Don’t be led astray by her crayon-sweet name—Honey Brown can write a mean psychological thriller. Last year I adored the highly original After the Darkness, and this year Dark Horse has come along to keep you unnerved for some three hundred pages.
It’s Christmas Day and Sarah Barnard is frustrated with the world that’s turned against her. Instead of going to see her disapproving parents, she takes to the Tasmanian mountainside with the one she trusts most: her damaged black mare, Tansy. But on the ascent, the planet has more in store for her—catastrophic weather that endangers her life and floods the mountain, trapping her. She seeks shelter, but as the day passes, she realises she is not alone.
Heath is young, attractive, evasive, and disconcerting. It is not entirely clear why he is there, how he got there, and whether anything he says is true. What is clear is that he is hiding something from Sarah, but is it just his real name or something much more sinister? The nature of their relationship, and the ground beneath them, is constantly changing, and you’ll second-guess yourself throughout reading this—and probably never go camping alone again. (For the record, I rarely go camping at all and this will be my justification from now on.)
This is not quite as strong as After the Darkness, but that might not be entirely Brown’s doing: in bad timing I read this after two books of a similar feel (naming them would be paramount to giving out spoilers) and, had it been broken up with a different style of crime, I may have enjoyed it more. As it was, I still found it a good, tense read, and Brown knows how to knock around her readers. And it’s not her fault that I really don’t like horses. (Why are they so BIG? Why do people RIDE THEM? They are ALARMING.)
A version of this review originally appeared in Readings Monthly