I’ve only a passing knowledge of Midsommer so I’ve no idea as to the similarities. The logline put me in mind of the Wickerman, and that ‘community with a dark secret’ vibe was enough to pull me in. Tricky to give notes without a better understanding of the whole story but I can at least give you an idea of whether I’d keep reading or not and why.
Notes as I go -
Do we need to see the dead infant? Could leave something to mystery here - keep the reader wondering.
The couple having sex - could you see that happening ‘miles and miles away’? Also, could you tell someone was staring back at you from that distance? Isn’t it practically first light?
‘…mounting and mounting, rising and falling.’ - I get what you’re going for but I’m not sure it works visually. I think this could be better described - or more simply. Not saying it’s a bad scene. It’s unexpected and adds a somewhat creepy undertone with their reaction. I just think the logic could do with re-working.
‘It’s not your fault I don’t drive’ — Assuming her not driving is linked to the opening accident, John’s chuckle seems a bit off.
Would the boarded up school speak for itself? This is where you could let the imagery and character reactions work for you and trim back the dialogue. There’s a line about the kids not being replaced which gave me a sense of where this might be headed. Though I could be wrong…. If it’s important - foreshadowing - I think you could blend that line with Jamie’s last line about the ‘ageing population…etc’ and trim Madison’s dialogue without losing anything from the story.
In all, I thought it was an okay opener. The flashback/dream intro feels a little too familiar - tragic car crash etc. but there may be a deeper logic to it that feeds back into the story at some point so we’ll see.
The writing when we get to the outback setting works well to place me in this remote location while there’s just enough mystery thrown in to keep me invested. I want to know how the wreck and Dr. Richards ties into the story and most of all what danger Madison is facing - that’s a good draw.
On the downside, I’m not entirely sure I understand the setup. Is Madison here to facilitate Helen’s podcast in a real time investigation?
I don’t know how the podcasting angle fits overall so it’s hard to judge. Granted, it’s unique and gives you a device through which to set up the backstory; but is having your main character deliver a history lesson - via phone - to an unseen and largely unknown character the most engaging way for the story to unfold? How would that look on screen? The last two scenes are essentially back to back exposition - one a summary of the Hardiman and one of Dr Richard's work. Is there a way to tease that information out - keep the reader guessing/wanting?
It's tricky as you've really only one character to work with and as a result there’s no real conflict - or the suggestion thereof - driving the story forward. There’s mystery - maybe that works alone?
Again, I don’t know how far into the idea you are or where you go from here. I thought this was nicely done in the lead up though the phone conversation feels less considered than the previous pages. I would read on, though I guess it depends on how the podcast angle plays out - whether it becomes integral to the story or more of an interruption.
Hope this helps,