Book Review: Cedar Valley

Author: Holly Throsby
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Between prestige TV and publishing, the “small town with secrets” is one crowded genre. In her second novel songwriter Holly Throsby coolly carves out her own piece of real estate rich with gently nostalgic ’90s Australiana.

Despite a plot inspired by Adelaide’s own 1948 Somerton Man case, Cedar Valley is no play for the juicy true crime market. The story ebbs and flows through authentically written conversations exchanged across kitchen tables, car dashboards and shop counters in a time just before the internet.

The central mystery itself is actually less compelling than Throsby’s portrayal of grief and identity through 21-year-old Benny, as she navigates a community whose closed doors hide a nagging conservatism, disappointment and occasional misogyny.

The residents of her debut Goodwood occasionally blurred together, but Throsby’s talent for affectionate, satirical portraiture is sharper the second time around with moments of real heart that make it difficult to leave.

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