This book sounded so promising when I nabbed it from the cataloging shelf… small-town Tasmania, a lady protagonist having a hard life whose problems fall by the wayside when she discovers a dead and probably murdered body, a man journalist protagonist out to figure out just what’s going on. The setting was new to me and therefore interesting, and I’m always intrigued by dead people and journalists, which probably says something about me that I don’t want to know, so keep it to yourself!
But sadly, Bay of Fires is not the book I had hoped it would be, and in fact is not a book that I should have finished, except that I read about half of it while stuck in jury selection (no juries for me, luckily!) and even though I knew I didn’t really like the book it was too late and I had to know what happened to everyone.
At first, I really liked what Gee was doing, narrative-wise, in that she would bring up something that happened to a character in the past but only briefly, and then would bring it up again later in a little more detail, fleshing out each character’s past a mention at a time. And sometimes these details would seem to matter to the dead-person-investigation at hand, and I would be like, ooooh, intriguing. But unfortunately, with all of the many little stories that Gee gave to her characters not every one could be actually important, and so I felt a bit let down every time something was completely innocuous or turned out not to be what it sounded like.
I also felt a bit frustrated at least once a page, it seemed like, whenever Gee would hand off the narration to another character’s viewpoint or even sometimes just when the scenery changed or a new character dropped in. Often these changes would just happen without warning or fanfare and I’d be left to figure out that we were in a different time or place, or that a new character or object must have been there the whole time because otherwise how was it here now?
But I think what really frustrated me, and yes, this is entirely my fault, is that I anticipated a mystery story (it’s in the mystery section!) with some character interactions, but I ended up with a story that was mostly about its characters separately, with little real interaction and with very little worry about the mystery proper.
I’m not sure who would like a novel like this — obviously some people do or there wouldn’t be such nice blurbs on the back, and I can’t say that it was a terrible story, just disappointing to me. I suppose if you’re like me and are trying to read more world-wide-ly, this book provides a pretty nice introduction to Tasmania and also the strange world of summer towns, so I’ll give it points for that.