Title: Croc Country
Author: Kerry McGinnis
Published: July 2nd 2020
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
The new outback mystery from the bestselling author of The Roadhouse.
Why would the police come back looking for a dead man?
Young widow Tilly is making a new life for herself, keeping house for the rangers at the Binboona Wildlife Sanctuary in the isolated wilderness of the north-western Gulf Country. Caring for injured wildlife and helping to run the popular tourist campsite are just the distraction she needs from everything she left behind when her husband, Gerry, and young daughter were lost at sea.
But when the police show up asking questions about Gerry, the peaceful routine she’s built is disrupted as she begins to question what really happened to her family. The arrival of botanist Connor stirs up even more emotion and has Tilly questioning who she can trust. When she and young ranger Luke stumble across evidence of wildlife smugglers on a visit to the local caves, suddenly her sanctuary is no longer safe and it becomes clear the past has well and truly come back to haunt her.
Set against the lush backdrop of the Northern Territory with its vibrant birds and deadly wildlife, this is a chilling and highly evocative family mystery about the wild and dangerous things that can happen in the most remote and untamed corners of our country.
‘We’re here to protect the wildlife. The land couldn’t sustain itself without its birds and animals, you know.’
One of Australia’s leading rural fictional novelists returns with another gripping novel. Croc Country takes the reader directly into the wild and dangerous terrain of the Gulf Country region in north-west Australia. Teaming with wildlife and beautiful native flora, the need to protect this region is vital. Croc Country contains a heavy dose of outback mystery, along with a touch of romance. Croc Country is another standout addition to the Kerry McGinnis collection.
Croc Country brings together a great set of characters against a quintessential Australian backdrop. We meet Tilly, a widow who wants to begin a new life and career at the Binboona Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a very remote part of Australia’s north and it requires the constant protection of a team of rangers. This hardworking team help the local wildlife thrive and they also support local tourism in the area. When Tilly comes to Binboona she hopes to put aside her tragic past and concentrate on the essential work of the Sanctuary. But it seems that it isn’t easy for Tilly to restart her life and bury the past. When the authorities come and query Tilly about her husband, she begins to second guess what happened to her spouse and daughter. With Tilly’s emotions pushed to limit, she doesn’t know what to believe and who to place her trust in. When Tilly and fellow worker Luke uncover the work of local wildlife smugglers, Tilly realises that her new home is no longer offering the safety net she hoped that it would provide. Tilly can’t help but think this is somehow all linked to her tragic past, which continues to follow her. Croc Country offers readers a slice of what life is like in the top end of Australia, where beauty and danger combine in spectacular circumstances.
I consider myself a loyal fan of Kerry McGinnis, I have read all but one of her fiction novels and I have her non fiction titles sitting on my tbr shelves. I always seek out a new novel from this beloved Australian storyteller and Croc Country was high on my list of must reads. Croc Country is rural fiction at its best, pulling in themes of crime, suspense and romance to enhance this tale further.
Tilly is the lead character of this tale. I was soon drawn in to Tilly’s tragic life story and family secrets. I could feel Tilly’s sense of grief and devastating loss following the tragic accident that took the lives of both her husband and daughter. I liked the sense of intrigue that was built around this aspect of the novel, which is carried through for a good portion of the story. I also admired Tilly’s strength and her willingness to build a new life in a largely inhospitable part of Australia. It certainly was a bold move! Tilly is a likeable lead and the support cast, such as fellow rangers such as Luke and Sophie, provided some good interplay between the characters. We see the hard work and dedication that goes into the business of wildlife conservation, which I found to very interesting as a well as educative. Related to this aspect of the book is the focus on tourism, which I really enjoyed learning more about from the eyes of the rangers and conservation officers in Australia’s north-west.
On the flip side, we have some truly appalling characters that perform a number of dirty deeds in relation to the terrible act of smuggling wildlife, corruption and more. It becomes clear that the surrounding area of the Binboona Wildlife Sanctuary is under threat and it is up to a team of authorities to work to together to help restore order and preserve the unique flora and fauna of the region. This segment of the novel is full of suspense, mystery and action. It is a thrilling race in the latter stages of the book to the conclusion, which was riveting. McGinnis offsets this crime element of her novel with a gentle romance story, which doesn’t detract for the eventful proceedings of the central mystery.
Before I leave my closing statement on Croc Country (which was surprisingly devoid of any true croc action) I must acknowledge McGinnis’ depiction of her landscape, which was truly breathtaking. McGinnis possesses the skill and ability to pull her readers completely in to her setting. Not only did I appreciate being taken from my suburban West Aussie life to the majestic Gulf Country, I enjoyed being acquainted with the local wildlife (maybe not the snakes!) and the warmth of this region appealed my reader’s soul.
Strong characters, an incredible setting, an intriguing mystery and the opportunity to learn more about living and working in remote Australia in a sustainable way defines Croc Country. Highly recommended reading!
Croc Country by Kerry McGinnis was published on July 2nd 2020 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Croc Country is book #88 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge