When her 29 year old daughter Paulina goes missing on a sleepy Pacific island, Judy Novak suspects the worst. Her fears are soon realised, as Paulina’s body is discovered. Murdered.
Every man on the island is a suspect, yet none are as maligned as Paulina herself, the captivating newcomer known for her hard drinking, disastrous relationships, and habit of walking alone. But even death won’t stop Judy Novak from fighting for her daughter’s life.
A scintillating new thriller, inspired by real events, that puts the victim at the centre.
Thank you firstly to the publisher of this book for my gifted finished paperback copy of The Newcomer. I like crime fiction and small town vibes so this book hugely appealed. My initial thoughts were how much I didn’t like either Paulina or her mother. The story was told in a then and now format so ‘then’ being from the time Paulina moved to Fairfolk and the ‘now’ from when she went missing and was subsequently found dead. It took a while to become familiar with the characters and I found myself tracking back to check, but also feeling slightly confused. That said as the story progressed I found myself increasingly engaged in the story and the circumstances leading up to Paulina’s death.
Truthfully it took me about a hundred pages before I became fully invested in the book and it’s characters. Paulina is a ‘harsh’ character, rude to everyone and emotionally labile. It wasn’t until I got to know her better that I appreciated more her problems relating to alcohol and mental health. Her mother was similarly abrasive but again as the story unfolded the unique warmth between these two characters emerged. I was surprised how my initial feelings shifted and I finished the book feeling sympathetic towards both female characters. Paulina was particularly vulnerable, needy and fragile and this translated as abusive and abused and her move to the Island of Fairfolk exposed her to the hostilities of the locals on a regular basis, her personality maintaining her ‘otherness’ right up to her death.
Rather than a traditional crime story this book was more of a character study, of Paulina in life and then through the eyes of others in death. I loved this book and after a slow start fled through the remaining pages. The death of Paulina is the heart of this story, and her murder – the circumstances surrounding her death became secondary. In truth she was treated appallingly and any number of men could have been her killer. Her fragility was disguised by her caustic manner, her defence always to push back.
Some of the dialogue took some getting used to, but the writing was accessible and the book a quick read. The author was skilled at exposing the vulnerabilities of Paulina related to her alcohol use. With themes of mental illness, alcohol and sexual violence this book won’t be for everyone. The writing is direct, at times bordering on brutal but I liked the fact that nothing was avoided. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking for a detailed character driven novel, in a remote setting with a murder to be solved.
Thanks again to Scribe Books for reaching out and gifting me a copy of this book.
About the Author
Laura Elizabeth Woollett is the author of a short story collection, The Love of a Bad Man (Scribe, 2016) and a novel, Beautiful Revolutionary (Scribe, 2018). The Love of a Bad Man was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for fiction and the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction. Beautiful Revolutionary was shortlisted for the 2019 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, and the Kathleen Mitchell Award. Laura was the City of Melbourne’s 2020 Boyd Garret writer-in-residence and is a 2020-22 Marten Bequest scholar for prose.