White Throat by Sarah Thornton, Review: Relentless intensity

White Throat, the second novel by Sarah Thornton starring Clementine Jones, is a topical contemporary thriller with relentless intensity. Read on for our full review.

White Throat Book Synopsis

White Throat - Sarah Thornton - Book ReviewLooking out over an ebb tide from the back verandah was like watching God paint stripes…

Disgraced former lawyer Clementine Jones is on the shores of paradise—Queensland’s Great Sandy Straits—trying to outrun her past.

Bored with her house-sitting gig, she becomes a reluctant recruit to the local environmental group, campaigning to save an endangered turtle as developers close in. Then a body is found at the base of a quarry, and Clem’s world is turned upside down.

The police say suicide. Clem’s convinced it was murder. She also knows she’s the only one interested in tracking down the killer.

Well, the only one apart from her friend Torrens, ex-con and reformed standover man. And he’s got his own fight on his hands.

‘Clem Jones is back with a vengeance. New town, different villains, but same dogged pursuit and badass bravado.’ — Candice Fox

(Text Publishing – December 2020)

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Aussie Author

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Here I was thinking Alan Carter’s Nick Chester was going to be the most pig-headed and stubborn crime lead I’d read all year, but Sarah Thornton has gone and trumped him on that score with her White Throat leading lady.

Clementine Jones is a woman who goes with her gut, much like J M Green’s Stella Hardy, and she would give Emma Viskic’s Caleb Zelic a run for his money when it comes to being reckless with her own safety, and at times the law. These qualities make her an easy person to befriend yet tough to care for, but most importantly for us, a thrilling lead for a contemporary crime thriller.

Atmospheric setting

White Throat is set in the steamy, laidback fictional coastal town of Piama on the Fraser Coast of Queensland (remarkably similar to the actual Queensland Fraser Coast beachside town of Pialba) and the White-Throated Turtle is indeed an endangered species native to this region.

The light breeze had dropped, leaving a dense, expectant heat that hung beneath a tower of storm clouds. The full height of the front was directly above, fifty storeys of outraged cold air shirtfronting the lazy summer heat.

Thornton skillfully draws on this location’s inherent beauty, relative isolation and tropical climate to evoke tension and suspense, and the region’s prevailing demography influences Clem’s cunning investigative approach.

She could tell he did not consider her a ‘lady’. More of a ‘girly,’ probably. She had expected as much and didn’t take offence. Ralph came from an era of unconscious patriarchy, as normal and healthy in a man as a bushy moustache or chest hair. She’d already planned to play the part. You never knew what a full-blooded man of the 1940s might let slip to a harmless girly.

White Throat’s intensity and pace

Clem is haunted by bad decisions in the past that resulted in the death of an innocent, but it is not redemption alone that relentlessly drives her to engage in more and more risky behaviour to unmask the corrupt and lethal forces at play. This death is personal, and her rage at the greed, ignorance and injustice burns white-hot.

She could no longer hear the waves, the wind, just a fierce silence closing her in tight, and the creeping, relentless heat sending its tentacles into the day.

Thornton steadily ratchets up the pace and tension, and the story culminates in scenes that are visceral, edge-of-your-seat reading.

White Throat is a thrilling contemporary crime mystery exploring highly topical issues. I certainly look forward to reading more of Sarah Thornton’s intense and resourceful, authentically flawed and emotionally fallible lead.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of White Throat from:

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More highly recommended suspense-filled AUS/NZ crime fiction:
The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland  /  Doom Creek by Alan Carter   /   Trust by Chris Hammer  /  The Wife and the Widow by Christian White  /  Darkness for Light by Emma Viskic

About the Author, Sarah Thornton

Lapse - Sarah Thornton - Book Cover

Sarah cast off the lines to her law career not long after being awarded Australian Corporate Lawyer of the Year in 2016. She now lives with her husband aboard a 43-foot sailing catamaran, exploring this most magnificent blue planet and chasing an endless summer. She took up writing novels as a way to liberate her imagination after twenty years in the structured confines of legal and corporate life. Her debut novel Lapse was published in 2019. Her second novel, White Throat, was published in 2020.

* Receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.

This review of White Throat counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2020 and the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge.