Ned Rubie is 14 years old, growing up in the rural Australian town of Smithville during the Great Depression. The most important people in his life are his parents and his Aunt Lily. His father is the town's lawyer but it's his mother who is the head of the family.
Aunt Lily, his mother's dearest friend, dotes on Ned. Her only child, Teddy O'Rourke, is Ned's idol, a couple of years older, "grown, handsome, and blessed with the ease of talking about love and desire and forbidden things." Teddy in turn is in love with Joan, the daughter of a prominent Smithville citizen.
One summer day Teddy's love for Joan takes an unexpected turn, an event that plunges the town into turmoil, pitting townspeople against the Rubies, threatening their lives. Ned has to grow up fast to come to terms with these dangerous events.
Reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye, Cold Hands Under the Sun is a novel of the journey to adolescence and of the daily ebb and flow of a small Australian town nearly a century ago.