EXCERPT: It’s taken them longer than they’d expected to make it this far, three full days, and the drive has been unremitting. The roads are bad. Single lanes in each direction, bumpy and with gravel verges that spit lethal pebbles when large trucks hauling three or four trailers roar past. The windscreen is already sporting a spider web of cracks on the passenger side after they’d gotten too close behind one and its tyres had flicked a stone onto the glass.
She misses Sydney already. In their six months living at the hostel they’d made a good group of friends, all young and free and up for a good time. No boring discussions about the future, no stress about careers or life plans. That could all come later – for now, this was her dream life. She’d had a decent job at the Sportsgirl fashion chain, and got great discounts on the clothes. They’d partied hard, lots of late nights in the bars and nightclubs in the city, and hanging out in the hostel, drinking, talking and laughing. Even in winter, Sydney was balmy compared with Berlin and she’d spent long sunny days by the beach, weekends in the Blue Mountains, even a couple of trips to New Zealand and Fiji.
Then a few weeks ago Berndt had met a crusty older German who’d been at the hostel for a few days. She remembers him sneering at their version of backpacking. ‘You are all sitting here, drinking your flat whites and cocktails, taking your Instagram pictures. You have seen nothing real. This is not travelling – this is just posing.’
Maybe I like posing, she’d thought, and brushed it off for the self-righteous posturing it was, but Berndt had been stung. He wants to be a traveller, have a real adventure. In order to extend their visas and spend another year enjoying the easy-going beach life in Sydney, they’d always known they’d need to spend three months working in rural Australia. It’s part of the deal and she’d almost been looking forward to it. But there was no hurry and everyone had told them to wait for the Australian winter because summer in the outback is an inferno of heat and dust.
But after the contemptuous remarks Berndt thought of nothing but heading inland. They loved the heat, he said. Hadn’t they both spent every summer they could on the beaches of Portugal and Spain? They even turned down the chance to work on a vineyard outside of Sydney. That was too familiar, he said. He wanted to work in the real Australia, the outback, and he spent days convincing her it was a good idea. It would be something to sustain them when they were back in boring jobs at home – memories of their three months as Australian cowboys. So here they are, in this shitty little car, miles and miles from anywhere. No Sportsgirl, no margaritas, no beach.
ABOUT ‘OUTBACK’: Two missing backpackers. One vast outback.
DS Lucas Walker is on leave in his hometown, Caloodie, looking after his dying grandmother. When two young German backpackers vanish from the area on their way to a ranch, he finds himself unofficially on the case. But why all the interest from the Federal Police, when they have probably just ditched the heat and dust of the outback for the coast?
As the number of days the couple are missing climbs, DS Walker is joined by the girl’s sister. A detective herself from Berlin, she is desperate to find her before it’s too late.
Walker remains convinced there is more at play. Working in the organised crime unit has opened his eyes to the growing drug trade in Australia’s remote interior. Could this be connected?
As temperatures soar, the search intensifies to a thrilling crescendo against the unforgiving backdrop of the scorching Australian summer.
MY THOUGHTS: Patricia Wolf sets the scene and atmosphere wonderfully in the opening chapters, describing the searing heat, the flat, straight roads that stretch to the horizon, the isolation, the bleached grass, the red dirt, the dust. I could feel it, smell it, visualise it. One moment Berndt and Rita are broken down on the side of the road; the next they have vanished. There is no word from them again. It’s like they’ve been sucked up in a willy-willy.
The pace of the book slows down at this point. The couple are reported missing but, other than their families back in Germany, no one is really too concerned. They were probably frightened by the outback and headed back to Sydney, or up the Gold Coast, was the common consensus.
It’s not until Rita’s older sister, Barbara, herself in the police in Berlin, arrives on the scene determined to begin her own search, that the pace picks up again.
I really enjoyed the story surrounding the missing couple except for two things, which are connected. It seems that every outback town now must have, in addition to the servo and the pub, a meth lab. Now that’s not exactly going to go unnoticed. Someone, likely more than one someone, is going to notice the extra traffic. And I am fed up to the back teeth with reading about meth addicts, meth labs and organised crime. Rant over.
I enjoyed both Lucas Walker’s and Barbara’s characters. They complemented one another. Walker is on compassionate leave as his grandmother is dying. I loved the close relationship he has with her. And I enjoyed the way the Walker family embraced and supported Barbara.
This isn’t a ‘whodunit’ as the story unfolds from multiple viewpoints: Walker’s, Barbara’s, Rita’s and the abductor’s being the main ones.
The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I will be interested to see what direction future books in this series will take.
I: @patricia_wolf_crime @emblabooks
T: @pattywolfcrime @emblabooks
#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mystery #suspense #thriller
THE AUTHOR: I grew up in outback Australia, in far north-west Queensland in a mining town called Mt. Isa, which gets a mention in Outback. After university I left Australia, became a journalist and traveled the world. I lived for twenty years in London and then Berlin, but the outback always called me home. In 2019, just before the Covid pandemic, I spent two months in north-west Queensland getting over a heartbreak by taking a road trip across the country. As I drove, and as I spent days and nights surrounded by the beauty and rugged hardness of the country, DS Lucas Walker and this story were born.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Embla Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Outback by Patricia Wolf for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com
3 thoughts on “Outback (DS Walker #1) by Patricia Wolf”
Wonderful review Sandy! Sounds like a good one!📚🤗💜
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Great review, Sandy. I get frustrated when books end on a cliffhanger. 😃📚
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I don’t usually like it either Carla, but in this case it works. ❤📚
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