Crime thrillers which delve deeper into the human psyche than a typical police procedural can make for a gripping, page-turning adventure. This is precisely the case for B Michael Radburn’s The Falls, the second stand-alone novel featuring his park ranger character, Taylor Bridges.
When two treasure hunters discover the corpse of a missing girl in the canyons of Jacobs Peak, Victoria, it pre-empts the gruesome discovery of a long-standing burial ground and the realisation that a murderous cult may have been revived.
To aid the local police, one of the treasure hunters contacts her Uncle Taylor, who is still grieving for the tragic death of his young daughter at The Crossing in Tasmania some time ago. His arrival, and that of a city detective, sets in motion a police hunt for a killer that’s more au fait with the land than they are, and a perilous journey of self-discovery for the players.
To get the novel’s biggest fault out of the way first, The Falls alludes to so much of Bridge’s devastating past that it demands a read of his first novel, The Crossing. The details of the character’s background are unnecessary for this tale, but the teasing reveals of Taylor’s past make the first book sound too damn interesting to ignore. If anything, this is an example of good characterisation becoming a distraction from the narrative at hand.
Radburn is a masterful storyteller, slowly etching out his plot with deliberate patience while never slowing the pace. Every scene advances the story or character just enough to appease but leaves you wanting more. The tension builds from the opening scene and only increases as each thread of the story begins to merge and collide, culminating in a satisfying final showdown.
The characters of The Falls are all flawed and human. Radburn delivers some, like Taylor, who come with baggage to push them along, and others whose drive becomes more evident as we begin to know them. His characters are distinct and recognisable, from the cameo appearance of a service station attendant to all the main players. Every personality is fleshed out through quirks, attitude or speech patterns.
Radburn’s ability to delve into the mind and motivation of each character is also notable, with family and the sins of the father being his reoccurring themes.
Stylistically, Radburn is reminiscent of popular writers like Dean R Koontz, although the latter tends to focus on supernatural horrors. Within the pages of The Falls is the same easy style, the same intricate plotting, the same nuanced cast of characters, and the same unexpected reveal in the finale.
Add Radburn to my favourite author’s list and get ye to The Falls.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Publisher: Pantera Press
Release Date: 1 August 2016