Cedar Valley (Holly Throsby, A&U)
On the first day of summer in 1993, Benny Miller arrives in Cedar Valley. She’s been invited, following the death of her mother, to stay at a cottage owned by her mother’s best friend. On the same day, a mysterious man—an enigma in a vintage suit and shiny shoes—also arrives. He walks down the main street and sits on the footpath, against the window of Cedar Valley Curios and Old Wares, for hours. As chapters alternate between both their stories, it’s revealed there might be a connection between the this man and Benny. This is a masterful novel. Throsby has a feel for small towns, as first evidenced in her debut novel, Goodwood, and once again in this second novel. There’s a fragility at the core of her characters and an intimacy that adds depth to their quirks and peccadillos; there is such heart in her storytelling. Throsby has artfully used a true unsolved Australian mystery as a plot device and it works remarkably well here. Cedar Valley is written with an assured hand and is essential reading for those who like their Australian rural tales with a touch of mystery. Readers who loved Goodwood will find even more to love here.
Deborah Crabtree is a Melbourne-based writer and bookseller