A Little Bird by Wendy James

‘Bad news might be real life, but believe me, no one wants to hear about it anymore.’

A relationship break-down, her father’s illness and a job offer bring Jo Sharpe home in 2018 to the small drought-stricken town of Arthurville in remote, rural Australia. Jo has mixed feelings about returning: her mother and baby sister left Arthurville in 1994 and apart from one letter, neither have been heard from since.

Jo’s job on the ‘Chronicle’ is to produce six pages of good news each week. Not as easy as you might think given that the town is gripped by drought, but Jo settles in, rekindling some old friendships and making new friends. But being back in Arthurville rekindles Jo’s desire to find out why her mother left, taking her sister but leaving Jo behind. Her father, ill and ill-tempered, does not want to revisit the past. And then Jo finds some papers which, while they may shed some light on the past, raise plenty of questions.

The story shifts between Jo in 2018 and 1994, where Jo’s mother Merry is the narrator. As the two narratives unfold, we learn of secrets held, of ill-feeling and misunderstandings. And at the heart of it all is someone who would rather kill than concede ground.

I enjoyed this story with its complex, flawed characters and with a few twists that kept me guessing until very near the end. Ms James has published eight novels so far, and as this is only the third I have read, I have five others to look forward to.

If you enjoy domestic thrillers in a rural setting then I can recommend this,

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

Jennifer Cameron-Smith