Book Bingo 2020 is a collaboration challenge I am completing for the third year with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. On the second Saturday of each month, beginning on Saturday 11th January 2020, Theresa, Ashleigh and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2020 card contains a total of 12 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post, tagging us on social media, posting in Page by Page Book Club with Theresa Smith Writes or by visiting our blogs The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.
Twisted Secrets. Hidden Victims. Monstrous Crimes.
In the rural Tasmanian town of Dunton, the body of a former headmistress of a children’s home is discovered, revealing a tortured life and death.
Detective Jake Hunter, newly arrived, searches for her killer among past residents of the home. He unearths pain, secrets and broken adults. Pushing aside memories of his own treacherous past, Jake focuses all his energy on the investigation. Why are some of the children untraceable? What caused such damage among the survivors?
The identity of her murderer seems hidden from Jake by Dunton’s fog of prejudice and lies, until he is forced to confront not only the town’s history but his own nature…
‘Hasn’t been a murder-well, not a real one-in Dunton since the eighties.’
Rural Australian crime is a favoured genre at present, thanks to talented authors such as Jane Harper and Chris Hammer. L.J.M. Owen throws her latest offering into the mix, with a highly atmospheric Tasmanian based crime novel. The Great Divide pits recently transferred mainland Detective Jake Hunter against a small Tasmanian town struggling with murder, secrets, torture and prejudice and lies. Enthralling from the first word to the parting line, The Great Divide is a consuming tale.
The Great Divide sees L.J.M. Owen take the reader deep into the dark depths of rural Tasmania, where a case initially involved a missing boy turns into a baffling murder investigation. When the body of the local caretaker and head of the renowned ‘bad girls home’ is uncovered, her medical history reveals some unusual features and torture practices. A detective who has recently arrived from the mainland is assigned to this complex case. Detective Jake Hunter’s eyes are soon opened to a litany of secrets, deep seated pain, lies, guilt and tortured souls. Jake is determined to get to the bottom of this investigation, at all costs. What is slowly revealed are many haunted individuals, marked by the pain of loss, indignity and terrible abuse. One murder case exposes an open nest of lies, secrets and ill judgement. Jake is a changed man by the end of this case and it rocks him to his very core.
L.J.M Owen dabbles with something very different in her new rural crime offering. The Great Divide is a departure from her Dr Elizabeth Pimms sleuth novels. With rural crime gathering plenty of positive attention, L.J.M. Owen has released this novel during a fertile time for Australian crime fiction. There were also moments when this intriguing book reminded me of a feature series currently screening on the streaming service Stan. I could see parallels between The Great Divide and a series titled The Gloaming. That aspect aside, The Great Divide is a book that utterly captivated me all the way through, there were some fairly gory and uncomfortable moments, but on the whole I rated this book very highly due to its originality.
A heart stopping and deeply atmospheric prologue introduces the opening mystery that consumes the local town of Dunton, in Tasmania. A missing young boy, a mutilated dead body and a whole host of unanswered questions around the suspect of this baffling case becomes the focus of Detective Jake Hunter’s investigations. Hunter has recently arrived from the mainland and has been awaiting his first breakout case in Tasmania. What he didn’t bargain for was such a convoluted murder case, linking the past and present together. Like the determined detective in this case, I was committed to solving this one from get-go, but it proved to be more than a little tricky!
Owen sets up an immediate feeling of fear and absolute chill when she opens The Great Divide. This is compounded by the Tasmanian backdrop which is bitter, cold, tangled and unpredictable. I loved this aspect of the novel. I have a strong interest in anything set in Tasmania, so The Great Divide well and truly hit the spot. Owen definitely carried me away to this heavily shrouded locale, which is full of uncertainty.
The central case Owen presents is full of shocks, big revelations, suspect turns and plenty of jolts to the system. Some of the finer details of this case, which Owen doesn’t back away from, are quite stomach churning. How this was allowed to happen under the noses of the local population I don’t know. The term ‘turn a blind eye’ came to mind when I thought about how the local community chose to ignore the suspect goings on at the ’bad girls home’. I put this down to the town’s prejudice and misunderstanding towards these troubled young victims. It was sad really and I think it was possibly preventable. The perpetrator was cruel, deranged and full of power, which allowed them to conduct such horrific acts on these vulnerable subjects. I do seem vague, but it is hard to discuss the main feature of this case, or cases, without revealing too much narrative wise. Despite my recoil of some aspects of this case, I found it compelling reading, matched by very even pacing and strong writing.
In Detective Jake Hunter, the lead of this novel and case, we have man who is driven, persistent and steadfast. Jake is keen to make some in-roads in the local community to assist him with this case, but he does encounter plenty of obstructions in his mission. I placed all my faith in Jake, I think he had the skills, aptitude and approach to get him over the line in this difficult case. I was euphoric when Jake finally cracked this case, it was a relief. However, I did feel in terms of his character, he didn’t give too much away. I definitely wanted more about the background and private life of this man, he played his cards close to his chest. I do hope Owen has plans to expand on the character of Jake Hunter in future works.
The Great Divide is a story of gnarled secrets, a town full of enigmas, unfortunate casualties and a series of heinous crimes. Led by a detective on a mission to exonerate this sleepy little town of its sins, L.J.M. Owen’s latest offers the ideal opportunity to experience a good quality rural crime novel.
**** 4.5 stars
The Great Divide by L.J.M. Owen was published on 4th November 2019 by Echo Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Great Divide, L.J.M. Owen, visit here.
The Great Divide is book #10 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge