Currawong Manor is Josephine Pennicott's second Australian gothic mystery novel. Elizabeth Thorrington is a photographer who travels to Currawong Manor, an old house in the Blue Mountains, NSW Australia, to work on a book about what happened at that property in 1945. In that year, her grandfather Rubert Partridge worked there as an artist. He was infamous because of his confronting paintings, whose themes were highly influenced by his time in the second world war. Also, three nude models, called 'The Flowers' were living and working for Rupert, and everyone in the little village believed there were orgies and affairs going on all over the place. In November 1945, Rupert's little daughter Shalimar was found brutally murdered in the Owlbone Woods, and Rupert was hanged after he admitted to have committed the crime.
In 2000, Elizabeth and Nick, the author of the book-to-come, meet Ginger, one of the former 'Flowers' who is now in her 70s, at Currawong Manor. They interview Ginger about how she came to be a Flower and want to find out what really happened back then, because they do not believe in Ruperts responsibility for his daughter's death. About half of the book is therefore told from Ginger's perspective - but it turns out she is not a reliable narrator at all, and that she is lying to Elizabeth as well as to the reader...
Josephine Pennicott is a REALLY talented author. Her descriptions of the house, its gardens, its interior, Ruperts paintings and the woods are extremely vivid. I could visualize it all so well while reading, even if I've never been to Australia. Also the characterization of the personages is done greatly. The older Ginger would be my favorite: a highly eccentric woman who hasn't lost her sex appeal in all those years, even if she's in her 70s now.
I loved the gothic/suspense atmosphere, which origined in the old, dusty house with its towers, the mysterious, creepy woods, the mist that would cover the manor, the witch-like character of Dolly Sharp and the currawong crows that were believed to foretell when someone at the manor was about to die... A great read indeed.