In the Clearing (J P Pomare, Hachette)
If J P Pomare’s Call Me Evie was a slow-burner of a psychological thriller, his follow-up, In the Clearing, is a pared-back firecracker where the danger is clear and present—even if its exact shape remains opaque until the book’s climax and final gasp-inducing twist. Chapters alternate between Amy and Freya, dual storylines building in intensity as the page count increases, until they ultimately collide—but not in the way one might expect—as Pomare cleverly manipulates the reader. Certain chapters are demarcated with a countdown—to what, readers won’t learn until midway. Amy is an adolescent fully indoctrinated into the ways of the Blackmarsh, a cult residing in an area of remote Victorian bushland known as ‘the Clearing’. But when a troublesome newcomer challenges her beliefs, Amy begins to wonder what life is like on the outside. Freya is a mother, clearly struggling with traumas from her past that threaten to completely undo her carefully constructed, sheltered life, particularly when someone from her past arrives in town and a young girl goes missing in Melbourne. Pomare has an extraordinary talent for getting readers to question every conclusion and to never completely trust anyone—especially his narrators. Fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins will find Pomare’s latest offering a compelling novel of psychological suspense.
Simon McDonald is a bookseller at Potts Point Bookshop