Natasha Mostert,
(Tor, 2005)

As a photojournalist, Justine Callaway has been to some of the most dangerous places on Earth, but now, in the wake of her brother's death, all she wants is solitude. The job as caretaker of Paradine Park, an English country estate, seems perfect. The state of the house -- remote, huge and mostly unfurnished -- suits her state of mind. As she begins to come to terms with herself, she starts to photograph the empty mansion. But when she develops the photos, she is startled to find images of an animal in many of the photos -- a wolf-like animal that is certainly nowhere within the bounds of the house.

It is from a long-time servant of the previous owners that Justine learns Paradine Park's secret. Nine years ago, the Buchanan brothers fought in the garden. Nine years ago, Adam Buchanan murdered his younger brother in rage and then fled. Nine years ago, Mrs. Buchanan, a doting mother who adored her younger son, committed suicide in the master bedroom.

Justine is fascinated by the fate of the Buchanan family, especially Adam, the murderer.

Adam Williams, as he is now known, has lived in the desolate Namibian town of Kepler's Bay for nine years. A loner with few friends, he works as a diamond diver during the summer months and follows a family of strandwolves during the winter months. On long nights, he writes passionate letters to a woman he has never met, a woman whose name he does not know. It is with some shock that he recognizes in a magazine photograph of Justine the very woman of whom he has so long dreamed.

In Windwalker, Natasha Mostert has breathed life into some incredible characters from Justine and Adam to the priest of the parish church and the teenagers who have been using Paradine Park for a trysting spot. Indeed, it is these characters, rather than the situations in which they find themselves, that make Windwalker compulsory reading. It takes some doing to make a rage-filled murderer, even one attempting to atone for his crime, a sympathetic character, but Mostert does it in a seemingly effortless manner.

Windwalker isn't just a romance, however, but also a suspense novel. Adam isn't the only person interested in Justine, and the Watcher is closer than anyone might suspect. I was dubious at first about Mostert's choice to reveal the identity of the Watcher so early in the novel, but she knows what she's doing and it worked beautifully.

Few novels bring me to tears -- when they do, I can only recommend them while offering a hanky to the next person in line.

by Laurie Thayer
4 November 2006

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