It is 1988 in Australia, and people are missing. When one goes missing, many more are lost.
In outback Queensland, quiet and reserved teenager Leesa Richards disappears silently from her bedroom into the fog early one morning. Then cowboy Toby White leaves his pregnant wife Alice in a cloud of dust and mystery, never to be seen again.
A world away, in the hustling inner city suburbs of Sydney, rebellious teenager Keely Johnson forms an elaborate plan to escape her boring suburban life and trade it for the excitement and glamour of the streets of Kings Cross.
The only child of southwest Queensland sheep pastoralists, Rhiannon McVee has her eyes firmly set on swapping her cowboy boots for police-issue brogues. But with her parents and the love of her life Mac pressuring her to stay close to home, will her quest to find the missing be over before it begins?
From the harsh isolated Australian outback to the dangerous underbelly of Kings Cross, Rhiannon learns the hard way that when so many slip through the cracks, finding them is never as easy as it seems. And that when you leave the people you love, you might lose them forever.
FIND ME is a mix of crime and a delicate touch of outback romance, inspired by the author’s own personal missing persons tragedy.
Reading group questions
Melissa has taken one of her characters out of Write About Me and started a new series, have you enjoyed going back in time to where Rhiannon McVee’s story begins?
Melissa describes Rhiannon McVee as her fairytale Godmother, what do you think she means by that?
Although Find Me is fiction, how successful is this book in creating a sense of real time and place?
Who is your favourite character and why?
Does the switching between several missing persons cases give you an insight into the many different ways someone goes ‘missing’?
What do you think the future holds for Rhiannon and Mac when their lives are going in such different directions?
The books are drawn to two distinct places – Kings Cross and the Australian outback. What do you think is the significance of location?
Find Me ends on a cliffhanger. How frustrating is it as a reader to not have a clear ending? Why do you think Melissa has done this?
Is the book fact or fiction?
This is a great question and I get asked all the time.
“The best lie is the one that has an element of truth, so it’s good to include something real in your fiction.” Renee Conoutly , Australian writer
Although all my crime novels are inspired by my first cousin Ursula Barwick who disappeared after she boarded a train bound for Sydney in 1987, these are fiction, not fact about Ursula. The readers of Find Me know what is happening behind the scenes and see the different ‘missing’ journeys through their eyes. But sadly, none of us know what happened to Ursula after she reached Sydney.
When I published Write About Me, then continued with my Detective Rhiannon McVee series, I decided to share the story behind the story because I wanted people to know Ursula wasn’t just a two-dimensional face on a Missing Persons poster. But most of all I wanted the world to know what it’s like when families and friends, investigators, school teachers and friends of friends have to go on with their lives while their missing person remains missing. I was also hoping that somebody, somewhere might come forward and help our family find some sort of end point in regards to Ursula’s disappearance.
Who is Rhiannon McVee?
A twenty-something girl from the Australian outback with her eyes set firmly on being a detective. Her career starts in the late 80s at Kings Cross Police Station, amongst a dominant male police force who see so many people go missing that one missing person just blends in with the next. But Rhiannon’s no pushover, and doesn’t take no for an answer when she’s on a case. Off the job Rhiannon is like any normal girl in her twenties, she loves to party, she loves her family and she loves her cowboy who waits patiently for her to return to her outback home.
Rhiannon McVee is also the detective I have created as my own fairy godmother, who I wish was in our lives in 1987. It’s people like Detective Rhiannon McVee who make our lives better and help us find our missing loved ones. And when we do, she’s there to help us pick up the pieces.
How difficult is it to fictionalise what you have experienced in real life?
Fictionalising a real life experience the way I have gives me some distance and allows me to explore the experiences of others. All my characters have something important to say about missing persons. For example, take Rhiannon McVee. I’m so captivated by her I’ve created a detective crime mystery series in her honour. Through her experiences and those of the people she’s looking for, I’m able to convey the issues and feelings that surround missing people. Rather than get dragged down by my own experiences missing Ursula, writing fiction helps me channel my energy into a reinvigorated search for answers. Through my books I am giving a voice to Ursula, and to all of those who are missing.
Your books are drawn to two distinct places – Kings Cross and the Australian outback. Can you explain the significance of location for a writer?
Location is extremely important when I am piecing my stories together. While I write I see the scenes play out in my mind like a movie, and location plays such an important part. Both Kings Cross and the Australian outback have a real sense of mystery about them. They’re intriguing and although vastly different, evoke similar feelings for the reader. The outback is such an isolated and lonely place, and with that comes a sense of foreboding and danger. Kings Cross is so small size-wise compared to the outback and it’s busy and hectic and noisy, but has the same sense of foreboding and danger. I love moving from one space to the next in my books, as both provide dramatic backgrounds for my characters.