I’m really and truly thrown by the authorial decision here to set a gothic thriller featuring a child-hunting group of cultists in a real-life small town. It’s one thing to base a fictional town on a real one, or to set a story in a major city, but to basically demonise the entire town of Kiama as full of homophobes and cultists is, well. It’s not a decision I’d have made.
And to make the main character asexual and also imply that this means they lack empathy [spoiler] and make them into a sociopath complicit in awful crimes and cover-ups [/end spoiler] is just another incomprehensible decision.
There is actually a really remarkable message here about the stigmatization of mental illness, and the fact that people would rather believe in outlandish conspiracy theories rather than tragic truths about human frailties, and it’s completely ruined by the ‘twist’ in the last couple of pages. A twist that, in my opinion, actually totally messed up the book and destroyed a lot of the excellent work that had been done up to that point. Without that entirely unnecessary twist, I would probably have given this book four stars - it was always losing one because of the bizarre decision to use a real small town as the location - but with it? Two stars, for equating asexuality and sociopathy and validating the outlandish conspiracy theories. The only reason it’s not getting one star is that the writing is genuinely excellent and I was truly engaged in the story right up until that last page.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.