The Australian landscape is legendary. As a nation, we’re in love with our inhospitable continent, but we are also afraid of it. The heat, the bushfires, the extreme distances and the menagerie of peculiar animals create an environment that largely works against the interests of its inhabitants. This difficult, if not malign environment is the perfect backdrop for a crime novel. Jane Harper, with The Dry and now Force of Nature, has set a new benchmark in manipulating the landscape to serve the purposes of the plot; Emma Viskic with And Fire Came Down is following close behind.
The opening chapter of And Fire Came Down starts off with our hero, Caleb Zelic, being drawn into a dark alley in Melbourne. A woman unknown to Caleb has sought him out specifically for his help. As he tries to make sense of what she’s telling him, they’re both attacked by another man and in the ensuing melee, the woman falls from the pedestrian kerb into the path of an oncoming van. Haunted by her death, Caleb is determined to find out why this young woman needed his help. His journey takes him back to his hometown of Resurrection Bay where he is tasered, kidnapped, lied to, threatened by bikkies and nearly dies of heat exhaustion. It’s a heck of a journey.