Sylvia has been missing for thirty years. Will her daughters ever find her?Tordorrach is 70,000 acres of drought stricken land in the Australian outback. Why do a group of wealthy people from London want to buy it?
Seamus, the owner of Tordorrach, lives in poverty. His homestead is derelict and he is heavily in debt. The new owners run Outback Experience holidays on Tordorrach. Seamus becomes one of the gardeners, and he and his wife Mary move to a comfortable cabin on the property. Why does he hate the new owners so much that he plans to murder one of them?
The idyllic life of the new owners is shattered when the body of a woman is found buried on Tordorrach. Forensics find a bullet in her body. Who was she? And who murdered her?
First of all many thanks to Joanna Stephen-Ward and to Heather Fitt from Bloodhound Books for inviting me on this book blitz and for gifting me an e-copy. I loved Joanna’s previous book, The Doll Collector, so this was a no-brainer, I jumped at the chance to read Searching for Sylvia!
I went in with very few expectations, after all Searching for Sylvia seemed a totally different genre than The Doll Collector, and with a totally different setting, so I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I did wonder if Joanna would give me another character to hate with all my heart. If you’ve read The Doll Collector, or my review of it, you’ll know what I’m talking about: its main character is the epitome of characters a reader loves to hate!
Searching for Sylvia is set in the Australian outback, mainly in Tordorrach, an estate that was magnificent once upon a time, but has lost its lustre, mainly because of the drought and subsequent neglect. I’m totally in love with Australia so it was very easy for me to fall in love with this setting too. (to be clear: ours is a long-distance love, I’m terrified of spiders, and after reading this book, I’m terrified of snakes too, so I’m not sure this is the country for me…). Joanna, born in the Australian outback, writes with surety and knowledge.
There are four very clearly distinguishable parts. The first part sets the board and we meet the pieces: we get to know the main characters and we get a feel for them. Joanna’s style shines through: some of the characters are goodness personified, and one of them… Well, one of them drove me up the walls! There was the character I loved to hate! Despite some redeeming qualities, I couldn’t warm to him, but I suspect that was the idea all along. Don’t search for Sylvia in this first part; her storyline takes off in the second part, when all the family ties have been revealed and new ties are formed. Still Sylvia remains obscure and other pieces are moving across the board instead. This is the part where Tordorrach is restored to its former glory and becomes a resort. This is given quite a lot of attention, ranging from how the ranch will be managed to TripAdvisor-like reviews. I think some readers might experience this as fluff, but I enjoyed it. I was genuinely interested in the inner workings of Tordorrach and I was rooting for the estate and its owners. The third part is where the search for Sylvia finally ends and where we deal with the repercussions of that. The fourth part is about repercussions of another kind and is for you to find out, since this is a spoiler-free blog. In this part all loose ends are neatly tied up as well, leading to a finale that is not twisty, not very surprising, but entirely satisfying nonetheless.
Throughout the novel, there’s another storyline: the diary of an ancestor that has been found in Tordorrach. I loved this part: the mysterious nature of the diary, finding out who exactly it belonged to, and learning more about the ancestor and his life.
Overall, a very enjoyable and satisfying story, written in the very distinguishable style that is Joanna’s, both in terms of characters and actual writing style, which is a bit abrupt perhaps, but very unique and one I appreciate and enjoy. If you’re looking for a standalone novel that’s a bit of a family saga with thriller and crime elements in a gorgeous setting, be sure to look into Searching for Sylvia!