Lead Review (When We Fall)
- Book: When We Fall
- Location: Australia
- Author: Aoife Clifford
Barrister Alex Tillerson is back in Merritt, tending to her mother, Denny, who is sliding into dementia. Often, when older people are suffering from this condition, their natural disposition becomes accentuated and Denny is a person who seems to revel in passive aggressive slights. Alex is hopeful of sorting out suitable accommodation going forward, but Denny is not at all keen. Alex is recently separated from her husband, Tom, also a barrister, who is already in another committed relationship. Alex is struggling to find work and here in Merritt she hopes to take a breather and assess where her future lies.
As Alex goes for a walk along the shoreline, she stumbles (not literally) across a severed leg, firmly planted in a trainer, thinly disguised by seaweed. She notes an exquisitely tattooed black feather on the anklebone. The police are slow to arrive but already seem to consider the death an accident, even when then pathologist examines the matching body, when it turns up, and deems it to be murder.
Alex keeps her ears open and her amateur sleuthing antennae quiver when she hears of the death of Bella, not so long ago, also notably sporting a black feather on her body. This death was also deemed a mishap, but as she asks around, she realises there are just too many links between the two deaths that cannot be overlooked . Alex has the gift of the gab and finds some good contacts who share information with her, as she navigates her way through the clues.
This is very much a story of small town living, there are characters with secrets, machinations aplenty, a few twists and turns, and some background themes (mainly art and climate activism) to swell the basic storyline.
There were quite a few characters to get to know and I wasn’t particularly drawn to Alex – she was efficient, and I would have loved to see a next level psychological engagement, given all the difficulties she has to face. The author laid out the story in clear, unequivocal terms and did this very well. The coastal, small town backdrop added atmosphere and texture.