Dirt Creek is a small-town mystery set in the rural Australian outback town of Durton or “Dirt Town” where twelve-year-old Esther Bianci disappears on her way home from school. Esther’s best friend Veronica “Ronnie” Thompson is devastated and attempts to seek clues to help bring her friend home, and Esther’s mom, Constance Bianchi, grieves and questions the tight-knit community she lived in for many years. Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels arrives in Durton after a dramatic breakup with her girlfriend, and Lewis Kennard, another friend of Esther, believes he saw Esther go with a man he didn’t recognize, but debates on whether to tell the police. Readers soon find out the quiet town of Durton is buzzing with secrets.
I think the author successfully embedded the outback noir atmosphere throughout the story by describing her desolate imagery. There are many layers of secrets that connect different community members of Durton, adding more suspense and red herrings to confuse the reader. On top of small-town secrets, the author also included intriguing backgrounds and character quirks behind many characters, creating an even more complex view of the social interactions in the outback community. I love the way the suspect changed as the story progressed before finally landing on the criminal.
The story is told in four main perspectives: Ronnie, Lewis, Constance, and Sarah. I enjoyed how each of the characters went through major character development by the end of the story. There is also another viewpoint called “We” which is written as a Greek chorus-like narrator. Despite the complexity and suspense, I thought the book was a slow-burn mystery. It took a few chapters before I was hooked into the investigation. I also found certain flashbacks and character quirks irrelevant to the overall plot. However, combined with a complicated web of secrets and a series of twists and turns, I liked this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a gritty mystery and does not mind a slow burn plot.