“Two missing backpackers. One vast outback.
DS Lucas Walker is on leave in his hometown of Caloodie, taking care of his dying grandmother. When two young German backpackers, Berndt and Rita, vanish from the area, he finds himself unofficially on the case. But why all the interest from the Federal Police when they have probably just ditched the heat and dust of the outback for the coast?
As the number of days since the couple’s disappearance climbs, DS Walker is joined by Rita’s older sister. A detective herself with Berlin CID, she has flown to Australia – desperate to find her sister before it’s too late.
Working in the organised crime unit has opened Walker’s eyes to the growing drug trade in Australia’s remote interior, and he remains convinced there is more at play.
As temperatures soar, the search for Berndt and Rita becomes ever more urgent. Even if Walker does find the young couple, will it be too late?
This deeply atmospheric thriller is the gripping opening of a new crime series for fans of The Dry by Jane Harper, Cara Hunter and Chris Whitaker.”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Outback by Patricia Wolf. Outback is published by Embla Books today (that’s Tuesday 8th November 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Outback but that has in no way influenced my review.
If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that my favourite obsession at the moment is Australian crime fiction. I will drop everything else to read a well-written piece of Aussie crime fiction. Which is exactly what Outback is. From the glorious atmospheric cover to the gripping plot to the eminently likeable lead in DS Lucas Walker, I loved everything about this book!
Rita and Berndt, backpackers originally from Germany, go missing in the vast Australian outback on their way to a job at Glen Ines Station. They were seen by locals in Caloodie before embarking on the long, hot journey. But they never arrived at their destination. On compassionate leave in Caloodie, caring for his gravely ill grandmother, DS Lucas Walker of the Australian Federal Police is tasked with finding the two backpackers. Suspicious as to why the AFP are getting involved in a simple missing person’s case, and sure the backpackers have changed their minds and headed for the cool of the coast, Walker begins to investigate only to fall at every hurdle. When Rita’s police detective sister arrives from Germany to help with the search, an unlikely partnership is formed. Will Walker and Barbara Guerra be able to find the missing backpackers before it’s too late…?
I loved this deeply atmospheric, skilfully written debut which takes a long hard look at the escalating drug trade in Outback Australia. Everything about Outback worked for me. From the superb characterisation to the vividly drawn, heat-drenched setting, from the compelling plot which builds over the course of the book to the thrilling, ‘hold your breath’ conclusion. I savoured every moment I spent with this book and I am already looking forward to the second book in the series which publishes in May 2023.
I really liked DS Lucas Walker and quickly became invested in the character. He’s returned to the small town his grandmother raised him in until he was 11 years old and to a house full of happy memories, love and familiarity. Now his grandmother is nearing the end of her life, and Walker has been granted leave to spend time with the woman he feels raised him. The interactions between Lucas and his grandmother were full of warmth and compassion. I appreciated these thoughtfully written softer moments in amongst the darker themes of the novel. Walker’s sadness as his grandmother nears the end along with his clear love and fondness for his younger sister, Grace, show the reader that DS Walker is a cop with a heart.
But this is a crime thriller after all and it’s certainly not all hearts and flowers. The plot is gripping and dark, told from several different points of view. Each of which kept me turning the pages and fully immersed in the story. The opening prologue immediately puts the reader on edge. The impending sense of doom is palpable, and I loved it. From there the story unfolds gradually, drawing the reader further and further into the dark world these characters inhabit. As Walker’s investigation stalls he’s joined by Rita’s older sister, Barbara Guerra who is a police detective herself. I loved the relationship between these two characters. Barbara is well aware that she is not a police officer in Australia. That she is very limited in what she can and can’t do, but will Walker be able to crack the case without her help? Well, you’ll just have to read the book yourself to find that out!
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Outback. It’s such an accomplished, compelling debut which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. I loved the characters. In particular the working relationship between DS Walker and Barbara Guerra. It was a real highlight for me as not only am I fan of Australian crime fiction I also love German crime fiction too, so Outback really was a joy for me to read with influences from both. The plot was fascinating and drew me into the story. I was keen to discover what had happened to Rita and Berndt, which kept me turning the pages. I adored the setting with its wide horizons and emptiness which despite being vast still felt oddly claustrophobic. The author paints a beautifully vivid, atmospheric picture for the reader which I can’t help but applaud. All in all, I loved Outback and would recommend it not only to fans of Australian crime fiction but to anyone who enjoys a well written mystery full of suspense. Highly recommended.
I chose to read and review a free eARC of Outback. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
Outback by Patricia Wolf was published in the UK by Embla Books on 8th November 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |
Patricia Wolf has been a journalist for more than 15 years, a regular contributor to titles including The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Independent and The Telegraph, among others. She grew up in outback Australia, in a mining town called Mount Isa in far north-west Queensland – eagle eyed readers will have spotted a small reference to it in her first book, OUTBACK. Patricia loves the rugged beauty, indigo sky and wide horizons of the outback, but left Australia after university to travel the world and became a journalist. She lives in Berlin, Germany, but the outback always calls her home. In 2019, just before the covid pandemic locked us all in, Patricia spent two months in northwest Queensland, taking a four-week road trip. As she drove and spent nights and days surrounded by the beauty and rugged harshness of the outback, DS Lucas Walker and his stories came to be.