Nicola West’s “Catch Us the Foxes” builds up to a blinding revelation few readers will anticipate.
Now, I’m a sucker for a killer twist, but it’s got to be earned. The clues need to be planted and visible to the reader, just presented in a fashion that mystifies until they’re reshuffled and, suddenly — a-ha!
It’s not an easy thing to accomplish. The author must play with our perceptions while showing us everything in plain sight. Which is the problem I had here. This dramatic curveball isn’t orchestrated with sleight of hand, but through a rather crude retconning of events we’ve just witnessed.
This spoiled some of my experience with young journalist Marlowe ‘Lo’ Robertson and her investigation into the murder of her friend Lily Williams, and the strange symbols carved into her back. It’s not that the twist isn’t a good one conceptually; it’s the inelegance of its unveiling. And I think the novel would’ve been better without it. Read it for yourself and get back to me.
Excluding its prologue and epilogue, “Catch Us the Foxes” is presented as Lo’s true crime book “The Showgirl’s Secret.” This has no stylistic impact on proceedings; the whole thing reads like a regular thriller, which thankfully reads exceptionally well. “Foxes” is a fast-paced mystery populated with an eclectic cast of potential suspects, and hints at a larger mystery involving the entire population of Kiama. West writes short, sharp chapters that end on compelling cliffhangers, and enticed me to binge large chunks at a time. I always wanted to know what happened next, and see the mystery through to its climax.
I do believe “Catch Us the Foxes” would have benefited from the cold-hearted cutting of its biggest twist. But there’s little question West has immense talent, and a clear penchant for trickery. She reads like a fusion of James Patterson and Harlan Coben. I’m excited to follow her career from here.
Number Of Pages: 384
Available: 7th July 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia