Torched (Kimberley Starr, Pantera)
In Torched, the town of Brunton, Victoria is devastated by a bushfire with the force and malevolence of Black Saturday, and in turn Phoebe Wharton’s life is destroyed by the accusations that her son, Caleb, is the culprit. As the ash settles and the landscape still smoulders, whispers of arson sweep through the gathered survivors and cast a long shadow over the pair. Kimberley Starr peppers this tale with references to ancient Rome’s goddesses, emperors and myths. Starr draws allegories with Emperor Nero and his desire to use fire to serve his vision for the ancient empire’s rebirth, much like how the flames of a bushfire cleanse the earth, purify and unlock growth. She exposes the psychological impact of tragedy, the obsession of someone who will do anything to protect the people they love, and a town desperate for someone to blame. The narrative is punctuated with harrowing retellings of the fateful day. The raw power of nature, heat and suffering ripples from the page as Starr pulls the reader into the very heart of the maelstrom. A taut and emotionally charged crime novel, Torched is the urgent and fearful unravelling of a family, a small town and a mother’s mind.
Kate Frawley is the manager of The Sun Bookshop