In 2016, having been awarded Australian Corporate Lawyer of the year, Sarah Thornton, according to her author profile "cast off the lines to her law career . . .[and] now lives with her husband aboard a 43 foot sailing catamaran, exploring this most magnificent blue planet and chasing an endless summer".
Thornton says she began writing novels as a way "to liberate her imagination".
Lapse is her debut novel, the first of a series featuring former corporate lawyer, Clementine Jones, who is hiding from her past and living in the hills outside the small Victorian rural town of Katinga.
Clem's cottage is a "half hour drive from town . . . a pleasant buffer between civilization and seclusion and she particularly loved this stretch of dense bush - bracken and white-flowering tea-tree crowding together in the elbow of each bend, jostling for light, stately gums towering above".
Clem has become coach of the local footy team, the Cats, giving purpose to a life and career ruined by a "lapse" in judgement.
The team is close to their first premiership in 50 years and Clem is, as a result, a local hero.
The club secretary tells her "You've already changed lives around here Clementine Jones".
However on the eve of the finals, her star player tell her he quitting the team. Clancy, one of the "Plains mob", who live on the outskirts of town is "the key to the midfield . . . the bloke just loved to play, lived for footy".
Clem doesn't believe his story that he needs to look after his pregnant wife. "Something odd, she thought, something he wasn't telling her, but she couldn't put her finger on it".
When she learns that Clancy has also lost his job at the biggest employer in town, Clearham Technology and Services, accused of stealing, Clem starts to ask questions and making enemies.
She is reckless and fearless in her pursuit of the truth, risking her life and that of others, as well as the revelation of her secret past in the process.
There is much to admire in Lapse. Thornton captures the nuances and the tensions of life in a small country town and the passion of the devoted fans of the Cats: the father who sees the finals as redemption for his wayward son and old Mrs Lemmon whose husband, Tom, played for the team in the sixties.
She tells Clem, "Tom would have said you were the best thing to come to Katinga since Jesus".
Lapse is an absorbing read, and an accomplished debut about secrets and lies, the power of influence and the vulnerability of the disadvantaged.
- Lapse, by Sarah Thornton. Text Publishing. $29.99.
- Anna Creer is a Canberra reviewer.