Home Before Night by J. P. Pomare

Reviewed by Rod McLary

Home Before Night is JP Pomare’s sixth novel and, like the author’s previous books, it contains at its heart a dark secret.  Lou and Marko are driving home from an engagement party.  Marko is driving, clearly too drunk to be doing so, and an accident occurs involving a cyclist.  They leave the scene – abandoning the victim – and together swear never to speak of the accident again.  But the strain of maintaining the secret ultimately proves too much for their relationship and the marriage fails.

Nineteen years later, Lou is an alcoholic living with her nineteen-year-old son Samuel; while Marko has remarried and has a young child.  But the secret is always there in the background and its existence reverberates through the novel.

The novel is set in Melbourne during a Covid-19 lockdown.  At 8.00pm, the lockdown begins and everyone is obliged to remain where they are at that time for the period of lockdown.  Samuel has not returned home and claims he is at his girlfriend’s house.  But everything suggests that he is not.  An earlier YouTube message from Samuel  is seen by Lou as his knowing the secret – What if the truth doesn’t set you free.  What if the truth is the cage? [45].

To this point, the novel is essentially a straightforward psychological thriller exposing how secrets and deceit determine the protagonists’ lives by creating a prism through which they view the world.  Lou is constrained in how she can respond to Samuel’s disappearance as she cannot go to the police because of her fear that the secret will come out.  Compounding her fear is her realisation that ‘Samuel knows what happened.  He knows the truth’ [131].  But which truth?

In Part Two of the novel, the story is turned around completely.  Whatever conclusions the reader may have come to by this stage of the novel can now be discarded.  The ‘second’ truth to emerge is far more serious with broader implications than the first.  The clues are present in the first part of the novel but are cleverly and ambiguously stated so that any conclusions drawn by the reader will be shown to be incorrect.  The narrative arc now moves beyond being a psychological thriller towards one which culminates in violence and bloodshed.

As the author does so well in his other books, he is able to turn the trajectory of the narrative on its head and introduces a tense and bloody stand-off.  Despite the consequences to herself and Marko, Lou is prepared to do anything to protect Samuel.  The novel concludes with Lou telling herself – ‘It all works out in the end’ [189].

Home Before Night is a rather short novel concluding after just 189 pages.  The balance of the book [almost another 100 pages] is an extract from JP Pomare’s novel Seventeen Years Later to be published in 2024.  While it is not uncommon for extracts of future novels to be included at the end of the current one, it must be rare to have so much of the next book ahead of time.  But a great deal is packed into those 189 pages.  As well as the secrets contaminating the lives of Lou and Marko, their invidious effect is transmitted to the life of Samuel.  As he says: I will inherit this secret and carry it around for the rest of my life … I know what to do [185].

Another enjoyable psychological novel from J P Pomare; he has again produced a tense and thrilling novel.  Highly recommended.

Home Before Night


by J P Pomare


ISBN 978 073364 954 7

$32.99; 282pp

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