Rowney is a fresh contemporary voice, who has made a solid entry into the Australian mystery field. Rowney’s debut novel, Front Page News is loosely drawn from her own experiences working as a journalist in a small country town. Rowney’s first hand experiences in country town journalism are filtered through her debut novel. It gives Front Page News a good dose of realism.

Front Page News is narrated by Stacey McCallaghan, a journalism graduate from the city, sent to the sticks on her first real assignment. Rowney successfully captures the qualities of her main protagonist, from her obvious youth, to her ambition, drive and self sufficient nature. Stacey is a mostly likeable character and despite her age, I found myself connecting to her. She does seem to get herself embroiled in a few messy situations. At times, Stacey’s cocky nature did grate on me, especially in her interactions with the local police. Despite this misgiving, Stacey’s character journey was an interesting one to follow.

Stacy is supported by a cast of authentic and true ‘Aussie’ like characters. In these sections of the narrative, Rowney’s dialogue has a chance to shine, showcasing our distinct use of language and culture, particularly in rural areas of Australia. The townsfolk of Toomey are a good representation of a typical population of residents from a regional location in Australia. Rowney gives us a great sense of what is feels like to be an outsider in a town that has remained unchanged for generations, through the character of fresh resident Stacey and her colleague, Ethan. The insertion of key events such as the local race day and sports championships, gives the reader an insight into the usual week to week general happenings in small country towns. Off shoots of humour arrive in the form of many of these local townsfolk, their banter and interactions with the lead Stacy made for an entertaining read at many points of the novel.

There is a subtle romance element to Front Page News. Initially, I did think that Rowney was going to explore the possibility of a love triangle between Stacey and the local detective Fitzgerald, with fellow local journalist Ethan thrown in to shake things around a bit. However, the storyline fizzles out in my predictions for this kind of love story. The romance that emerges is an opposites attract, unresolved tension style romance, with Stacey and Fitzgerald only really making moves rather late in the novel. I still enjoyed this aspect and direction the narrative took romance wise.

Readers will appreciate the steady pace set in Front Page News. The content, though crime based, is not overly grizzly. It is more of a light touch approach to a crime. There are plenty of puzzling moments and possible suspects that Rowney includes to keep you guessing. My estimation of the perpetrator of the Toomey town murders was not who ended up transpiring to be the killer, so Kate Rowney did a good job of concealing the murderer’s identity effectively.

I inhaled Front Page News in just two sittings. A novel featuring a fast paced plot, easy going narrative and a confident lead that you just can’t help but cheer on, Front Page News was a most entertaining read. It was a pleasure to be introduced to a new writer on the Australian fiction scene and I do hope we hear more from Katie Rowney.

Front Page News by Katie Rowney was published on May 16th 2016 by Penguin Books  Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Front Page News, Katie Rowney, visit here.



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