In the Clearing
By J.P. Pomare
In Darkness Visible
By Tony Jones
Allen & Unwin, $32.99
Two second novels by Australian writers who both use real events as the scaffolding for effective crime thrillers featuring tough women in peril. While Tony Jones, recently retired host of Q&A, reunites us with investigative journalist Anna Rosen first encountered in The Twentieth Man, J.P. Pomare breaks new ground with In the Clearing, introducing the character of Freya who – like Kate in his first book, Call Me Evie – is a woman living precariously on the edge, both literally and metaphorically.
Pomare keeps the reader guessing. Why is Freya so concerned about security around her home in the bush and what exactly is her relationship to the character of Amy, whom we encounter in the process of kidnapping a small girl? Amy, it emerges, belongs to a sinister cult that bears a striking resemblance to that of the Family that in real-life was lead by the charismatic, probably bonkers and recently deceased Anne Hamilton-Byrne.
Pomare is clever, allowing Freya to describe herself to the reader as someone who is trying hard to pass as your average kombucha-drinking single mom who happens to be a yoga instructor with an attack dog called Rocky, while challenging us to admit that we too are engaged in the intricate performance of the self in everyday life. ‘‘We all act,’’ she points out. ‘‘I’m just better at it than you.’’