Title: Starting From Now
Author: Fleur McDonald
Published: November 5th 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Suspense
Rating: 5 stars
When twenty-five-year-old journalist, Zara Ellison receives her mother’s ominous text message, Call me when you can, Zara knows it’s not good news.
Two weeks later, Zara has left her much-loved city life to relocate to Barker, the sleepy country town in which she grew up. For Zara, family comes first.
But she needs to work too, and the town’s police force is a rural journalist’s best source of information. Meeting Detective Dave Burrows and Dave’s second-in-charge, Senior Constable Jack Higgins, is a priority.
Amid her family’s troubles, and reporting on farming accidents and violently clashing activists, Zara is shocked to witness Jack Higgins in a role she’d never have believed. How could he possibly justify this? And what was she going to do about it?
Wrapped in the love of family, friendship, crime and mystery, Starting From Now is another compelling novel from the authentic voice of Fleur McDonald.
Fleur McDonald holds plenty of weight in the Australian rural fiction field. McDonald delivers another top notch novel, her best yet, in Starting From Now. A story of family, duty, rural crime, journalism, activism and advances in farming enterprises, McDonald’s latest is all wrapped up in a shroud of mystery. Starting From Now is a book I thoroughly enjoyed from cover to cover and it is a highly commendable novel from a talented Australian storyteller.
Starting From Now introduces Zara Ellison, the leading lady of Fleur McDonald’s new novel. Zara has to return home after a devastating call back from her mother, who is struggling over a health crisis which has hit their family hard. Zara leaves her city life behind and settles back home in Barker, a laid back country town. As much as Zara adores her city based life and job, she knows family is more important, especially at this time of great crisis. Zara supports her family on their farm, while working as a rural journalist. She encounters local Detective Dave Burrows and his sidekick Jack Higgins, while investigating possible story leads. Zara tries hard to develop a rapport and mutual partnership with these pillars of the community, but this relationship doesn’t come easy. While Zara wades knee deep in the tragedy engulfing her family, she encounters a number of farming related accidents, along with a set of die hard activists, determined to make an impact. When Zara clashes with Senior Constable Jack Higgins in a puzzling situation, she knows she must act for the greater good. A trickle of suspense and danger runs through the latest crime based mystery novel from a sterling writer in the rural fiction field.
Fleur McDonald is such a credit to the Australian writing community and she had done great things for the field of rural fiction. I consider McDonald one of the best in terms of rural crime and mystery writing. McDonald’s books are always incredibly moving. Her latest is a reflection of her passion for her craft. Starting From Now is a deeply authentic tale, that envelopes the reader in an enthralling narrative. This new novel covers everything from a tragic health crisis, to the impact of activism and the influence of advances in technology on farming communities. This latest treat from Fleur McDonald maintained my full interest from cover to cover.
I found Zara Ellison, the lead of this tale, very appealing. I connected with and sympathised with Zara’s predicament as soon as she appeared on the pages of this novel. I admired Zara’s dedication, loyalty and desire to put family ahead of her personal needs. I also enjoyed walking in the shoes of rural journalist, what a fascinating career path! McDonald does a fine job of illuminating the issues at the heart of Zara’s life, along with her troubles, hopes, fears and desires.
The supporting cast comprises of Zara’s hardworking, devoted and selfless mother Lynda, a stoic woman that I also developed a great deal of respect for. Zara’s brother Will occupies a significant part of the narrative, which is heartbreaking, but also insightful. McDonald handles this aspect of the story with the exact balance between knowledge and sensitivity. Zara and her family are supported by a welcoming community. I definitely felt like a part of the Barker town fabric by the close of the book and it was a nice feeling.
The crime and mystery segment of Starting From Now is directed by the formidable Detective Dave Burrows, a very approachable and likeable lead from many of McDonald’s previous books. This is a new issue in the Detective Dave series, which sees this appealing character take a back step from the main proceedings of the book. In this issue, Zara Ellison, along with Dave’s sidekick Jack Higgins are given a chance to shine. I really liked this move by McDonald in shaping her latest novel. I was particularly gripped by the undercover detective work conducted by Senior Constable Jack Higgins, it made for some heart pounding reading! I also received a warm and comforting feeling when Dave’s wife Kim popped up during the novel.
In terms of the main crux of this novel, McDonald certainly has her finger on the pulse in terms of the issues of contention that are currently defining, as well as plaguing, the farming communities of Australia. McDonald showcases her up to the minute knowledge in terms of the current trends that are defining the practices of local farms, who are employing the use of technology in progressing their holdings. In Starting From Now, McDonald takes on the contentious voice of the animal activist movement, petitioning for change in the farming industry, which has quite devastating fallout in the novel. This aspect of the story enables McDonald to touch on the law and court system. I found the whole thing so engrossing, I couldn’t turn my eyes away, for one minute!
Fleur McDonald is a bona fide Australian rural fiction storyteller, who vocalises issues at the heart of country – family, loyalty, survival and community ties. McDonald dazzles us yet again with Starting From Now.
Starting From Now by Fleur McDonald was published on 5th November 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Starting From Now, Fleur McDonald, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Starting From Now is book #157 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge