Wild Place by Christian White

Publication date 26/10/2021

‘Somewhere along the way, something had gone wrong.’

December 1989, Camp Hill, Victoria. Seventeen-year-old Tracie Reed goes missing. The police think she is just another runaway who will turn up in a couple of days. But neither her mother Nancy, nor her father Owen, believe that. The Reeds are divorcing and while that has unsettled Tracie, neither of them thinks she has run away.

Camp Hill is a small suburb, the kind of neighbourhood where most neighbours know each other. There is an active neighbourhood watch, and no shortage of people who observe those around them. Oil leaks under cars, missing garden gnomes are important topics of conversation, as are rumours about satanic rituals. When Tracie goes missing, other parents are concerned. Teenagers are told not to venture into the Wild Place, the community forest behind several homes (including Tracie Reed’s).

When the Keel Street Neighbourhood Watch meets after Tracie’s disappearance, local schoolteacher, Tom Witter, married father of two sons, is tasked with posting missing person flyers. Tom is surprised that both his sons claim only vague knowledge of Tracie, but he quickly becomes focussed on a local youth. Tom and Tracie’s father Owen go on a hunt of their own which will not end well.

The search for Tracie puts this small suburban community under the microscope. Everyone, it seems, has something to hide. An old school friend of Tom’s, Detective Sharon Guffey, becomes involved in the case, bringing back memories for both.

There are plenty of twists and quite a few surprises as this story moves to its conclusion. While a couple of aspects can be figured out fairly easily, I was surprised by the final twist.

This is Mr White’s third novel, and the second I have read.  Highly recommended.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Affirm Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith