Soon (Lois Murphy, Transit Lounge)
Five four-wheel drives with tinted windows roll slowly, mysteriously, through a small Australian town during a winter solstice. Their purpose is unknown, their arrival an ominous portent. When they depart, just as inexplicably, the birds disappear and a malevolent evening mist descends on the town each night. A handful of locals, led by ex-policeman Pete, either can’t or won’t leave the only place they call home, and so they stay to face the mist. Loosely based on the true story of the asbestos town, Wittenoom, and written with a poet’s instinct for language, Lois Murphy has created a unique, haunting and atmospheric tale in her debut novel. The ‘soon’ of the title sets the tone of the book, and each page drips with foreboding. Her characters are the kinds of people you might meet in any small Australian town: battling to survive and wilful in the face of change, as their home becomes a ghost town. While Soon draws on genre tropes (from crime and horror in particular), the story focuses on the human relationships in the face of adversity rather than the strange happenings themselves. It will appeal to readers who like their literary fiction with a dash of the mysterious and strange.
Deborah Crabtree is a Melbourne-based writer and bookseller