Book Review – ‘Catch Us The Foxes’ by Nicola West

TITLE: Catch Us The Foxes
AUTHOR: Nicola West
GENRE: Thriller/Suspense
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 320 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Simon & Schuster Australia on July 7th, 2021
RRP: $32.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

Some secrets you try to hide. Others you don’t dare let out … Twin Peaks meets The Dry in a deliciously dark and twisted tale that unravels a small town

Ambitious young journalist Marlowe ‘Lo’ Robertson would do anything to escape the suffocating confines of her small home town. While begrudgingly covering the annual show for the local paper, Lo is horrified to discover the mutilated corpse of Lily Williams, the reigning showgirl and Lo’s best friend. Seven strange symbols have been ruthlessly carved into Lily’s back. But when Lo reports her grisly find to the town’s police chief, he makes her promise not to tell anyone about the symbols. Lo obliges, though it’s not like she has much of a choice – after all, he is also her father.

When Lily’s murder makes headlines around the country and the town is invaded by the media, Lo seizes the opportunity to track down the killer and make a name for herself by breaking the biggest story of her life.

What Lo uncovers is that her sleepy home town has been harbouring a deadly secret, one so shocking that it will captivate the entire nation. Lo’s story will change the course of her life forever, but in a way she could never have dreamed of.

I’m certain that CATCH US THE FOXES will throw even the most genre savvy reader off their game, I challenge anyone to predict how this plot unfolds! If you’re a fan of twisty thrillers that keep you guessing, this debut novel by Nicola West fits the bill to perfection. One moment you’ll be utterly convinced you know where the story is going, then in the next heartbeat, a blindside clobbers you over the head and leaves you reeling! 

Our (anti-)heroine Marlow is an interesting figure as she should be easy to root for in her mission to uncover the truth behind her friend’s murder, and yet she also potentially alienates the reader at some points with her cold aloofness and cynical worldview. I enjoy a good ‘unlikable heroine’ so her character worked for me as I like reading about female protagonists who are flawed and have sharp edges, who don’t conform to what’s expected of them. 

And if we’re being honest, we all sometimes (or even often) have very problematic thoughts that we would never admit to out loud, and while it won’t endear Lo to some readers, I liked seeing her in all her tarnished glory. Is it ghoulish of Lo to be so desperate to be given the job of writing an article on Lily’s murder so she can make a name for herself? Sure it is. But I found her character more intriguing and compelling as a lead because of how three-dimensional she was, how the author wasn’t afraid to lean into her more raw, ugly nature instead of keeping her as a sanitized do-gooder.

This book is polarizing readers who either love it or hate it. While I don’t agree with all the criticism, there are some fair points to be made, for instance, I understand how the subversion of a specific real-life pagan ritual to incorporate child sacrifice would be hurtful to followers of that faith and the depiction of locals from the town of Kiama as violently narrow-minded homophobes is obviously going to offend locals from that very real town in Australia. Their feelings on the matter are entirely valid, but personally, I read everything in this as a work of fiction without any bearing on real people or beliefs, and in that light, it was a success as the story hooked me from the first page and effortlessly captured my attention the whole way through. 

CATCH US THE FOXES is a dark and gripping thriller with an eerie atmosphere that becomes almost claustrophobic as we spiral down the rabbit hole with Lo in the process of untangling a haunting conspiracy that reaches back into her childhood. You won’t know what to believe and that’s half the fun of this uniquely imaginative and unconventional Gothic tale.

Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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