Portrait of a town at flashpoint
This novel has such a gripping and atmospheric start, I thought I was in for a real treat. As the story began to unfold, I enjoyed the feeling of tension in a small town community on the brink of disaster, a feeling only heightened by return for his old friend, Luke Hadler's funeral of a former inhabitant, who had left under a cloud as a teenager.
Unlike some reviewers, I also liked the flashbacks which gradually reveal details relating not only to the Hadler family's deaths but also to the death of a young girl in the past. However, I was surprised to find that for at least half of the book, the characters were not drawing me in deeply enough to be overly concerned who had killed the family. Two things kept me reading: the excellent reviews that implied my original expectations might be met - and the portrait of a town in crisis, riddled with tension as everyone's livelihood and even the town's very existence were at stake as a result of the drought.
In the end, I was rewarded for my patience with an adrenaline-pumping, utterly unputdownable finish - and a much more positive feeling about the book as a whole, since I had been allowed to experience the prejudices, fears and feelings of mutual distrust of a community with plenty to hide.