Oft-referenced advice to wannabe authors is to ‘write what you know’ and Australian author Nicola West has most certainly done that in her debut novel, Catch Us The Foxes.
This is a book within a book. Kind-of. There’s a brief introduction in the present before we’re introduced to The Showgirl’s Secret, a true crime book written by (former) journalist intern Marlowe Robertson. ‘Lo’ is the daughter of the town’s head of police who feels stuck in her small hometown and literally stumbles across the body of a friend. In real life, West grew up in Kiama – the book’s setting – as the daughter of a police officer and is a journalist herself.
Catch Us The Foxes
by Nicola West
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Ambitious young journalist Marlowe ‘Lo’ Robertson would do anything to escape the suffocating confines of her small home town. While begrudgingly covering the annual show for the local paper, Lo is horrified to discover the mutilated corpse of Lily Williams, the reigning showgirl and Lo’s best friend.
Seven strange symbols have been ruthlessly carved into Lily’s back. But when Lo reports her grisly find to the town’s police chief, he makes her promise not to tell anyone about the symbols. Lo obliges, though it’s not like she has much of a choice – after all, he is also her father.
When Lily’s murder makes headlines around the country and the town is invaded by the media, Lo seizes the opportunity to track down the killer and make a name for herself by breaking the biggest story of her life.
What Lo uncovers is that her sleepy home town has been harbouring a deadly secret, one so shocking that it will captivate the entire nation. Lo’s story will change the course of her life forever, but in a way she could never have dreamed of.
This is a challenging review to write as I went through a number of responses while reading the book, which is described in the blurb as Twin Peaks meets The Dry.
I very much enjoyed the opening of the book and West gives us a very complicated character in Lo. She’s irascible and overly ambitious but (mostly) easy to like. The sudden introduction of secret sects (of sorts) however, threw me a little. It seemed very left field – though I do realise that’s the point of such groups – they’re hidden in plain sight and not at all obvious.
It just felt a little surreal and I struggled with the lack of realism. I was confused… Were they really killing kids? In some game? I confess I almost put the book aside as it was feeling a tad uncontrolled but predictable at the same time. Small town conspiracies and secret societies involving the the town’s elite? Sigh.
But then this book becomes something different again. Lo thinks she’s got it all worked out – the baddies and the goodies – when she learns that she doesn’t have the full story. It seemed weird but feasible and I felt reassured.
However, there’s a final twist and everything is not as it seems. Or it actually is. Or something. This book feels like it kinda starts as something and becomes something else. It’s intriguing, macabre, creepy and sometimes just plain weird (which to non-control freaks is a great thing). I had a similar response to Gabriel Bergmoser’s The Hunted, which many enjoyed.
West is certainly a talented storyteller and introduces some great characters and interesting theories. I enjoyed this book but was never entirely sure what I was reading.
A number of other book bloggers and I messaged about this book as we read it and our responses varied a lot. Some loved it. Others were a little confused. I suspect it would be an excellent book club read for that very reason.
Catch Us The Foxes by Nicola West has been published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.