- Dead Man's Track, by Sarah Barrie. HQ Fiction. $29.99.
Sarah Barrie is a bestselling author of romantic suspense, a hybrid subgenre in which the disparate elements of danger and desire merge, although the ratio of each depends on the novelist.
Barrie's novel begins as a romance but develops into a murder mystery loosely based on Agatha Christie's And Then There were None.
Dead Man's Track is set in Tasmania in the Central Highlands, north of Hobart.
Barrie interweaves three storylines around her central character, Tess Artherton, whose family runs the highly successful resort at Calico Mountain, which offers adventure tourism.
Tess rides, skis and acts as a guide for wilderness hikes, as well as volunteering with the SES Search and Rescue.
As the novel begins, she's in a relationship with Aaron, another wilderness guide who initially acts as a caring, dependable partner.
In Hobart, Jai Wharton is struggling to make ends meet while caring for his grandfather who is suffering from dementia.
Jai works for 'Tank' Finlay in a pawn-shop. He and Finlay's daughter, Riley, are in love and intend to marry, once she has finished her university degree.
Riley's dream is to walk the South Coast Track, a week and a half long trek on the southernmost coast of Tasmania - pure wilderness and Jai has promised to go with her.
Meanwhile the police in Hobart are mystified by a series of jewellry robberies, "four break-ins in six weeks, same night of the week, same area, same method of entry, same goods targeted".
Police concerns are heightened when a robbery results in the murder of a wealthy woman on a luxury yacht and Detective Sergeant Jared Denham receives threatening messages as he uncovers evidence of the killer's identity.
Eventually the three plotlines converge as Tess, desperate to create distance between herself and an increasingly controlling Aaron, agrees to guide Riley and her friends on the South Coast Track.
She warns them that it's the wrong time of the year and that when the weather turns "the fog can be so thick you can't see your hand in front of your face, the roaring forties can blow you off the Ironbound Range, the rivers, the beaches, the boat crossings can be hazardous to the point of uncrossable".
However, the track will prove more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.
Although Barrie is not in the same literary league as the masters of the genre, who include both Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart, Dead Man's Track is an atmospheric exploration of the dangers encountered in both the environment and in human relationships.