Bibliophile | ‘Rising Dust’ harvests a thrilling mystery on the farm

Rising Dust
by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin

Bestselling rural author Fleur McDonald has lived and worked for most of her life on farms. After growing up on a South Australian farm, she became a jillaroo before spending the last twenty years on an 8000 acre farm east of Esperance, where she currently lives with her two children, an energetic kelpie and a Jack Russell terrier.

Drawing from her own experiences, her stories are usually about strong women overcoming adversity in rural Australia. In Rising Dust, her fifth novel featuring Detective Dave Burrows, she looks at struggling farmers and mental health issues for males in remote areas, acknowledging the “there are some things mates can’t help with”.

Detective Dave Burrows and partner Bob Holden have been working together for three years and are camping north of Carnarvon, for a case to investigate sheep being stolen from a large station in the area. Reluctant to seek counselling, Burrows is still struggling with the death of his previous work partner as well as the breakup of his marriage and not being able to see his children.

The investigation of missing sheep is overshadowed by the discovery of a body that has been washed up on the beach boundary of a neighbouring station. This station is operating a camp ground to supplement the dwindling income that can be earned by farming. When another body is discovered on the same beach, and the station is isolated by a flood, it seems that the issue of missing sheep might never get solved.

To create an authentic world for her latest novel, McDonald took a month to go solo travelling in a camper van to far (and often remote) parts of Northwest WA. Admitting that she was certainly scared to do this adventure solo, with no mobile signal for a week, she has said that “one doesn’t grow inside their comfort zone”.

McDonald discovered that there was so much more to the expanses of country than what can be seen from long, straight bitumen highways by holiday makers who go bush but take their lifestyles with them. “Hanging out on Station Stays and talking to the other campers really got my creative juices flowing”. Rising Dust brings to the surface so many issues impacting on today’s farmers while trying to solve three mysteries.

Lezly Herbert

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