Book review: The Attack, Catherine Jinks, Text Publishing

A slow-burner that canvasses familial conflict and builds to a violent crescendo.

With 38 titles to her name, it is no exaggeration to use the word ‘prolific’ when it comes to describing Brisbane-born author Catherine Jinks. Having won awards for her children’s fiction and her science fiction, Jinks has most recently turned her hand to the production of thrillers, with her third such offering, The Attack, recently released.

Following on from notable successes with Shepherd (2019), a gritty historical crime novel set in convict-era New South Wales, and Shelter (2021), a psychological thriller set deep in the bush, The Attack introduces Robyn Ayres, an ex-school teacher hiding from her troubled past and making ends meet as a camp caretaker on Finch Island, a former leper colony turned island boot camp off the coast of Queensland. The latest bunch of dysfunctional teens to be admitted to the camp’s tough-love program includes one kid from Robyn’s past who brings with him a raft of secrets, reopening old wounds, and tensions that build to a series of dangerous and violent clashes in the present day.

Told through the medium of two distinct, but closely intertwined voices, the first set in a youthful 2009, the second in the present day, Robyn’s first-person narrative focuses on vulnerable children who fall through the cracks, psychotic family relationships, break-ups and unexpected reunions. It is a story of the lengths some people will go to in search of a new start, and the tenacity with which the past so often haunts us, regardless of time or distance.

Read: Book review: The Breakup Monologues, Rosie Wilby, Bloomsbury

The Attack is a slow-burn thriller, with a tendency to drip-feed its tension over a series of chapters, teasing its readers as it goes. The storyline does gradually picks up pace, until it is bouncing back and forth apace between the younger Robyn and her older self, but readers will need to be willing to allow it to build to its eventual, satisfying crescendo.  

If this latest offering from Jinks has one flaw, it is perhaps the lingering sense that it is a novel without a clear sense of its own readership, at times a Young Adult read, at others a mainstream thriller. Caused in part by Jinks’ decision to tell one half of the narrative from the perspective of a 16-year-old protagonist, it is also equally clear that the author is comfortable in the YA space. Juxtaposed with the violence, adult vocabulary, and dark societal secrets, The Attack appears, at times, to be caught between two readerships, and unsure of its own direction.

That being said, viewed as a standalone thriller, in the hands of readers unaware of Jinks’ long connection to the YA field, The Attack is a solid enough tale of redemption that will appeal principally to an audience in its protagonists’ age range of 16 to 30, but which has within it sufficient substance to offer an appeal to new and recent converts to Jinks’ brand of dark revelation.

The Attack by Catherine Jinks
Publisher: Text Publishing
ISBN: 9781922458117

Format: Paperback
RRP: $32.99
Publication date: 31 August 2021

Craig Buchanan is a freelance reviewer and self-professed bookaholic based in Perth.  He has a PhD in literature from the University of Western Australia, and reading interests (both academic and personal) that range from the earliest forms of medieval story telling right up to the present, techno-centric offerings of the 21st century.  His mother always said he should play outside more, but he was too engrossed to listen then, and he’s too old to change now.