I had never come across this Australian writer and I was pleasantly surprised. I learned that he is a musician (Bob Dylan’s favourite Aussie muso, apparently) and a ‘living treasure’. He’s also a pretty good writer!
Murder mysteries are often written to a formula, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,as you know what you are in for. While I haven’t read previous books by Warner, I am inclined to think that River of Salt is unusual in that it’s not in the least formulaic, and I cannot imagine the main character, hitman Blake Saunders, easily transferring to other situations.
This well-written and exciting mystery is set during the 1960s in a small Australian coastal town, where Blake Saunders has ended up after leaving Philadelphia and his Mob connections.
He sets up a bar/music venue in this small place, and soon learns that the local cop is a bit like a sheriff – knows all, manages most of it in his own way, is a bit dodgy himself.
Because this is a murder mystery, there’s a body early on, with a connection to Blake’s venue. He sets out to protect his patch by finding the killer. There are twists and turns, and a couple of things which stretch credibility, but that’s all part of the game.
The characters are well-drawn, and the 60s setting is also well done. I can’t tell you much more without giving away spoilers, but there’s a lot going on, and I found it an enjoyable read. In a bit of a change from many American murder-mystery writers, Dave Warner writes in proper sentences, which are well-constructed. It’s quite a lot more complex than, say, a Robert B Parker novel, and I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy a well-told, exciting story.
Reviewed by Sue Esterman
River of Salt
by Dave Warner
Published by Fremantle Press