‘Ouch!’ Martin O’Brien threw his arms over his head to ward off a shower of stones as his sister slithered down the low cliff-face after him.
‘Stop, Kitty. Wait!’ But before he could get out of the way she had cannoned into him and they had landed in an untidy pile on the narrow beach.
‘Where’ve you been?’ said Andrea, scrambling over the rocks to join them. ‘You said you’d come straight after school.’ There was sand in the damp hair, dyed red and black, that dangled over her forehead.
When freakish weather alters the beach temporarily Martin, his sister Kitty and their friends Andrea and David discover a tunnel. But this is just the beginning of their discoveries. As they explore more tunnels and connections to Tarcoola, an old abandoned house, they begin to notice other things. The history they uncover has links to current events in their community. Suddenly, what seemed like a game becomes something much more serious. And dangerous. Along the way, friendships are undone, made and tested. And apparently disparate events begin, like tunnels, to reveal connections.
The Tunnels of Tarcoola is an action-packed contemporary novel with connections to the past, set in Sydney. An unusual tidal event has exposed a cave not seen in recent history. Curiosity provides the impetus for what initially seems like just a fun day on the beach, but quickly becomes something much more sinister. Each of the four main characters has an important role to play in unravelling a mystery which links future, present and past. Themes include family and friendship relationships, culture and class, lies and secrets. As is often the case, it is secrets that cause the biggest trouble, create the biggest dangers. At heart this is a gripping mystery adventure, ideal for upper primary readers. It’s also a fascinating introduction to different times, different ways of living.
The Tunnels of Tarcoola, Jennifer Walsh
Allen & Unwin 2012
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author