Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Contemporary Sacrifice; A Centuries-Old Superstition Is a Central Theme in an Outback Thriller

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Contemporary Sacrifice; A Centuries-Old Superstition Is a Central Theme in an Outback Thriller

Article excerpt

Byline: Michelle Gately

SET a man to watch all night. It was this little-known verse in a popular nursery rhyme, London Bridge is Falling Down, which planted the seed of an idea in Cassandra Austin's mind.

Years later, the Aussie expat is celebrating the release of her second novel, All Fall Down, a captivating outback mystery exploring the interplay between mythology and reality. Speaking to Weekend from her home in Los Angeles, Cassandra said human sacrifice had always been the centre of the story.

After becoming intrigued by the nursery rhyme line, she found a belief, spanning centuries and cultures, in a sacrifice being needed to keep a new bridge standing.

"It really was that idea that people across the world had believed, that in order to get a structure to stand, whether it was a building or whether it was a bridge, there had to be a human sacrifice involved and that really just struck a chord within me," Cassandra said.

"It wasn't just one particular belief nor one particular time, it was over hundreds of years, thousands of years.

"I was just fascinated by that and I was fascinated by the idea of - could this just be a contemporary belief, could someone believe this contemporarily and what would that actually mean?"

There was a major problem when it came to examining this belief in a modern sense.

"Technology is a pain in the neck for a novelist," Cassandra said.

"Any plot problems can be solved by picking up a phone and calling someone, or hopping on the internet and seeing whether or not this or that is true. I needed an environment where people needed to be able to carry a superstition, for it to be able to ferment."

For this, Cassandra returned to her rural Australian roots. By isolating her characters, in a physical and technological sense, Cassandra managed to deal with today's constant flow of information.

Set in a tiny South Australian outback town, All Fall Down feels starkly Australian. The vivid, unsettling backdrop becomes a character in its own right. And it's not hard to understand why when you learn Cassandra herself grew up on a property near the rural town of Blighty in the Riverina in New South Wales. …

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