Review: DARKEST PLACE by Jaye Ford

It is a continuing annoyance to me that audio books with an Australian voice – either author or narrator – are difficult to come by even though the format has exploded in recent years. So I usually snap them up when I see them which is how I came to squeeze another read into this year’s AWW Challenge.

darkestplacefordaudioFormer journalist Jaye Ford is carving out a niche for herself as a teller of stories in which frightening but entirely believable things happen to people just like the reader. Not so long ago this ‘average person in peril’ trope was the domain of men, normally doing absurdly unrealistic things to get themselves out of various jams. In Ford’s books though the person at the centre of events is generally a woman. Often, as in real life, at most danger from a bloke.

In DARKEST PLACE we meet Carly Townsend. She has just moved to Newcastle from the small outback town she grew up in. She’d left once before but that didn’t last long when tragedy struck. Thirteen years later she has an apartment in a renovated industrial building and has enough savings to be a full-time student, at least for a few months. But when Carly’s home is broken into on only her third night in residence her new life starts to look more troubled than she’d hoped for.

That’s all I’ll say about the plot because half the pleasure of these kinds of books is experiencing all the twists and turns for yourself. Ford does a great job of teasing the reader. Introducing people who might (or might not) be dangerous, sharing a reflection from Carly’s past that may (or may not) be relevant to what’s going on in her present-day life. Or is Carly herself the untrustworthy element in this story? Perhaps the only drama is in her own imagination? The reader is never sure who or what to believe here which builds a delicious kind of tension. Well delicious for me, experiencing it from the safety and comfort of my reading nook; not so delicious for poor Carly who is living in mounting trepidation and anxiety.

There’s a strong cast of characters in DARKEST PLACE too. Carly herself is well developed; struggling to come to terms with her past in a believable way and yet despite having a lot to deal with she doesn’t wallow in self-pity. Or not for long anyway. She meets an interesting array of new people as neighbours and fellow students though they are all potential suspects. Or perhaps I was alone in trying to work out how the girl with the broken ankle might be hiding her true identity as a twisted stalker. There is even a romantic interest (but again he might be the one terrorising Carly). And let’s not forget the building into which Carly has moved. Ford gives it a palpable presence in the story which makes for a very effective, almost claustrophobic setting.

Fans of the audiobook format should enjoy Sarah Blackstone’s narration as much as I did; she really brings Carly’s story to life and it is nice to hear Australian voices telling Australian stories. Which makes this the complete package. A truly scary tale of psychological suspense with credible characters and a cracker of an ending.

AWW2016This is book 21.5 that I’ve read and reviewed for the fifth Australian Women Writers Challenge (one book was written by a father daughter team so I’m only counting it as a half). For more information about the challenge check out my challenge progresssign up yourself or browse the Challenge’s database of reviews.

Publisher: Wavesound Audio [2016]
Length: 11 hours, 1 minute
Format: mp3

Review: DARKEST PLACE, Jaye Ford

  • source: Random House Australia via NetGalley
  • Available for Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1122 KB
  • Print Length: 346 pages
  • Publisher: RHA eBooks Adult (February 1, 2016)
  • Publication Date: January 27, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B017J5899W

Synopsis (NetGalley)

An adrenaline-pumping suspense novel from the author of BEYOND FEAR.
What if a stranger is watching you sleep – and no one believes you?

Carly Townsend is starting over after a decade of tragedy and pain. In a new town and a new apartment she’s determined to leave the memories and failures of her past behind.

However that dream is shattered in the dead of night when she is woken by the shadow of a man next to her bed, silently watching her. And it happens week after week.Yet there is no way an intruder could have entered the apartment. It’s on the fourth floor, the doors are locked and there is no evidence that anyone has been inside.

With the police doubting her story, and her psychologist suggesting it’s all just a dream, Carly is on her own. And being alone isn’t so appealing when you’re scared to go to sleep .

My Take:

Australian author Jaye Ford certainly knows how to write a good thriller.

Carly Townsend moves across the country to Newcastle, NSW, to start a new life. For the last decade she has been living with the fact that she killed her three best friends. Her new apartment is on the 4th floor of a renovated warehouse. All modern. But the first thing she learns is that there is a sad story about the girl who used to own her apartment.

Carly herself is pretty fragile, the result of two failed marriages, three miscarriages, and the death of her three friends.  She thinks she has lost the outgoing personailty she once had, and wonders if she can find it again.

She begins a business course at a local TAFE and is lucky to be befriended by twenty year old with big ideas. Carly hasn’t slept well for years but then she is woken in the early morning by a hooded man. She reports the home invasion to the police but by the third time they have had enough of her wasting their time.

Jaye Ford ceratinly knows which of our “fear” buttons to press.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also read


Review: BLOOD SECRET, Jaye Ford

Synopsis (publisher)

Nothing ever happens in Haven Bay, which is why Rennie Carter – a woman who has been on the run for most of her life – stayed there longer than she

However, that illusion of security is broken one night
when Max Tully, the man she loves and the reason she stayed, vanishes
without trace.

Rennie, though, is the only person who believes
Max is in danger. The police are looking in the wrong places, and Max’s friends and his business partner keep hinting at another, darker side to

But Rennie Carter understands about double lives – after all, that’s not even her real name …

And she has a secret too – a big, relentless and violent one that she’s
terrified has found her again … and the man she loves.

My Take

This is the third novel written by Jaye Ford that I’ve read and I have enjoyed them all. Each has taken a realistic scenario, if a little embroidered to hype up the tension, and put them in an Australian setting that I can relate to.

The structure remains interesting as Rennie puts together the circumstances of Max’s disappearance and then fits them into various scenarios, discarding them one by one. The ultimate solution is the one she really doesn’t want to believe. The story is layered. The further we read the more layers are peeled back and we learn of both Rennie’s and Max’s back stories.

Throw in too Max’s fourteen year old son who has run away from his mother who has gone for a holiday to Cairns. Hayden decides not to go with her and turns up just after his father has disappeared. He and Rennie have to work hard to get on.

So, a very readable book. My rating: 4.5

My other reviews

Review: SCARED YET? Jaye Ford

  • Published Bantam, Random House Australia March 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-86471-200-1
  • 456 pages
  • Source: review copy supplied by Random House Australia

Synopsis (author website)

When Livia Prescott fights off a terrifying assault in a deserted car park, the media hail her bravery. And after a difficult year – watching her father fade away, her business struggle and her marriage fall apart – it feels good to strike back for once.

But as the police widen their search for her attacker, menacing notes start arriving. And brave is not what she feels any longer . . .

Someone has decided to rip her life apart, then kick her when she’s down. But is it a stranger or someone much closer to home? In fact, is there anyone she can now trust?

When her family and friends are drawn into the stalker’s focus – with horrifying consequences – the choice becomes simple. Fight back, or lose the people she loves the most . . .

My Take

It is unusual for me to read two novels by the same author back to back but I only finished Jaye Ford’s first novel BEYOND FEAR last week.

There are similarities between the two novels: both describe a woman’s reaction to intimidation and fear. Both develop suspenseful scenarios, and I think Ford does this very well, even though I found each book a little long. Both kept me up reading well into the night.

It seems at first that the assault on Livia Prescott is a random mugging, but Liv soon comes to the realisation that she is being targetted and that her friends and family are also in danger, but what is it that her stalker wants?

With her, the reader tries to work out who is attacking Livia, who among those around her can be trusted.

My rating: 4.5

Review: BEYOND FEAR, Jaye Ford

Synopsis (Author site)

Imagine if your worst fears came true. . . Again.

At seventeen, Jodie Cramer survived a terrifying assault at the hands of three strangers. Her schoolmate Angie was not so lucky…

Now thirty-five, Jodie is a teacher and mother of two – and her past is a horror she’s buried deep. When she sets out for a weekend in the country with three friends, all she has in mind is a few laughs and a break from routine.

However, unknown to the four women, their secluded cabin was once the focus of a police investigation and, like Jodie, it nurtures a dark secret.

As her friends relax, the isolation reawakens Jodie’s terrifying memories. When she finds evidence of trespassers, she is convinced they are being watched.

But no one will believe her and as her past threatens to overwhelm her, she begins to doubt herself – and her sanity. Until two men knock at their door …

My take

The setting is rural New South Wales, an isolated barn, newly renovated as a country weekender, and far enough out of town to reinforce the feeling of isolation. Out of mobile phone connectivity range too, always enough to make holiday makers worried. The weekend does not start well when Jodie’s car is forced off the road near their destination and things begin to go down hill from there.

Here friends don’t share Jodie’s suspicion of strangers and they don’t understand what makes her so hostile when two men turn up on their doorstep. But Jodie has met them before…

BEYOND FEAR is certainly a nail biter. The tension builds well and I
thought most of the scenario was quite realistic. Ford is good at
putting the reader into Jodie Cramer’s mind and letting us feel the
apprehension that Jodie feels when the planned weekend away begins to go

I felt the book was just a little too long, particularly with the violent scenes towards the end, but then I guess we had to find out why these two men had turned at the barn. By the last 50 pages much of the mystery had been solved and so the author was left with the problem of how many of the main characters could be extricated safely.

That said, if I could write half as well as Jaye Ford I’d be happy. It did keep me reading far into the night.

My rating: 4.4

Websites etc.

The 2012 Davitt Award Winners Are…

The Davitt Awards are sponsored by Sisters in Crime Australia and are named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, FORCE AND FRAUD in 1865. Awards are given annually to crime writing by women in several categories:

This year’s winners were announced at a gala dinner tonight (1 September) in Melbourne,

The first award of the night was for Best True Crime and it went to journalist and author Liz Porter for COLD CASE FILES in which old cases from Australia, the UK and the US are re-opened in the light of new forensic techniques.

Next came the award for Best Young Fiction book which was apparently fiercely contested. Ursula Dubosarsky’s THE GOLDEN DAY was highly commended by the judges but the winner of this category was Meg McKinlay for SURFACE TENSION

The next award was for Best Adult Novel. Carolyn Morwood’s DEATH AND THE SPANISH LADY was highly commended by judges but the award went to Sulari Gentill for A DECLINE IN PROPHETS. As this particular book was also on my list of five most impressive Australian crime novels for last year I can heartily concur with the judges’ decision on this occasion. It is historical crime fiction set in 1930’s Australia (and beyond) and it is a delight to read, combining thoughtfully drawn characters, a wonderful sense of time and place and a ripper of a story.

The new category for this year of Best Debut Novel went to Jaye Ford for her novel BEYOND FEAR. Ford is yet another journalist-turned-crime-writer and penned a book with loads of strong female characters and snappy pace which I liked a lot.

The final award of the night was the Reader’s Choice Award. All the books in all the other categories are eligible for this award and all members of Sisters in Crime Australia are able to vote for it (and apparently 550 of us did). This year the award was shared by Jaye Ford’s BEYOND FEAR and Y.A. Erskine’s THE BROTHERHOOD!. Both great books and THE BROTHERHOOD was another of my five most impressive Aussie crime novels of last year.

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all the writers of all the eligible books. Even from my limited reading of the books in these categories I can attest to the fact that Australian women’s crime writing is in great form.

Information in this post was provided by Vim & Zest Communications and the ever-helpful twitterverse, especially @angsavage to whom I offer a particular thanks for the vicarious thrills provided via #davittawards

Review: Beyond Fear by Jaye Ford

Jodie, Hannah, Louise and Corinne plan a relaxing weekend away without their kids or husbands. It is Jodie’s turn to select the venue for the friends’ annual getaway and she’s chosen a newly renovated barn in the country town of Bald Hill, a short drive from Newcastle where the women all live. The weekend starts to go wrong when the women have a minor car accident on their drive to the barn, though this does provide the opportunity for them to meet Matt Wiseman, working at his father’s garage while recovering from injuries received in his job as a policeman. Though they do manage to squeeze in some some of the champagne-drinking and chocolate-eating they planned, the weekend turns very grim for the four friends when two men turn up at the barn and won’t leave.

A debut novel by a former journalist, Beyond Fear is a fast-paced psychological thriller and an easy read that I gobbled up in a single sitting. As a reader you know from the outset that something’s going to go wrong with the idyllic weekend but the author manages to build suspense by not taking the obvious route to peril and the lead up to the story’s turning point is very well done. The fact that two of the characters, Jodie and Matt, have secrets from their past that are likely to impact their behaviour in the dangerous circumstances which unfold here just adds to the tension because it is believable that they might do things the average person would not do. For me though the climax of the tension came a bit too early and though the author tried hard to maintain the suspense for the remaining half of the book it did become a little repetitive with long fight sequences and each woman taking her turn to have a mini meltdown before pulling herself together for the sake of her friends.

For the most part the characters were well-depicted and largely credible though I did want to shake both Matt and Jodie for constantly blaming themselves for what was happening. However the people generally behaved as people might in such circumstances and I thought Ford did a good job of depicting the villains of the piece, particularly towards the end where we got some real insight into the pair and what drove them (though we never got a sensible explanation for why they chose to enter the barn when they knew it was full of people given they’d had the same access to the site while it was empty but I suppose I can go with the flow on that one).

There is a lot to like about this thriller including its strong female characters and snappy pace. There’s also a nice hint of romance which, because it’s only a hint, I rather enjoyed. I did think the first half was stronger than the second in terms of suspense but overall it’s a solidly entertaining read.

My rating: 3/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Author website:
Publisher: Random House [2011]
ISBN: 9781864711981
Length: 301 pages
Format: ePub
Source: I bought it
Available at Amazon (for Kindle), Boomerang Books (paperback)Kobo Store (ePub),

New release BEYOND FEAR by Jaye Ford

Here at Fair Dinkum we have a broad definition of crime fiction so include thrillers and psychological suspense which allows us to highlight another debut from an Australian author.

Former SBS sports journalist Jaye Ford has turned her hand to writing fiction and her first suspense thriller, BEYOND FEAR, is published by Random House in March. The publisher’s blurb says of the book:

Imagine if your worst fears came true . . . again.

At seventeen, Jodie Cramer survived a terrifying assault at the hands of three strangers. Her schoolmate Angie was not so lucky . . .

Now thirty-five, Jodie is a teacher and mother of two – and her past is a horror she’s buried deep. When she sets out for a weekend in the country with three friends, all she has in mind are a few laughs and a break from routine.

However, unknown to the four women, their secluded cabin was once the focus of a police investigation and, like Jodie, holds a very dark secret . . .

When Jodie finds evidence of prowlers at the cabin, she is convinced they are being watched, though none of her friends believe her. And after suffering flashbacks to the night of Angie’s murder, she also starts to doubt her own sanity.

Until two men come knocking at their door.

You can find out more about Jaye at her website. The book is officially released in Australia on March 1 and will be available in trade paperback and ePub formats (which is a good sign that things are changing here as it’s still quite rare for Australian titles to be released in digital format at the same time as they are released in print).