Imagine booking an idyllic AirBnB, your temporary home away from home, in rural New Zealand, without knowing that an online group of sexual deviants and voyeurs has installed a suite of hidden cameras that are secretly recording your every move and broadcasting the footage across their private, global network.
That is the all-too-believable premise underpinning of The Last Guests, the fourth, chilling novel from Kiwi-born and Melbourne-based award-winning author J.P. Pomare. If you’re looking for an almost frantically paced, panic-inducing thriller, then this has all the key ingredients: a vulnerable young woman with a secret in her past; a moody love interest in the form of her ex-SAS soldier husband, trying hard to readjust to civilian life; high tech gadgets, low life sleaze-balls, and enough unexpected twists and turns to keep you guessing right up to the last chapter.
Paramedic Lina and husband Caine are looking for a sweet little earner, something that will offset the many financial stresses and strains that come when you’re looking to starting a family. But their decision to renovate Lina’s childhood home, and to put it on the market as a casual rental kickstarts a series of events that sees the couple spiral out of control, until death and deceit in equal measure catch up with, and overwhelm them.
Pomare has a well-earned reputation as an emerging master of the taut and fast-flowing psychological thriller, and The Last Guests is no exception in what is a growing series of highly successful, and internationally recognised novels. There is a a sense in which his latest offering is very much of its time though, with a PTSD-suffering, trauma-surviving soldier who could easily have stepped off the front page of any modern, daily newspaper in the aftermath of a short-lived foreign war; a young woman doubting her role in marriage and family alike, only to doubt the doubts in turn; and a group of shady online deviants getting their kicks from an all-too-believable scenario of hidden cameras, microphones, and paywalled internet obsessions. If The Last Guests deserves a criticism, it’s that it leaves you wondering how much of its plot is fiction, and how much might actually be happening to some poor soul right now?
What this certainly isn’t is a novel to take on holiday. Read it at home, where you have no reason to look over your shoulder, by all means. But chose to take it away with you, and you’re almost certain to find yourself checking the corners of rooms, and the inside of light fittings, just to reassure yourself that no one is watching you when you least expect it.
The Last Guests by J.P. Pomare
Publication date: 28 July 2021