The Running Woman by Patricia Carlon

Soho (first), 1998

An alluring eeriness characterizes Carlon’s books — heightened, or exacerbated, for her newer readers because her books come to us not only across the hemispheres but, in tumbled fashion, across decades. Their taut suspense, intensified by calm prose and apparently commonplace settings and events, created a coterie of eager readers; her American publishers have responded with The Running Woman, billed as “a new mystery set in a small town in Australia.” A mystery set in Australia, surely, but new only in the sense of being unfamiliar: rather than a book written in response to readers’ eagerness, we have a book written before those the current publisher chose to introduce her work. Author and publisher are both to be commended: Carlon’s later books are better than this. Nevertheless those who are already Carlon enthusiasts, and those about to become so, will want to read her story of a woman who may have been responsible for a young girl’s drowning, a woman whose vision of herself is what is mirrored in the eyes of others and who comes to doubt her own perceptions as the image presented to her shifts and darkens. Three more Carlons are advertised as “previous books of crime and suspense,” at the end of this book. What’s needed is a chronology. Though the works of many prolific authors can be read with pleasure starting at any point, these might be enhanced by sequential reading — an opportunity available only to Australians or to those willing to wait. (Jeanne M. Jacobson)

Originally published in Issue # 152 – January/February 1998

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