WARNING: Don’t read this book if you are planning a trip to Cann River or if you are about to tuck into a pie!! (Oh, and maybe you’d better give it a miss if you are an admirer of Joan Baez!)

If none of these constraints apply, then you can settle to an entertaining, startling, violent and amusing (YES!) book, filled with the black humour Isobel Blackthorn enjoys sharing with her readers.

Its main characters are four very different women and the men and the situations they feel obliged ‘to deal with’.  We meet these women chapter by chapter and share their thoughts and actions intimately, while the ghost of Gran Parks hovers in the background!

Frankie is a large tough deer hunter (with a mullet haircut!) who ‘lives rough’ in the forest and has an uncompromising attitude towards life. We are given verbal vivid pictures of her butchering the deer she has shot (I had to skip those bits)!

Pearl is a silver haired, elderly female fisherman who spends a solitary life in her remote cabin, bitterly resenting her daughter Kylie who has two children and lives in the city and never visits.  Her bitterness increases when she learns her daughter is moving up North and there can be no expectation of future family reunions.

Miriam, a conventional, middle-aged unmarried woman has experienced the tragedy of losing her home in the terrible bushfires that ravaged Cockatoo in the Dandenong Ranges, taking lives and destroying many houses. She has been traumatised by this experience and is on her way to start a new life up North. However, because of car problems, she is stranded in Cann River awaiting car repairs.

Then there is Emily, a young and inexperienced English backpacker, who finds herself far from her stable home and family and who is working as little more than slave labour for Pat, owner of a somewhat dubious roadhouse, well known for its very popular range of pies.

These four women are about to be thrown together as the story proceeds and we follow their misadventures – and the very positive solutions they find – step by step. By the end of the first short chapter the reader knows there is a rough ride ahead with lots of blood and gore!

There is also a motley assortment of men in the story, including Pat’s odd son Con, who is the pie maker and also the not very efficient mechanic who is on the job with Miriam’s car.

These men include a vampire, a drug addict, a man who has brain cancer and is looking for a ‘miracle’ cure, a father who appears to be ‘on the run’ with two young daughters……is that enough to pique your curiosity? (Oh, and there is also the ghost reputed to haunt the Cann River lighthouse!)

The four women characters are obliged in one way or another to deal with these characters…. and they do!

It tells a dark story, but Isobel’s brand of humour lightens this and I felt slightly guilty to find myself quite often laughing inappropriately… and shaking my head a lot!

Isobel has obviously researched the Cockatoo fires, as she herself has until recently lived there, and this does introduce a sobering note throughout the book.

If you read and enjoy this book, you can probably label it as ‘a guilty pleasure’!

Ann Creber Producer/Presenter of The Good Life on 3MDR 97.1 FM, streaming on>

 Publisher: Hellbound


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