Author: Kerry McGinnis
Publisher/Year: Penguin Michael Joseph/2020
Young widow Tilly is making a new life for herself, keeping house for the rangers at the Binboona Wildlife Sanctuary in the isolated wilderness of the north-western Gulf Country. Caring for injured wildlife and helping to run the popular tourist campsite are just the distraction she needs from everything she left behind when her husband, Gerry, and young daughter were lost at sea.
But when the police show up asking questions about Gerry, the peaceful routine she’s built is disrupted as she begins to question what really happened to her family. The arrival of botanist Connor stirs up even more emotion and has Tilly questioning who she can trust. When she and young ranger Luke stumble across evidence of wildlife smugglers on a visit to the local caves, suddenly her sanctuary is no longer safe and it becomes clear the past has well and truly come back to haunt her.
Set against the lush backdrop of the Northern Territory with its vibrant birds and deadly wildlife, this is a chilling and highly evocative family mystery about the wild and dangerous things that can happen in the most remote and untamed corners of our country.
Reviewer: Moraig Kisler
Fans of Kerry McGinnis won’t be disappointed in Croc Country. The author’s varied career as a ‘shepherd, droving hand, gardener, stock-camp and station cook’ contributes to a realistic and detailed imaging of life on a remote wildlife sanctuary. The rugged grandeur and danger of the Gulf County unfolds through the eyes of Tilly, a grieving widow whose husband and young daughter disappeared in croc-infested waters. Tilly takes a position as a cook at Binboona Wildlife Sanctuary, a former cattle station. It’s here McGinnis’s descriptive talent is evident. Not only does she bring alive the landscape teeming with birds and plants, the expansive skies and the billowing dust, but also captures a sense of isolation and the unease lurking is in the beautiful yet dangerous landscape. This tension is mirrored in Tilly’s life, grief close to the surface.
Police hint that Tilly’s husband is a criminal who faked his own death. Tilly is incensed, but when she glimpses a man who reminds her of her husband, she feels betrayed and her grief is born again.
Add to the Croc Country batter, surly Matt who tends to the machinery at the sanctuary and whose interest Tilly suspects is more than professional. Mix through a good spice of a mysterious and handsome botanist with dodgy credentials, a young love-struck ranger, dangerous wildlife smugglers, and McGinnis’s dash of humour, and Croc Country has all the ingredients of a gripping romantic suspense. Who can Tilly trust? Is her life in danger? And is she ready for a new romance?
I loved the moments of quiet domesticity in Croc Country but was unsettled by the building sense of threat (perfect in a crime novel). There are some chilling moments in Croc Country, particularly the cave scene in which Tilly’s sanctuary is shattered.
My only criticism: I thought the use of ‘dear’ as an endearment is a little old-fashioned. Overall, Croc Country is a good read. Fans of Kerry McGinnis will be delighted and those that don’t know her writing will also enjoy her writing and seek out her other books.