Call Me Evie, J.P. Pomare
With a growing awareness of her isolation and of how complete her removal has been from her old world of the ‘before’, Evie has few tools at hand with which to dig out the truth of what happened back in Australia. All she really knows is what Jim has selectively been telling her. It was something bad, it was something that they needed to jump on plane to get away from. As Evie’s patchy memory serves up greater pieces of her past with the passage of time, it is not reassuring to being to recall what was done by Evie, or to Evie. Now living in a remote New Zealand coastal town, Evie’s world is narrowing by the day. The cabin walls do not feel cosy at all. They feel like the walls of a cage.
Initially we are lulled into a false sense of security as we read of the functional relationship Evie has with her protector Jim, and of the serene New Zealand coastal town which has become their bolt hole from past horrors. It’s a little soporific as Evie relates the events of her day, ruminating on her past teenage life and what might have been if things had gone differently at a certain high school party. Our suspicions grow that Jim may not have Evie’s best interests at heart, whilst we also vainly hope that she is going to be okay and it is teenage paranoia that is at play.
Writing teenagers can be a fraught exercise as their speech and behaviours change from one minute to the next, as any parent negotiating this age group can tell you. Evie does come across as a generation older at times, but then her character is holding up the novel and needs to mature rapidly with her new reality. There’re a few overused plot drivers in CALL ME EVIE that might make you wince a little – a shaky memory seems to always kick in at the most inconvenient, or inconvenient of times – and if you’re not a fan of flashbacks, this deployment might irritate somewhat.
CALL ME EVIE sits somewhere comfortably between a young adult and mature crime fiction audience and is relentlessly close and foreboding with its promise that bad things are around the corner. Everything from the isolation of the town to the walls of the cabin are put to good use, narrowing Evie’s world to just a few people, sharpening her focus to where it matters. Your dread is drip fed with each encounter Evie has with others, each memory re-examined, each character revealing more of themselves. Take your thrills slowly and thoughtfully with CALL ME EVIE. Your reward will be considerable, we promise.
We are rich with exciting new authors bursting onto the Australia/New Zealand crime fiction scene. So many of them hitting it out of the park with their first works that being a first time novellist is actually a marketing asset in itself – get on board early with new talent! Melbourne based writer J.P. Pomare has written for several literary journals and has hosted a podcast, On Writing, since 2015. CALL ME EVIE is his first novel.
For the past two weeks, seventeen-year-old Kate Bennet has lived against her will in an isolated cabin in a remote beach town--brought there by a mysterious man named Bill. Part captor, part benefactor, Bill calls her Evie and tells her he's hiding her to protect her. That she did something terrible one night back home in Melbourne--something so unspeakable that he had no choice but to take her away. The trouble is, Kate can't remember the night in question.
The fragments of Kate's shattered memories of her old life seem happy: good friends, a big house in the suburbs, a devoted boyfriend. Bill says he'll help her fill in the blanks--but his story isn't adding up. And as she tries to reconcile the girl she thought she'd been with the devastating consequences Bill claims she's responsible for, Kate will unearth secrets about herself and those closest to her that could change everything.
A riveting debut novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind, Call Me Evie explores the fragility of memory and the potential in all of us to hide the truth, even from ourselves.