SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 651 Thin Line Between, by M.A.C. Petty Book Review |

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Thin Line Between, by M.A.C. Petty
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Cold Spring Press
Published: 2005
Review Posted: 8/29/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10

Thin Line Between, by M.A.C. Petty

Book Review by Teresa Baker

Have you read this book?

It's always a mystery when you pick up a novel by an author whose work you've not read. Usually it happens because you've heard or read enough about the author or story to pique your curiosity and make you take the risk. That mystery, and the risk, intensifies when the novel is an author's first. Accordingly, I did my due diligence when deciding if I wanted to review M.A.C. Petty's first novel, Thin Line Between. I checked her website and discovered that while this is her first novel she is most certainly not a new writer. As impressive as her academic credits are though, they don't automatically mean she can tell a story. But with such an intriguing cover and a story line about Australian Aboriginal myths I figured I might be on to something unique and interesting. I was.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's like this: I took the risk and soon you will be reaping the rewards. Thin Line Between is very good. Oh, wait a minute! I'm not supposed to say that until the end, am I? First you want me to pique your curiosity; tease you with bits of the plot and tell you how great the writing is.

All right, if you insist. Thin Line Between is about Alice Waterston, a museum curator who has strange things begin to happen in her life when she brings the "Land of Legends" Aboriginal art exhibit to her small but respected museum. Stranger even than her unusually good 'intuition' and her tendency for 'good luck'. The powerful images are eerily compelling and unsettling for Alice. A possible vague connection to Australia buy way of the father she never knew is certainly no 'reason' for her reaction. She's drawn to the Dreamtime art in a way she can't fathom.

It's about the unsettling dreams her teenage daughter, Margaret, has been having. The ones with the shape shifting, lizard-dog creature who talks to her from the closet. Yep, you guessed it. It's a creature out of the Aboriginal legends represented in the museum display. He's mean spirited and it's clear he wants something. A Quinkan won't be the only legendary being Alice and Margaret encounter.

Then there's the novel Alice is writing in her spare time; the one about the local legend concerning a derelict church and the man who was hanged. (You get two stories for the price of one, folks!) The problem: characters from said novel have more control over the story than she does. When she starts to think that maybe Reverend Harrow and his cohorts are, somehow, real, Alice is really in hot water. She has no idea how to tell her new lover, Nik, the solidly empirical mycologist, that anything out of the ordinary is going on, let alone convince him it's all part of a gigantic supernatural Aboriginal mystery.

Figaro the cat and Dawg the dog round out the family Nik, Alice and Margaret are experimenting at. Alice's co-workers include Jesse, a man she's attracted to despite Nik, and Gene; you know - that irksome person who's always trying to sidle up to you despite all but yelling at him, "I don't like you, go away!" They, along with her ex-sister-in-law, her boss and everyone else, come alive so easily it seems you've always known them. The characters in Alice's novel are as memorable as those in her real life, and every bit as important.

Thin Line Between is a suspenseful, finely crafted fantasy which manages to sneak in a sense of what it's like to get lost in the novel you're trying to write. The pace is smooth and the writing flows in that special way which makes words invisible; it's the story that takes hold of you, not fancy word play.

The isolated location of Alice's home and the requisite thunder storms and other inclement weather might seem cliché but they ramp up the tension of the plot without ever being the sole source of that tension. I assure you there are other, far more subtle things Ms. Petty does to make you worry about the characters.

If, like me, you get impatient in the middle of a story waiting for the really good stuff to happen, let me assure you, this time, when you get there, you won't be disappointed. Confronting a dead Reverend and dealing with a nasty, ancient shape shifter aren't in Alice's job description; fortunately she has help. Unfortunately, when Alice thinks the dust has settled there is still something unexpected to deal with.

Thin Line Between is the first book of "The Wandjina Quartet." As such it leaves plot lines for the future. The scene in the museum vault with all that amazing stuff (no, I'm not going to tell you) isn't just filler, not with the mutual attraction between Jesse and Alice oozing off the pages.

What's not to like? Well if you don't like cliff hanger endings you'll be disappointed. If you prefer a book you can leave behind when you've read the last page you may be tempted to give this one a miss. Please, make an exception in this case. Thin Line Between is the beginning of something I know is going to be worth every page of the remaining three books of "The Wandjina Quartet."
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