Disappearance rocks the outback
The disappearance of a 4-year-old boy unearths two generations' worth of skeletons hidden deep in the small Australian community of Angel Rock. The seemingly unrelated suicide of a teenage girl brings a big-city detective into the community, and with him comes his own demons. And at the center of it all is a young man named Tom Ferry, brother to the missing boy, trying desperately to make sense of the world around him. Angel Rock is the American debut of Australian writer Darren Williams, and his new book is less a mystery than an intense study of the town itself. Angel Rock is populated by working-class families living hard lives and killing themselves daily in logging camps and fly-bitten stores. Surrounded by wilderness, Angel Rock is as much the bush as it is the people living there. The mystery of Tom Ferry's missing little brother, Flynn, takes a back seat to the effects of the disappearance on the people of the town. Similarly, the suicide of Darcy, the young girl who ran from Angel Rock to Sydney, haunts Detective Gibson and drives him to venture far from his usual Sydney beat. Gibson lost a sister years ago to suicide and he reasons that somehow, by discovering what drove Darcy to suicide, he'll better understand what went through the mind of his lost sister. Obsessions, not goals, are the forces that make people put one foot in front of the other. Williams finds richness in his characters, particularly Tom Ferry, Pop, the town sheriff, and Grace, Pop's daughter who develops a budding romance with Tom. The mystery of the story is what keeps the pages turning, but the strength of the characters is what holds the reader's attention. And ultimately, Angel Rock itself is the intriguing main character. Mike Watt is a freelance writer and independent filmmaker.