Book review: Home Before Night, JP Pomare

This original thriller begs to be devoured in a single sitting.

The light under my mother’s bedroom door – a light that promptly darkened upon my return from a late night out – never failed to intensely irritate me as a young man. Years later, now a parent home at night imagining the dangers awaiting my own children, I have begun to understand my mother’s behaviour.

In Home Before Night, Lou – long divorced from Marko – is worried about their 18-year-old son, Sam. Not only has he failed to return home to the apartment he shares with his mother, but he has also disappeared at a time of extremely heightened anxiety. Worldwide, millions of people have died from COVID and, in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus, Melbourne is under one of the most restrictive lockdowns on the planet. 

Readers in that region will be reminded of the time – not so long ago – when there was a curfew of 8pm, when you could not travel more than five kilometres from your home, when exercise was one of the few legitimate reasons to leave your place … and when visiting others was out of the question. Perhaps some readers will recognise how quickly things seemed to slide on a domestic level, as Lou herself registers when preparing to contravene this seminal lockdown law.

With Sam’s continuing absence, the reasons fuelling Lou’s increasing dread become more apparent. Luckily, Lou worked at the airport in a security capacity and prides herself on her judgement of people. 

As she attempts to track down her son, Lou’s self-proclaimed talent for discerning whether someone is lying or not is a skill she brings to bear on her quest. And despite Marko’s evident lack of empathy for his ex-wife, the reader becomes more sympathetic to her plight as the details are revealed – much like a child gaining sympathy for a parent as they grow older and can see things from their perspective.

While JP Pomare’s style of writing bears no resemblance to that of the great Agatha Christie, the way that this plot is constructed does recall some of Christie’s more engaging characteristics. Of course, Christie largely wrote detective stories and Home Before Night features neither detectives nor police. But here, as in classic Christie style, there are only a few characters involved in the plot and when all is revealed, what seemed implausible, unlikely or exaggerated is seen to be totally logical. It would take a genius to guess what has really been going on.

Read: Book review: Higher Education, Kira McPherson

Given the thousands of mysteries, detective stories and psychological thrillers published every year, it can’t be easy to produce an original spellbinding yet credible plot. That is what Pomare has done in Home Before Night, however, packing a lot into a fairly slim volume. If you want an original thriller asking to be devoured at one sitting, this will fit the bill. 

Home Before Night by JP Pomare
Publisher: Hachette
ISBN  9780733649547
Fomat: Paperback
Pages: 185pp 
RRP $32.99

Publication date: 26 April 2023

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer.