1961, Philadelphia. After having to give up his brother to save his own life, hitman Blake Saunders flees the Mob and seeks refuge on the other side of the world. Two years later he has been reborn in a tiny coastal Australian town. The ghosts of the past still haunt him, but otherwise Coral Shoals is paradise. Blake surfs, and plays guitar in his own bar, the Surf Shack. But then the body of a young woman is found at a local motel, and evidence links her to the Surf Shack. When Blake’s friend is arrested, and the local sergeant doesn’t want to know, it becomes clear to Blake – who knows a thing or two about murder – that the only way to protect his paradise is to find the killer.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
‘Dave Warner captures the heyday and spirit of the surf music scene perfectly. This is a pitch-perfect crime thriller of epic twists and turns.’ Jim Skiathitis, composer, guitarist,
‘Part Goodfellas and part love letter to Australian coastal towns, this wonderfully imagined crime novel is like riding the perfect wave.’ Michael Robotham
‘Warner’s is a densely written book, redolent with sun, sand and surf, informed about music and full of engaging, well-drawn characters and local activities that form a disarming background to a classically convoluted murder investigation.’ Adelaide Advertiser
‘The strength of River of Salt is definitely in the idea of a stranger in a strange land, back in the days when communications weren’t instant, and people could reinvent themselves to some extent. It’s exploring just how far you can go with that idea, and how much of the old you will never go away.’ AustCrime
‘River of Salt, is a complex yet accessible tale that takes its time with characters and details … Beyond the book’s convincing action and romance beats, [Warner] explores well beneath the surface of a varied cast of characters.’ Books+Publishing
Here’s the latest review from Emma Young at damagecatastrophic.com :
`I’m attracted to the writing early – it’s strong and clean and loaded with evocative similes. Like, skies grey as an elephant’s belly. And, The wind probed their clothes like the fingers of a dead man. And, His belly pressed flat into the board, which gently rose and fell like a crumb on the chest of a snoozing giant. And, He moved quietly as cancer.
If similes don’t excite you as much as they do me you’re a fool, but I’ll tell you more anyway.Warner spends the early part not launching straight into the mystery, but sketching out a compelling cast of characters who hook you just as well as a bloodied corpse opener would:Blake, a brooding heartthrob with a dark past and a killer’s instincts, full of guilt and regret. His yardboy Andy, a simple sap who loves the fish in The Surf Shack’s giant tank, and knows them all by name. Bar manager Doreen, beautiful and capable, but nursing a deep loneliness. Crane the beach bum, an alcoholic and a poet. Kitty the innocent, but smart and gutsy teen who wants so much more than what her hometown can offer.The scene shift from Philly to Australia makes for an attention-grabbing contrast, and the menace and darkness of the Mob bleeds into the new setting quite perfectly. I had wondered how convincing it was going to be, the American fish out of water, but the details laced through are perfect, consistent and never overdone. And 100 pages in, this simmering mystery comes to a rolling boil, with twist after twist keeping me wildly speculating, heightened in drama by Blake’s personal drive for a solution – and for absolution. Blake is bound to appeal to readers: the man with dark stains on his conscience, but a moral imperative to act, and a strong sense of justice. Like Jack Reacher, but with a humanising longing for love and redemption. “Perhaps he should have let it go, left it to Harvey to get it right. But he couldn’t … He did not deserve any of this: playing his guitar in his own bar with a beautiful woman like Doreen working alongside him, surfing in the crystal ocean, watching the sun rise like a gold coin over a sheet of pure silver. He’d suspected all along it hadn’t just been gifted to him, that there must be more to it, some fine print like on a winning lottery ticket. This was the fine print. You have to help those who can’t help themselves, you have to protect and serve those who serve you.” Warner has strongly evoked a time and a place; but he has also riffed on honesty, human connection, guilt and love – and how the past will never, really, quite let you go.