Many marriages have fault lines that, if exposed, will lead to significantly fraught consequences. Such is the case in Lina and Cain’s marriage; as it is depicted in the latest novel by New Zealand author J.P. Pomare, “The Last Guests”. This is Pomare’s (who resides in Melbourne) fourth novel; one in which he obsequiously ramps up the tension, until it reaches a crescendo in which long held secrets painfully emerge.
The novel’s two protagonists – Lina and Cain – quietly reside in the “happening” New Zealand city of Auckland. Pomare has chosen a first person narrative for Lina’s character; a somewhat interesting decision on Pomare’s part, given that he is quite obviously male. Lina is a paramedic in Auckland and meticulously dedicated to her job, and is particularly outstanding at it. Cain, on the other hand, exhibits deep seated problems. He has previously served with the New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan, and has returned home painfully scarred both physically and mentally. He is vehemently overwhelmed with guilt (the reason for which is fully disclosed late in the book) and nightmares, and spends his days in a fog of complacency and idleness (he destructively gambles, drinks and can never seem to get his personal training business – Commando Fitness – off the ground).
It emerges that Lina and Cain, who have been together seven years, have lost a baby through miscarriage and have before and since this heartbreaking event had fertility issues due to Cain’s low sperm count. Lina boldly, and obviously foolishly, decides impulsively to arrange a sordid one night stand with a man, Daniel, who she meets via a dating app (she is hoping to fall pregnant as a result of the encounter, and make Cain believe that he is the father). Daniel is a straightforward country boy, and nothing could go wrong – or could it?
Lina owns a rustic house at Lake Tarawera, some 20 kilometeres out from Rotarua, which was left to her by her grandparents. Lina and Cain have dreams of moving there and raising their longed for family, but when Daniel (or is it Daniel?) finds and terrorises them at the lake house, and Lina kills Daniel, have all Lina and Cain’s dreams come crashing down, or is there a way out for them?
Interwoven in the plot is the existence of a streaming service called “Peephole”. This phenomena entails cameras being installed in private dwellings, and people around the world being able to observe remotely the private goings on inside people’s residences. Someone has installed cameras for Peephole in the lake house and where Lina had her illicit rendezvous with Daniel. The notion of Cybercrime is thus deftly observed in a menacing way.
The twists and turns in this superbly written thriller are abundant. Just as we, as readers, feel the novel is taking one direction, it forcefully leads us down another – sometimes sinister – route. I really enjoyed this book, and I recommend it for anyone wanting a rollercoaster ride of a tale, in which the flaws and shortcomings in individuals and relationships are expertly exposed with understanding, and even compassion.