Heart of the Grass Tree by Molly Murn
Molly Murn’s debut novel is set on a vividly described Kangaroo Island. Pearl, her sister and her mother return to the Island to mourn and farewell Pearl’s grandmother, Nell. Each of the women have different memories of Nell and as they struggle with their grief, Pearl finds that Nell has left behind scraps of history about the island. As Pearl stitches the pieces together, she comes to know her grandmother better and her connection to the island, and the relationship between the early sealers and the Indigenous community there. A richly told story about people and place.
Home Fires by Fiona Lowe
HQ Fiction, $32.99
Fiona Lowe’s Home Fires also has a strong sense of place about it. The quiet Victorian town of Myrtle, nestled in the Otway Ranges, was destroyed by the lethal bushfire which tore through it. Now, 18 months later, the town has been physically rebuilt, but the scar tissue of the trauma runs deep, and when a group of women come together to support each other, secrets and tensions come to the surface. Fiona Lowe is the queen of Australian country town fiction, and this latest novel is another well-researched and compassionate tale about how a disaster can affect the soul of a community.
The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan
Harper Collins, $32.99
Dervla McTiernan’s The Rúin was one of the best crime novels of 2018. Set in Galway, Ireland, it was a clever and gripping detective novel featuring DS Cormac Reilly. The good news is that her second novel, The Scholar, is just as impressive. Set shortly after The Rúin, it finds Reilly trying to work out who killed a young woman on the grounds of Galway University, and what was the connection between her and the powerful Darcy Therapeutics, a major sponsor of the University. This is a terrific crime novel that engages and surprises from the opening pages and will have many of the genre’s top writers looking nervously over their shoulders.