Thornwood House – Anne Romer
When the famous artist Tony Jarman drops everything for no apparent reason to travel to a small Queensland town and shoot himself there, he leaves behind an ugly mystery and an unexpected legacy. Audrey, the woman he once loved, and Bronwyn, the daughter they had together, inherit a property called Thornwood in the sleepy backwater Magpie Creek – the town where Tony grew up, and where he committed suicide. In two minds about whether to stay or leave, Audrey finds herself drawn into the history of the house. It belonged to Tony’s grandfather, a man who was long ago accused of a brutal murder. The more Audrey learns about the tangle of blood and lies that have brought her here, the more she realises that their danger is not safely buried in the past.
Thornwood House is written in the Gothic tradition of imposing houses and dark family secrets, set in a lovingly described rural Queensland landscape. The premise is an interesting one, but I found Audrey’s obsessive fascination with her ex-lover’s grandfather rather confusing – it felt at times like there was going to be a supernatural element to the story, and when that did not eventuate it made Audrey’s motivations seem unconvincing to me. I also found her romantic subplot a bit forced, though I did like the character of her love interest and would have enjoyed seeing more of him in the story. There were a few elements of the book that just didn’t appeal to me, but it kept me engaged with some genuinely creepy twists and well-drawn imagery. Romer’s other works include Lyrebird Hill and Beyond the Orchard.