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Author: Joan Sauers
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Echo Lake is described as a cosy Australian thriller in much of its marketing material. At first glance, it was difficult to imagine how a cosy story, which centres around a missing woman and unsolved murders, would unfold. But a few pages into this novel and the reader can expect to be both hooked and charmed by this story.

Set in the Southern Highlands of NSW, historian Rose McHugh leaves her home in Sydney to start again. Her new cottage and her new life in the countryside was something she only dreamt about, until her city life was upended by her husband’s cheating and the pair’s subsequent divorce as she turned 45. She is now living her dream life and is determined to make it work.

Rose’s adventures in the Highlands begin when she finds a roll of film in her backyard which contain photos of a local woman who has been missing for six years. The police have no leads on the case. We follow Rose as she uses her skills as a historian to find out what happened to the missing woman and, at the same time, build a life for herself in her new town.

The mystery at the centre of the novel is both gripping and unpredictable but the story of a woman from the city moving to a country town is just as interesting. We follow Rose as she makes both friends and enemies in her search for answers. Her quest to find the best coffee in town becomes just as interesting as the next clue in the mystery.

The descriptions of the Southern Highlands are atmospheric (and indeed cosy) with much the story taking place in misty forests, old pubs, relaxing coffee shops and grand old mansions. Yet the book also doesn’t over-romanticise the difficulties of living in regional towns. The cast of characters in this novel is also refreshing as the author does not rely on stereotypes of people living in Australian country towns. Sauers, who is also a renowned screenwriter having worked on shows such as Rake and Wakefield, has written an entrancing debut novel with heart.