I’ve enjoyed NZ-born, Australian-dwelling JP Pomare’s work to date and think it’s getting better and better. His last novel, The Last Guests, was my favourite to date and his new release – The Wrong Woman – though a smidge overly complex in parts, offers up some great characters and twists, impressing me even further.The Wrong Woman
by J.P. Pomare
Published by Hachette
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
Reid left the small town of Manson a decade ago, promising his former Chief of Police boss he'd never return. He made a new life in the city, became a PI and turned his back on his old life for good.
Now an insurance firm has offered him good money to look into a suspicious car crash, and he finds himself back in the place he grew up - home to his complicated family history, a scarring relationship breakdown and a very public career-ending incident.
As Reid's investigation unfolds, nothing is as it seems: rumours are swirling about the well-liked young woman who was driving the car which killed her professor husband, while a second local student has just disappeared. As Reid veers off course from the job he has been paid to do, will he find himself in the dangerous position of taking on the town again?
Interestingly before writing this review (but after reading the book) I saw an Instagram post by RWR McDonald (another Kiwi import whose work I love) mentioning that the lead character here (Reid) is Pomare’s first gay lead character and I gather (straight) Pomare consulted with McDonald (who’s not) to ensure he got his character right. Or at least that he didn’t lapse into any stereotypes or offend in any way.
Appropriation has become a big thing in literature and film (and everywhere really). I know there was some discussion after Craig Silvey’s book Honeybee and of course there is often controversy over white authors writing from the POV of people of colour. It’s a quagmire and I’m not going to dive in because I know there are some who disagree with females writing male leads and vice versa. However… I liked that McDonald has publicly acknowledged Pomare’s keenness not to offend and the author’s commitment to ensuring that Reid, be relatable and real. Which he certainly is.
Initially it seems he’s a smidge OTT with his fear of being recognised and I couldn’t help but think wearing a balaclava around would attract more attention than the alternative, but Pomare shares the detail of what happened ten years earlier when Reid was a cop in the twin towns – following in his respected father’s footsteps.
The book is narrated by both Reid and Eshana (before and eventually after) the car accident that killed her husband Oliver. I really loved the way Pomare slowly reveals details of Eshana and Oliver’s life. I also appreciated that it’s balanced or nuanced. It’d be easy to decide Oliver was an adulterous prick who got what he deserved, however Pomare offers glimpses into what drew Eshana to him in the first place. (Although… he still comes across as a bit of a prick.)
Although desperate to limit his time in town Reid ponders links between the ‘accident’ and the disappearance of the two teenagers – which seems like A LOT for a small community. And we come to understand his dogged attempt at finding the truth is also a quest for redemption.
Pomare dips into a few (online) worlds here and I can’t really be too detailed because they’re part of the ‘reveals’. One in particular I KNEW nothing about and was a bit overly complex for my small mind. And those who’ve read the book will understand what I mean when I say I really just don’t ‘get’ poetry anyway, so I would have been as ignorant as Reid.
I loved the potential romance on offer for Reid with local waiter Peyton and found some of the minor characters – Peyton, along with a friend of Eshana’s as well as Oliver’s sister – well-drawn and adding layers of context and believability of the narrative. (ie. And by that I mean they ‘felt’ like real people!)
Pomare keeps the twists coming here and though I was waiting for them, I was still surprised at the who and why and that they kept coming. This is another great read and though I know Pomare hasn’t previously written books as part of a series’ but I’d like to meet Reid again.
The Wrong Woman by JP Pomare will be published in Australia by Hachette in late July 2022.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.