Pantera Press, $29.99 pb, 324 pp, 9780980741872
Set in an imminent Tasmanian ghost town, B. Michael Radburn’s first novel departs from his previous work as a horror short story writer. This murder mystery unfolds in the rural town of Glorys Crossing, which is being consumed by a hydropower dam, and which all but the most stubborn townsfolk are leaving to make a life elsewhere. Told through the eyes of park ranger and chronic sleepwalker, Taylor Bridges, the story traces the disappearance of a young girl under circumstances that mirror Bridges’s own daughter’s disappearance on the mainland one year earlier. Plunged into a world of redneck vigilantes, apparitional Tasmanian tigers, and an oppressive winter, the book’s opening chapters are unrelentingly bleak. Bridges is coming to terms with the loss of his daughter and with the ensuing failure of his marriage. He also becomes aware that he may have been unwittingly complicit in the latest vanishing because of his uncontrollable nocturnal wanderings. As a result, he pursues the investigation alongside his more (or less) qualified peers.