Book Review: Riptides by Kirsten Alexander


About the Book:

Set in Queensland during a time of tremendous social upheaval, Riptides is a gripping family drama about dreams, choices and consequences, from the author of the acclaimed Half Moon Lake.

One bad decision can tear your world apart…

December 1974. Abby Campbell and her brother Charlie are driving to their father’s farm on a dark country road when they swerve into the path of another car, forcing it into a tree. The pregnant driver is killed instantly.

In the heat of the moment, Abby and Charlie make a fateful decision. They flee, hoping heavy rain will erase the fact they were there. They both have too much to lose.

But they have no idea who they’ve just killed or how many lives will be affected by her death. Soon the truth is like a riptide they can’t escape, as their terrible secret pulls them down deeper by the day.

My Thoughts:

Riptides is a complex and gripping story about the weight of one’s decisions, morality, and family obligation. Set in Brisbane during the mid-1970s, this novel is not just a story about siblings committing a crime; it’s also a snapshot of the state of Queensland, smack bang in the middle of Bjelke-Petersen’s ‘police-state’ reign.

The sense of time and place is so vividly recreated within this novel, not just in terms of the era and setting, but also within the characters themselves: their actions, their motivations, their aspirations, their ethical standards. There was no mistaking the where and when within this novel and I felt truly transported throughout. Anyone above forty who grew up in Brisbane will find plenty of nostalgia within this story.

A crime provides the catalyst for all of the events within this novel. I have to say, Kirsten Alexander continued to surprise me with where she took this story. I am so impressed with the complexity and the manner in which she wove such social and political commentary throughout her narrative, not just in terms of time and place, but to actually drive the plot forward into areas I couldn’t have foreseen. This is first class crime fiction and I highly recommend it. Riptides, alongside her first novel, Half Moon Lake, has firmly established Kirsten Alexander as an author to follow. Her work transcends the genre and pushes the boundaries of morality in a way that makes for thought provoking reading.

‘The trick, I suppose, is to bend and move with as much of it as you can, without losing your own shape. To know that your life is this one night, this group of people, and also more than this. Also the people who aren’t in the room… Also the things you haven’t yet done.’


Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of Riptides for review.

About the Author:

Kirsten Alexander was born in San Francisco, raised in Brisbane, and now lives in Melbourne with her partner and two sons. Half Moon Lake is her first published novel. Her second, Riptides, will be released in February 2020.

Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Released 4th February 2020

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Riptides by Kirsten Alexander

  1. Pingback: Crime Fiction Round Up: January-February 2020 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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