The Last Guests by JP Pomare is the fourth book by the NZ born, Australian dwelling writer who’s deservedly building a reputation for being one of the region’s go-to authors of thrillers and novels of suspense.
This is probably my favourite of Pomare’s novels. It starts with a bit of a surprise before settling into something a little more familiar and then suddenly takes readers somewhere we didn’t expect, casting doubt on everything that came before.
The Last Guests
by J.P. Pomare
Published by Hachette Australia
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Newlyweds Lina and Cain don't make it out to their vacation home on gorgeous Lake Tarawera as often as they'd like, so when Cain suggests they rent the property out on weekends, Lina reluctantly agrees.
While the home has been special to her family for generations, their neighbors are all signing up to host renters, and frankly, she and Cain could use the extra money. What could go wrong? And at first, Lina is amazed at how quickly guests line up to spend a weekend--and at how much they're willing to pay.
But both Lina and Cain have been keeping secrets, secrets that won't be kept out by a new alarm system or a locked cupboard. When strange things begin happening on their property, and a visit takes a deadly turn, Lina becomes convinced that someone out there knows something they shouldn't--and that when they come for her, there will be nowhere left to hide.
In reality, the events of The Last Guests are the result of some very very bad luck. Well, a bad decision and then some very bad luck.
I kinda suspected (what eventuated) part way through the novel but Pomare includes red herrings and some very likely alternatives so makes sure we doubt ourselves and mystery-solving skills on many occasions.
He also touches on a number of issues and themes here. There’s the voyeurism and Pomare intersperses the narrative with comments by those viewing the unknowing visitors. It’ll be unsettling for those who are wary of Airbnb and the like, the notion of spying on guests and (at times) overly solicitous hosts.
In addition Pomare delves into the difficult world of infertility and miscarriage, gambling and addiction and – completely unrelated – war crimes, which in Australia has been under the spotlight as a result of investigations into our special forces’ actions in the Middle East.
Amidst all of that we meet Lina and Cain. Lina’s certainly a likeable character though it took me some time to understand some of her actions here. Which leads me back to the bad decision I mentioned earlier.
Her relationship with Cain is an interesting one and his post-trauma responses after serving in the Middle East sympathetically examined. Pomare also introduces another couple, a former colleague of Cain’s and it’s also interesting to see the bonds formed in battle (and everything that came before and after) as well as the impact on the partners they leave behind.
Pomare paces this well. It starts with a bang and settles into something more intriguing (as opposed to edge-of-your-seat suspenseful) but just when we’re lulled into thinking we know how things will play out, he ramps things up again. And again.
This would actually make an excellent bookclub read as there are some moral quandaries worthy of debate and it’d be interesting to hear how others felt about the way things ultimately pan out. (I for one was a smidge uneasy and unsure if that was dissatisfaction with the characters’ decisions or the plot itself!)
The Last Guests by JP Pomare was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.