I have never quite read a mystery novel like Hawke’s before. What stood out to me was not the setting of the Kimberley, or that it is a multigenerational book, or that is was a slow-paced mystery unfolding over generations; what stood out to me was the language. Even if you are not a fan of mysteries, the language alone should be a reason to pick up this book.
The Valley is a haunting intergenerational tale starting in 1916 when 16-year-old Billy Noakes, an Indigenous Australian, commits a murder in the bush. With Bessie, Billy’s wife-to-be, Billy hides in “the valley” a secret refuge of the last Aboriginal warrior from the Jandamarra wars. The timeline crosses over four generations and jumps back-and-forth to fill in the mystery that surrounds Billy’s family. In the early 2000s, Dancer—a schoolboy from Broome—is haunted by the disappearance of his mother, Milly. Dancer embarks on a quest into the valley to discover the mysteries surrounding his family’s past.
If that little blurb didn’t get your attention, maybe listening to the author read from passages of his book will. When The Valley was published, I was invited to interview Steve Hawke for Fremantle Press. I was tongue-tied listening to him read. Hawke’s slow, deep drawl detailing the beauty of the Kimberley transported me to the sun-soaked land. After listening to Hawke read extracts, I went home and re-read The Valley in a completely different way. Contrary to reading most mystery novels, I slowed down my pace and let myself sink into the magical drawl of Hawke’s language.
The time jumps and numerous characters can make the plot difficult to follow but never fear! Inside the front cover, Hawke includes a family tree which makes it much easier to follow the characters across the timelines. Sometimes you just need to let yourself fall into the pages and trust yourself to catch up. That’s one of the things about mystery books: you need to allow yourself to be mystified.
I wish I could discuss my favourite part of the story: the ending. Hopefully saying that it was one of the most beautiful endings I have read in a long time does not give away anything, but pique readers’ interest enough to pick it up … The imagery of the quiet Kimberley bush left a haunting resonance that perfectly rounds out the narrative.