Title: Poison Orchids
Author: Sarah A Denzil and Anni Taylor
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services (Self-published)
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Psychologist Megan Arlotti is appointed to work with two 19-year-old backpackers, British Hayley and Australian Gemma who escaped from the clutches of Rodney White, a man who had held them in captivity and planned to kill them. The girls are found by a truck driver who fights White and saves them.
But the danger isn’t past. The stories of the two girls don’t match. Senior detective Bronwen McKay and Arlotti question the girls, only to find two completely different stories about what occurred over the last three months. There are unanswered questions relating to the clean white dresses worn by the girls on the night of their escape.
Desperate and out of money, the two sought work at a mango farm whose owner, Tate Llewellyn, a wealthy chemist, welcomed them. Life in the farm is idyllic, peaceful and beautiful with fruit-picking, campfires and waterfalls. And then suddenly it isn’t.
Are the girls hiding a secret?
The books is written from the third person omniscient point of view of multiple characters, in the past tense. The book is disturbing in its content and tones. There are references to sexual assault.
Part II takes us back three months when Hayley and Gemma first met. We get to experience their stories firsthand. It is good to see the sudden and then gradual manner in which the friendship grows.
This part was almost like a young adult novel. We see youngsters getting together, the backpacker culture, forming new relationships, and jealousies arising out of perceptions of closeness with the handsome Tate, benign and patronising, at the centre of it all. The man seems to be a good employer, working them hard but paying them well too and giving them a good life. Or so it seems. A few privileged people are allowed access into his inner chambers where they can view his prize orchids. It’s a great life. But then paradise turns ugly.
Part III brings us back to the present.
The plot was good and the pace was right, but stylistically there was room for improvements. In Bronwen’s PoV, one para talked about Joe, her partner’s sloppy habits and then the next shifted to Rodney’s house and the change is abrupt.
The writing was good. I got gooseflesh when Hayley recalled the memories of the cold place.
The author brings up stuff about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the fallible nature of memory, how they can alter under influence.
I also liked the manner in which the authors re-created Australia for us. Its heat, its natural beauty. The descriptions flow smoothly.
The book ends on a frightening note. These two authors are definitely on my To-Read list from now on.