After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.
But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .
S.R. White’s Hermit is an atmospheric and addictive psychological thriller. Set over the course of one day, detective Dana Russo has just 12 hours to interrogate the prime suspect in a murder case — a reclusive, mysterious man found at the scene of the crime, who hasn’t been seen or heard from in fifteen years and is reluctant to divulge any details to the police. Dana must follow her instincts to uncover the truth about the murder.
Set in rural Australia, S.R. White has captured the remote, secluded atmosphere of the desolate outback. Households are distanced but neighbours are nosy. Gossip runs rife through the town, and every family is hiding some sort of secret.
“Mike wasn’t veering towards the most common kinds of stabbings — drug arguments gone bad, gang wars, disrespected teenagers. Partly because they usually happened in the street, or at a location known to police already. Partly because those kinds of crimes rarely if ever happened just before dawn.”
With no CCTV, murder weapon or forensics to work with, Dana must rely on the suspect to reveal what happened, and it certainly makes for a unique crime novel.
Despite a great portion of the novel taking place within the walls of a police interview room, there are still a lot of divergence in setting. Dana and her colleagues interview different people around town — those relating to Lou and his wife, and those relating to the mysterious man found at the scene, Nathan.
The strength of this novel lies in the investigation — Dana illustrates great skill in reading other people, understanding their behaviour, and her ability to unpack Nathan’s psyche proves fascinating and enjoyable. Every conversation feels like a carefully constructed game of cat and mouse, tension rising and falling, pacing altering with every passing page. My attention never wavered.
“Because of the solitary stab wound, Dana had expected the knife to be on the floor. A single stab in panic, in the midst of a scuffle, usually prompted the stabber to drop the blade and flee. At the very least, they let go in shock at what they’d done, or in disbelief that the person in front of them was dying. That didn’t seem to have happened here.”
The concept of the ‘hermit’ is an interesting one, and executed in a way that felt fresh to the genre. I was fascinated to find out more about Nathan’s history. Where has he been for 15 years? How has he survived? Why did he leave and what dangers will suddenly arise now that he’s resurfaced?
Additionally, Hermit subtly explores themes of mental health and suicide. In the opening chapter, Dana is sitting atop a cliff contemplating plunging to her and death and trying to make it look like an accident. Every year, on this exact day, she takes annual leave and spends all day trying to decide if she should kill herself. It’s an incredibly vulnerable time for Dana, and when she’s thrust into a murder investigation unexpectedly, it throws her plans. Readers will feel a close kinship with Dana, even if they don’t necessarily relate to her. She’s intelligent and bolshy, but she also evokes empathy and sympathy in the reader.
“No response. Although he shivered: seemingly involuntarily, judging by his slight grimace. Any body language, any inflection — let alone any comment — appeared to him an unconscionable degree of exposure on his part. Perhaps he would prefer total darkness, or to be a disembodied voice: being visible and tangible was apparently unfamiliar, worrying.”
Admittedly, I found the ending a little unsatisfying. The concept of the ‘day’ that Dana keeps talking about, and what it means for her, fizzles out in the end, with no real resolution. Additionally, we’re set up to find out some of Dana’s backstory but it’s only partly revealed and feels like an info dump — unnatural, jolting.
Despite these minor flaws, I really enjoyed Hermit. An original, gripping and captivating thriller that readers will love. Recommended for fans of crime, thriller and mystery.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Hachette Book Publishers