The dramatic landscapes of central Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers — a spot the place “you could walk in circles for days and never see a path right beneath you” — makes for an eerily atmospheric setting in The Bluffs, the horror-inflected debut crime novel by Australian author Kyle Perry.
Billed as “Picnic at Hanging Rock meets Chris Hammer’s Scrublands”, it tells the story of 4 teenage women who mysteriously go lacking throughout a college tenting journey in the mountains.
The entire state of affairs is made even stranger by native legends concerning the Hungry Man, a sinister “hermit bushman” blamed for abducting a variety of younger ladies from the realm in the 1980s — and who, some speculate, could also be liable for the newest disappearances.
The story that ensues is formidable in scope, taking in every thing from police corruption, intergenerational trauma and the historical past of Aboriginal Tasmanians to self-harm, statutory rape and the darkish facet of social media.
Perry brings his personal experiences in the Tasmanian wilderness and his profession as a youth employee and counsellor in drug rehabilitation, high faculties and youth shelters to bear on his small-town setting. His fictional Limestone Creek is a gritty and claustrophobic “mongrel town” that’s dwelling to feuding drug sellers, roided-up lecturers, tattooed pastors and even the odd teenage YouTube superstar.
As the novel unfolds, the viewpoint switches amongst a core group of characters centred on Con Badenhorst, a detective lately transferred to Tasmania from the mainland who’s traumatised by recollections of a very horrific previous case.
There are some points with the pacing of the narrative, significantly in the novel’s first half. But as soon as the motion will get going in earnest, it’s troublesome to place The Bluffs down, with Perry delivering some genuinely stunning plot twists proper up till the ultimate web page.