Cutters End by Margaret Hickey. (2021).
**3.5 out of 5 stars**
New Year’s Eve, 1989. 18-year-old Ingrid is hitchhiking. Bored, hungover and separated from her friend Joanne, she accepts a lift to the remote town Cutters End.
Spring, 2021. Detective Sergeant Mark is seconded to a recently reopened case when it looks like he has a personal connection. 30 years ago a burnt and broken body was discovered in scrub off the Stuart Highway, 300km south of Cutters End. Ruled an accident, many are convinced it was murder. Mark is interviewing witnesses and ends up making the journey to Cutters End, and with the help of local Senior Constable Jagdeep he soon learns that this death isn’t the only unsolved case hanging over the town…
This novel is the crime fiction debut for the author and I think it was a pretty good debut. With many twists and turns, it’s not easy to predict what is going to happen in the story (I even got wrong who the murder victim was, so that’s actually pretty impressive!). My biggest criticism would be that the pacing felt too slow to me. In fairness I think the speed suited the storyline and fitted the atmosphere of it all, I just personally prefer a faster moving story. At the beginning I found Mark a bit off-putting, perhaps because he was clearly unhappy with his current lot in life which resulted in a negative undertone, but by the middle of the book he had grown on me. At the end of the book was an author question and answer section where the author revealed she is working on a sequel featuring Mark; I would be interested to read that when published.
Overall, I would recommend for those that appreciate Australian rural crime stories and don’t mind a slow pace.