The Wrong Woman by J. P. Pomare

Reviewed by Rod McLary

J P Pomare has had – and continues to have – an interesting writing career.  His first novel – Call Me Evie – was published in 2018 and was awarded the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel.  Three more books followed and now The Wrong Woman has now been published.  It has already been longlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel Award.  A very positive outcome for a young crime writer who is always as he says ‘drawn to the dark’.

Isabel Allende once said ‘we all have demons in the dark recesses of our soul’ and The Wrong Woman can be read as a novel exposing some of those demons – and doing it rather brilliantly.  I have now read as a reviewer each of the author’s five novels and have seen his continuing development as a crime writer.  But his books are not simply crime stories – they also expose the demons in the souls of the protagonists and demonstrate what people are capable of when feeling fearful, threatened or protective.

A continuing theme of the author through all his books is the lies, obfuscations and deceit practised by some of his characters.  It is no different in The Wrong Woman.  It begins with what seems to be a single vehicle accident resulting in the death of one person and the hospitalisation of another.  Vince Reid – known simply as Reid throughout the novel – is a private investigator hired to look into the crash.  The investigation brings him back to the small American town which he had left in disgrace ten years previously.  Reid’s backstory and the reasons for his leaving are gradually revealed as the narrative arc unfolds.

The chapters of the book are told in first person alternately by Reid [headed ‘Reid Now’] and by Eshana [‘Eshana Before’].  Eshana is one of the two people in the vehicle and ‘before’ refers to before the accident.  As Reid investigates the accident, the ‘Eshana’ chapters detail the events leading up to the accident – and ultimately how and why it occurred.

Running in parallel to Reid’s investigation is the disappearance of two local teenage girls and inevitably the two storylines at first intersect and then collide.  Managing the storylines as well as Reid’s backstory without losing momentum or tension would be a challenge for any writer but is one skilfully met by J P Pomare.  Lies and obfuscations are everywhere and sorting out the truth demands the attention of the reader from beginning to end.  And it is really only at the end of the novel that the reader finds out what did happen with the accident, the teenage girls – and to Reid ten years ago.

Alongside those narratives is a rather intricate mystery involving a missing thumb drive, a seed phrase [which is a kind of password] and a small fortune in cryptocurrency.  The key to the mystery is provided by an unexpected source and the solution resolves a number of questions which up to that point are unanswered.

There is an assuredness of touch in this book which perhaps is an outcome of the author continuing to hone his craft as he creates each of his novels.  The characterisations here are perhaps more accomplished here than in one or two of his previous novels as is evidenced by [for example] the gradual revealing of Reid’s backstory and the complexity of his family circumstances.

The Wrong Woman is well recommended to all readers of literary crime fiction.

The Wrong Woman


by J. P. Pomare


ISBN 978 188971 819 0

$32.99; pp



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