Home Before Night, J.P. Pomare

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

If you were a resident of Melbourne (or any larger city I suppose), the announcement of one of the many COVID lockdowns was a sudden jolt to the nervous system. 

What JP Pomare has done, in HOME BEFORE NIGHT, is add an extra layer of complexity when Lou realises her son Samuel isn't going to make it home by the cut off time of 8pm, supposedly staying with his girlfriend instead. She's not handling that particularly well, having not been at all convinced by the girlfriend on initial meeting. But that turns to major concern when Samuel doesn't seem to be contactable - he's not answering his phone, there's no messages from him, he's gone completely off the radar. When Lou eventually discovers he's not with his girlfriend at all, he's not been seen by his father she, well, panics is probably the right word.

An author taking readers deep into the mind of somebody who, on the face of it, could be a bit of a worrying, over-protective single mum is one thing, but make that woman feel slightly (okay it gets to very) unhinged, very quickly and you've got a recipe for generating a lot of unease in a reader.

Lou is not an easy person to get in close and personal with, and the reader is given permission to find her as exasperating as her ex-husband does, although it turns out, via a series of conversations between the parents, that there are secrets that Lou and her ex-husband are keeping. There's also something very weird in the background of Samuel's new girlfriend, and the way in which he does eventually contact his mother, combined with the restrictions of lockdown and the heightened anxiety that so many people were forced to live their lives in during that period builds to create a very febrile environment.

More of a novella than anything else, I'm not sure if the Audible Original came first (hence the truncated length) or afterwards. Either way the shortened format created a rapid pace reveal of all sorts of weird goings on, in one hell of a hurry, all of which charged towards an ending that came out of left field. Until the field, and everything in it simply vanished. I can't say I was completely unconvinced by the journey, but there was a lot going on that landed on the reader from on-high, and some things that didn't quite gell including a frantic car journey into rural Victoria (what happened to the ring of steel or whatever it was called around Melbourne - granted it wasn't hard to dodge / but there didn't even seem to be an acknowledgement of how hard the five kilometre rule seemed to be policed). Either way the open threads and unexplored givens at the end may not be every reader's cup of tea, so be aware this is very much a YMMV sort of story.

Above all else, Pomare knows how to write tension, misdirection, pace and threat. HOME BEFORE NIGHT is focused so heavily on a woman who is obviously so damaged that it's hard for the reader not to think she's definitely part of the problem. Which leaves you wondering all the way along if Samuel's used the lockdown as a way to cut some very tightly wound strings between he and his mother. The resolution's in this author's novels are never quite that straight forward though, even in one that's truncated in length.

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Year of Publication

As the third wave of the virus hits, all inhabitants of Melbourne are given until 8 pm to get to their homes. Wherever they are when the curfew begins, they must live for four weeks and stay within five kilometres of. When Lou's son, Samuel, doesn't arrive home by nightfall, she begins to panic.

He doesn't answer his phone. He doesn't message. His social media channels are inactive. Lou is out of her mind with worry, but she can't go to the police, because she has secrets of her own. Secrets that Samuel just can't find out about. Lou must find her son herself and bring him home.

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