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River of Salt

Written by Dave Warner


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1961, Philadelphia. After having to give up his brother to save his own life, hitman Blake Saunders flees the Mob and seeks refuge on the other side of the world. Two years later he has been reborn in a tiny coastal Australian town. The ghosts of the past still haunt him, but otherwise Coral Shoals is paradise. Blake surfs, and plays guitar in his own bar, the Surf Shack. But then the body of a young woman is found at a local motel, and evidence links her to the Surf Shack. When Blake’s friend is arrested, and the local sergeant doesn’t want to know, it becomes clear to Blake – who knows a thing or two about murder – that the only way to protect his paradise is to find the killer.


'This is Australian crime writing at its apex – a seemingly simple case that becomes ever more convoluted as the narrative progresses, widening to encompass protection rackets, early pornographic films, racism, and country-club politics. That it takes place against the backdrop of a burgeoning 1960s counterculture is refreshing as a sea breeze. Let’s hope River of Salt signals the beginning of a new Warner series.' Australian Book Review

'Dave Warner captures the heyday and spirit of the surf music scene perfectly. This is a pitch-perfect crime thriller of epic twists and turns.’ Jim Skiathitis, composer, guitarist,
The Atlantics

'Part Goodfellas and part love letter to Australian coastal towns, this wonderfully imagined crime novel is like riding the perfect wave.' Michael Robotham

'Warner’s is a densely written book, redolent with sun, sand and surf, informed about music and full of engaging, well-drawn characters and local activities that form a disarming background to a classically convoluted murder investigation.' Adelaide Advertiser

‘Warner builds the suspense with an even hand, his stock in trade a deft turn of phrase that would do Chandler or Hammett proud … His ear for dialogue and the period is also faultless, his characters well-drawn and entirely believable.’ Courier Mail

'The strength of River of Salt is definitely in the idea of a stranger in a strange land, back in the days when communications weren't instant, and people could reinvent themselves to some extent. It's exploring just how far you can go with that idea, and how much of the old you will never go away.' AustCrime

'... a complex yet accessible tale that takes its time with characters and details ... Beyond the book’s convincing action and romance beats, [Warner] explores well beneath the surface of a varied cast of characters.' Books+Publishing

'Warner produces a real page turner here. Suspects more plausible than Agatha Christie ever offered. And real dramatic tension to go with it ... A really good read. Go get it!' Fremantle Shipping News

'Warner keeps things moving at a lickety-split, while allowing the likeable female characters ... room to negotiate their own trajectory through the reprehensible gender politics of the era. This always engaging period piece ends in just the right place for a sequel.'
Sydney Morning Herald


Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction (Shortlisted 2020)

ISBN 9781925591569 (Paperback)
Formats C Format (234 x 153mm) (Paperback)
Categories Book Club Reads
Father's Day 2021
Crime & Mystery
Publisher Fremantle Press
Edition 1st
Publication Year 2019
Pages 256
  • Davewarnerweb

    Dave Warner

    Dave Warner is an author, musician and screenwriter. His first novel, City of Light, won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Fiction, and Before it Breaks (2015) the Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime fiction. His novel Clear to the Horizon features the lead characters from both these books, and his most recent crime novel is River of Salt. Dave Warner first came to national prominence with his gold album Mug’s Game, and his band Dave Warner’s from the Suburbs. In 2017 he released his tenth album, When. He has been named a Western Australian State Living Treasure and has been inducted into the WAMi Rock’n’Roll of Renown. Read more