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Review: Bruny

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If you’re looking for a summer read that will scare the bejeezus out of you and make you appreciate the foreign investment review board, Bruny is for you.  

Yes, that’s right. The Foreign Investment Review Board (aka FIRB). Fear not, Australia’s foreign investment screening and review regime is not a huge part of the plot of Bruny. Although I know there are people out there who would consider the inclusion of FIRB as a draw card. (I work with some of them.)

Bruny opens at dawn with a speedboat parked inconspicuously beneath a partially completed bridge. The bridge has been under construction for four years. It is the subject of much controversy and will (once completed) connect Tasmania with Bruny Island, one of Tasmania’s largest and most popular islands. Bruny’s residents are known to appreciate the solitude and privacy that Bruny offers—both of which will come under immense pressure once the bridge is completed.

As the speedboat disappears into the horizon, a security guard monitoring the bridge catches sight of it. In the time it takes for the security guard to alert the foreman and for them to investigates this unusual occurrence, the bridge has exploded.

The explosion sends shockwaves through Tasmania’s waters and its people. The people are most thoroughly rocked by the fact that responsibility for the brutal and brazen act cannot be attributed. The Bruny Friends Group (an organisation that has been dead set against the bridge’s construction from the very beginning) is the primary suspect. But all is not quite as it seems when it comes to the perpetrators of the detonation.

Cue the arrival of Astrid (known as Ace) Coleman at the behest of her twin brother and Tasmanian premier, JC. JC is the architect (metaphorically) of the bridge and has secured millions of dollars in federal funding for its building.

Ace is a conflict resolution specialist with the United Nations and, while her specialties lie more in negotiating the release of Yazidi women, she receives a mysterious text message suggesting that she should leave her home in New York to return to Tassie to deal with the swirling conspiracies around the conflagration of the Bruny bridge. She must also help to ensure that the bridge is finished before the upcoming state election—an objective the pursuit of which has led her brother JC to import builders from China to complete the construction, much to the chagrin of the locals.

Not only is Ace the twin sister of the Tasmanian premier, her half-sister is the leader of the opposition and is opposed to the bridge’s construction. Talk about some necessary conflict resolution.

Yet the greatest source of tension in this story comes from sources foreign and external to Tasmania and alarmingly from those people entrusted to keep Australia safe. The twist will shock and appal you and make you very, very grateful for FIRB and Australia’s intelligence agencies and networks.

I found the story of Bruny utterly compelling. Heather Rose is a beautiful writer and I enjoyed seeing her turn her pen to a thriller. I would say that there was a bit more internal rumination, emotion, feminist thought and equivocation from Ace then one would normally expect from the protagonist of a thriller—but not any more than one would expect from the protagonist of a Heather Rose novel.

If you temper your expectations as to pace and appreciate this novel for its quiet but devastating build-up, you will no doubt enjoy this book.

I gave Bruny 4 out of 5 ageing fathers who speak only in Shakespeare quotes.

Thank you very much to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy in exchange for my review.

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