Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
PUBLISHED BY HACHETTE
REVIEW BY ANITA LAURIDSEN
I love a good edge-of-your-seat read and so, when I saw that Call Me Evie by J. P. Pomare was being billed by publishers as the literary thriller of 2019, I was duly excited. Even better, the hype surrounding its January 2019 release promised that it would appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects and Emma Donoghue’s Room. Wow! High praise indeed, but also rather large boots to fill. Did it live up to the brouhaha? The short answer is a resounding no. However, it was still quite entertaining – perfect beach-reading fodder, in fact.
Kate Bennet (aka Evie) is the 17-year-old protagonist who has been abducted by a middle-aged man known only as Jim, and whisked away from her Melbourne home to a remote New Zealand cabin near the coast. Why he has done this is the mystery at the heart of this novel. The creepiness factor is introduced here as well as the pair’s relationship seems much more intimate than the usual abductor-abductee scenario. Is it perhaps Stockholm syndrome that leads Evie to react so compliantly to Jim’s ministrations (shaving her head, feeding her pills, taking photos of her ... and so on)?
Told in alternating sections ‘before’ and ‘after’, the events that are drip-fed to us in the ‘before’ chapters serve to reveal some of Kate’s backstory. The disjunctive nature of the narrative is unsettling and certainly increases the tension. As well, we’re never entirely sure how reliable Evie’s narration is. Her ‘Uncle’ Jim would have her – and us – believe that she has committed some terrible crime and that, in this way, rather than her captor, he casts himself in the role of her protector.
To reveal too much more about the plot would involve spoilers – always a bummer when these are revealed in reviews about psychological thrillers. Suffice to say that there are red herrings aplenty and some unexpected twists and turns.
I didn’t feel that Pomare plumbed the possibilities of setting in sufficient depth. This read could have been a lot more atmospheric had he dialled up his descriptions of the wild coastal setting and made more of the hostile and somewhat menacing local population.
So, although this didn’t quite meet the yardstick promised by the hype, Call Me Evie still has enough to recommend it as an engaging read. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to avoid getting caught up in Kate’s desperate mission to not only escape, but also decode her fuzzy memories of a possible crime committed back in Melbourne.
I have to be honest and confess that the elements I found disappointing (mainly the underplayed setting and the flat characterisation) almost had me relegating this book to my DNF pile, but I’m glad that I persevered. This isn’t necessarily that taut or surprising or haunting, unlike other books I have read in the same genre, but it is good escapist fare. Besides, it would be a boring world if we all liked the same thing – give it a go; you just might love it.
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.