In Pine Creek, a young boy is discovered dead, setting in motion questions that won’t be answered until years later.
Alec, who lives with his father in Sydney, is an actor and singer in a gifted school arts program who is rumored to be gay. When he begins visiting his divorced mother on weekends, young teen Sara Hamilton is intrigued and hopes to get to know him better. But then Alec is found dead in a channel by the road.
It’s quickly determined Alec was the victim of a hit-and-run, leading to speculation that he must have intentionally jumped in front of the car; news of AIDS is everywhere, heightening homophobia, and people assume Alec must be depressed or otherwise mentally imbalanced.
But things don’t add up. Alec’s shoe and coat are missing, and Sara is bothered by small things she remembers before his death: a last glimpse of him, the letter she left in his mailbox.
Meanwhile, Sara’s homelife is miserable as her father Len, a homophobic violent man, abuses her mother and siblings. But that doesn’t stop Sara from sneaking out with the young farm worker who is her first love.
Years later, as Sara continues to piece together the puzzle, disturbing secrets evolve, and she must follow the thread of evidence to its dark end.
This story is written in clear language, skillfully revealing the intricacies of family relationships. In one well-drawn scene, Len Hamilton flies into a rage over some romance novels Sara’s mother brought home for her. Seeking to calm things, Sara’s mother takes her children out for ice cream. “‘Have some, Mum,’ Anne said, offering a shiny spoon… Mum shook her head. ‘I enjoy it more when I watch you.’”
As the book unfolds, the author pulls together the varied threads to divulge several, well-set-up surprises, culminating in an engaging read for anyone who enjoys a bit of mystery and romance and a satisfying ending.