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Book DetailsISBN: 9781869718183
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Book Review: The Last Guests by J.P. Pomare - Reviewed by Sarah (30 Jul 2021)
The Last Guests is another superlative thriller from the pen of Australia-based Kiwi author J.P. Pomare. This time around, Pomare explores the dark side of the sharing economy and employs New Zealand's central North Island as a setting. The book opens with a tantalising scene of a black-clad operative installing covert cameras into a short-stay accommodation property. Following this brief prologue, the story is told mostly from the perspective of Lina, a thirty-something ambulance paramedic who lives with her former SAS soldier -turned personal trainer husband Cain in Auckland, New Zealand. They're happily married, but there are some difficulties they're facing - Cain remains traumatised by his experiences when deployed in Afghanistan, he's having difficulty re-establishing himself in the civilian world and has battled an addiction to gambling, which has placed their personal finances in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Lina is still recovering from having suffered a miscarriage and struggles with resentment for their closest friends, Cain's army mate Axel and his wife Claire, who are not only enjoying financial success, but have just announced their own pregnancy. Lina commits a risky and uncharacteristic act of infidelity, her motivations for which become clearer over the course of the novel. The narrative is punctuated with excerpts from online discussions in an subscriber-only group for voyeurs called Peephole. Like the subscribers, readers consequently become privy to a different perspective on the novel's characters and settings. Meanwhile, Axel and Claire suggest that Cain and Lina could generate much-needed additional income by listing their holiday home on stunning Lake Tarawera on holiday letting app WeStay (a similar online model to Airbnb or Stayz.com). Cain is immediately taken with the idea, but Lina is more cautious - the house is her former family home, where she grew up in her grandparents' care, and she's not sure she's comfortable with the idea of renting it out to total strangers. Despite her misgivings, Cain convinces her to give WeStay a go and they prepare the lakeside property for visitors. At first, things seem to be working out for them, but Lina soon starts receiving troubling text messages and a weekend away at Lake Tarawera turns into a nightmarish experience for herself and Cain. Who's behind the threats to their privacy and safety, and can things ever return to the way they were before? Given that the pivotal high-action thriller sequence in The Last Guests takes place at around the halfway mark, Pomare structures his plot masterfully to maintain tension and mystery to the end. There's a palpable sense of lurking menace throughout, and plenty of foreshadowing, while several unexpected twists and turns await the reader by the conclusion. While both Lina and Cain are flawed characters, they're sufficiently well-developed to engage the reader's sympathy and investment in their fates. Having visited Rotorua and the beautiful Lake Tarawera region a couple of decades ago, I appreciated the quintessentially New Zealand setting created by Pomare - an aspect of his writing with which readers dedicated to his work will already be familiar. I'd highly recommend The Last Guests to all readers who enjoy top-notch thriller / suspense, with compelling plots, believable characters and great settings. My thanks to author J.P. Pomare, publisher Hachette Australia and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this outstanding title.
Book Review: The Last Guests by J.P. Pomare - Reviewed by CloggieA (25 Jul 2021)
5 stars The Last Guests is the fourth novel by New Zealand-born Australian author, J.P. Pomare. Lina’s dream of wedded bliss with Cain, a quiet family life in the lake house she inherited from her grandparents, has been dealt a few blows. Her sweet, loving elite soldier has returned from Afghanistan damaged, physically and psychologically.
The physical has cost. The mental, too: nightmares and secrets; and Cain’s personal training business isn’t his only unsuccessful gamble. Lina tries to relieve the financial strain with extra shifts in her job as a paramedic. A failed pregnancy, and a lacklustre love life: is it any wonder she seeks a little spice (and maybe something else) on a dating app?
It’s definitely a one-off. Except for one tiny thing…
Cain’s quick to notice the missing wedding ring, a family heirloom, but Lina covers. His SAS friend, Axel’s suggestion that they put the lake house on the WeStay website to rent out has Lina wary, but grateful for the distraction. The money would be welcome, and eventually, Lina dismisses worries over the horror stories at international WeStay homes and agrees. But she and Cain cannot possibly anticipate the terrifying experience ahead.
What a page-turner! Pomare gives the reader! Lots of twists and turns and distractions as Lina gets herself entangled in an increasingly complicated web with all the lies she feels compelled to tell. Will the consequences of her risky choice of self-indulgence gain Lina any sympathy with readers?
Pomare presents the concept of online streaming of candid video footage for paying viewers as scarily believable, and he’ll certainly have readers thinking twice about AirBnB-type services. This is a cleverly plotted thriller that will keep readers guessing right up to the last pages. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Hachette Australia.
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