You’ve probably noticed that I’ve read and reviewed quite a few books written by Australian authors recently, and here comes another one. I’m not sure why, but I suspect this won’t be the last one either.
The Nowhere Child: The bestselling debut psychological thriller you need to read in 2019 by Christian White
A little girl went missing years ago. That child is you.
A dark and gripping debut psychological thriller that won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, previously won by THE DRY and THE ROSIE PROJECT.
‘Read page one, and you won’t stop. Guaranteed’ Jeffery Deaver
A child was stolen twenty years ago
Little Sammy Went vanishes from her home in Manson, Kentucky – an event that devastates her family and tears apart the town’s deeply religious community.
And somehow that missing girl is you
Kim Leamy, an Australian photographer, is approached by a stranger who turns her world upside down – he claims she is the kidnapped Sammy and that everything she knows about herself is based on a lie.
How far will you go to uncover the truth?
In search of answers, Kim returns to the remote town of Sammy’s childhood to face up to the ghosts of her early life. But the deeper she digs into her family background the more secrets she uncovers… And the closer she gets to confronting the trauma of her dark and twisted past.
“A nervy, soulful, genuinely surprising it-could-happen-to-you thriller ― a book to make you peer over your shoulder for days afterwards.”―A.J. Finn, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
“A stunning debut…White skillfully creates a credible story filled with surprises and realistic characters worth caring about.”―Associated Press
“The Nowhere Child is the personification of a high-concept thriller, brilliantly executed. White raises the bar on psychological suspense, telling Kim Leamy’s tale in a stylish voice and with a heart-pounding pace. Read page one, and you won’t stop. Guaranteed.”―Jeffery Deaver, New York Times bestselling author
“The Nowhere Child is compelling and intense. The alternating chapters between past and present are perfectly paced and masterfully written to maximize suspense and lead us down a path of love, hate, redemption, and―ultimately―hope. I literally could not put this book down until I turned the last page. The best debut novel I’ve read in years.”―Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author of the Lucy Kincaid and Max Revere series
“The Nowhere Child is pure dynamite. The high concept premise grabbed me from the first page and refused to let me go until I finished. You may try to read it slowly, so you can savor every single word, but the story is so all-encompassing―the need to know what happens next so urgent―you’ll forget all about savoring and find yourself tearing through the pages as fast as your fingers can manage. You do not want to miss this book!”―Linda Castillo, New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Burkholder series
“The Nowhere Child is a well-written thriller that avoids the clichés of the genre. The characters are interesting and believable and the book kept me reading up to the satisfying conclusion.” ―Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author of The Third Victim
“An impressive debut novel, deftly plotted, constantly shifting and full of vivid characters.”― Garry Disher, author of the Inspector Challis mysteries
“White skillfully builds an uncertain, noxious world of dysfunctional families and small-town secrets. The Nowhere Child is a gripping debut from an exceptional new talent.”― Mark Brandi, Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award-Winning author of Wimmera
“Such a clever idea, which grips from the very first chapter.”―Ragnar Jonasson, author of Snowblind
“Beautifully written, perfectly suspenseful and wonderfully dark. I could not put this book down.”― Susi Holliday, author of The Deaths of December
“Packed with tension, twists and tremendous pace, it’s hard to believe that this is the work of a debut author. The Nowhere Child is stunning and flawless. I can’t recommend it enough.”― Thomas Enger, author of Burned
“The Nowhere Child is a fabulous read, populated by such well-drawn and identifiable characters that I felt I knew them. I was desperate to know how the story unfolded. Brilliant!”― Louise Voss, author of From the Cradle
“[An] outstanding debut. By juxtaposing past and present, the author keeps the tension high. The impatient may be tempted to skip ahead, but they shouldn’t. Thriller fans will want to savor every crumb of evidence and catch every clue. White is definitely a writer to watch.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In this stunning first novel, White weaves stories within stories while keeping the thrilling mystery alive. [A] tightly woven debut thriller.”―Library Journal (starred review)
“White has written a “returning-to-your-southern-roots” tale with a difference; Kim is exploring
roots she never knew she had, and the journey is as bumpy and fraught with bewildered feelings as readers
might imagine. This worthwhile story of a woman’s quest for the truth will work with women’s-fiction readers as well as mystery fans.”―Booklist
“A very auspicious debut…A tightly written book with a dynamite plot.”―Toronto Globe and Mail
About the author:
Christian White is an Australian author and screenwriter. His debut novel, The Nowhere Child, won the 2017 Wheeler Centre Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript, and will be published in June through Affirm Press and in multiple territories around the world in 2019.
He also co-created the television series Carnivores, currently in development with Matchbox Pictures and Heyday TV, and co-wrote Relic, a psychological horror feature film to be produced by Carver Films (The Snowtown Murders, Partisan). The film has received funding support through Screen Australia and Film Victoria, and will be directed by Natalie Erika James. He has written several short films that have screened at film festivals around the world, including Creswick, which won Best Short Form Script at the 2017 Australian Writers’ Guild AWGIE Awards.
Born and raised on the Mornington Peninsula, Christian had an eclectic range of ‘day jobs’ before he was able to write fulltime, including food-cart driver on a golf course and video editor for an adult film company. He now spends his days writing from home in Melbourne, where he lives with his wife, filmmaker Summer DeRoche, and their adopted greyhound, Issy. He has a passion for true crime podcasts, Stephen King and anything to do with Bigfoot.
The Nowhere Child is his first book. He’s working on his second.
Follow Christian White on Twitter.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collins for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.
I’ve read quite a few books by Australian writers recently (Liane Moriarty, Jane Harper, Liza Perrat), and although very different, I enjoyed all of them and could not resist when I saw this novel, especially as it had won an award Harper’s first novel The Dry also won.
Although part of this novel is set in Australia, it is not the largest or the most important part of it. This novel is set in two time frames and in two places, and the distance in time and space seems abysmal at times. The novel starts with a bang. Kim, the main protagonist, an Australian photographer in her late twenties, receives an unexpected visit and some even more unexpected news. This part of the story, the “now”, is narrated in the first person from Kim’s point of view, and that has the effect of putting the readers in her place and making them wonder what they would do and how they would feel if suddenly their lives were turned on their heads, and they discovered everything they thought they knew about themselves, their families, and their identities, was a lie. She is a quiet woman, and although she gets on well with her stepfather and her half-sister, and she badly misses her mother, who died a little while back, she’s always been quite different to the rest of the members of her family, and enjoys her own company more than socialising. There are also strange dreams that bother her from time to time. So, although she does not want to believe it when the stranger tells her she was abducted from a small town in Kentucky as a little girl, she is not as surprised as she should be. At this point, we seem to be in the presence of a domestic drama, one where family secrets are perhaps a bit darker than we are used to, but the plot seems in keeping with the genre. And most of the “now” section of the book is closer in tone and atmosphere to that genre.
But we have the other part. The “then”, written in the third person, from a variety of characters’ points of view. Readers who dislike head-hopping don’t need to worry, though, because each chapter in the “past” section is told from only one character’s point of view, and it is quite clear who that is, avoiding any possible confusion. The story of the background to the kidnapping, and the investigation that followed, is told from the point of view of members of little Sammy’s family, the sheriff (I really liked him), neighbours of the town, and other characters that at first we might not grasp how they are related to the story, but it all ends up making sense eventually. This part of the novel feels much more gripping and dynamic than the other, and although we don’t always follow the characters for very long, the author manages to create credible and sympathetic (or not so sympathetic) individuals, some that we get to feel for and care, and even when they do some pretty horrible things, most of them feel realistic and understandable. And the story of what happened in the past makes for a pretty dark combination of thriller and mystery, well-paced and gripping.
I don’t want to give too much away, but I must say the town of Manson of the novel is a place that seems right out of a dark fairy tale, and I kept thinking of the opening titles of the TV series True Blood (not because of any supernatural thing, but because of some of the images that appear there). While some of the scenes seem typical of a small town in the middle of nowhere, others reminded me of Southern Gothic novels, and, a word of warning: there is violence, and there are scenes that can be terrifying to some readers (although no, this is not a horror novel, the author is not lying when he says he admires and has learned a lot from Stephen King). The story is full of secrets, red-herrings and confusing information, clues that seem clear but are not, and Kim/Sammy is a woman who keeps her emotions to herself, understandably so considering the circumstances. I am not sure many readers will connect with Kim straight away because of her personality, but I understand the author’s choice. If she was an emotional wreck all the time, it would be impossible for her to do what she does and to learn the truth, and the novel would be unbearable to read, more of a melodrama than a thriller or a dark mystery. The part of the story that deals with the present helps reduce the tension somewhat while keeping the intrigue ticking, and although it feels slow and sedate compared to the other part, it does ramp up as they dig into the past and the two stories advance towards their resolution.
Without going into detail, I can say that I enjoyed the ending, and although I suspected what was coming, I only realised what was likely to happen very late in the story. Despite this being the author’s first novel, his screenwriting experience is evident, and he has a knack for creating unforgettable scenes. This is a novel destined to become a movie, for sure, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.
This is not a typical mystery or thriller, and although it has elements of the domestic noir, it is perhaps more extreme and darker than others I have read in that genre. We have a very young child being kidnapped; we have murder, extreme religious beliefs, prejudice, postnatal depression, a dysfunctional family, snakes, secrets, lies, child abuse, and more. If you are looking for an intriguing read, don’t mind different timelines and narrators, and are not put off by difficult subjects and scary scenes, you must read this one.
Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!
Ah, and in case you’ve never watched True Blood and don’t know what I’m talking about…