cover image Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs

Sonya Hartnett, Sonya Harnett. Viking Children's Books, $12.99 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86503-1

The eeriness that underscores Hartnett's Wilful Blue is even more prevalent in this grittier novel, also set in rural Australia. From the very beginning, readers will sense an unnatural aura surrounding the Willow family and the desolate land where they live. Isolated from townspeople, brutalized by their father and ignored by their unstable mother, the five Willow children (some of them grown) run the farm as well as a dilapidated caravan park, a place guests never visit twice. Yearning for but fearing freedom, the children remain a tightly closed clique until Oliver, the youngest boy, shares family secrets with one of the caravan tenants, an artist, who has become infatuated with Oliver's 23-year-old sister. The first chapter's grisly images of snarling dogs, butchered sheep and incestuous acts foreshadow the series of bizarre events that spiral toward a tragic conclusion involving the murder of the most sensitive and talented member of the family. Both fascinating and disturbing, this chilling story reveals how morality can be twisted by obsessive family loyalty. Ages 13-up. (Sept.)