Monday, April 5, 2021


TELL ME LIES by JP Pomare (Hachette Australia, 2020)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Psychologist Margot Scott has a picture-perfect life: a nice house in the suburbs, a husband, two children, and a successful career. On a warm spring morning, Margot spots one of her clients on a busy train platform. He is looking down at his phone, with his duffel bag in hand as the train approaches. That’s when she slams into his back and he falls in front of the train. Suddenly, one tragedy leads to another leaving her, her family, and her patients in danger. As misfortune unfolds, listeners will soon question Margot’s true role in all of these unfortunate events.

Melbourne based, award-winning Māori storyteller JP Pomare (Ngāpuhi) is one of the most exciting thriller writing voices to emerge in the past couple of years, from Australasia or anywhere. 
Barely two years after his debut CALL ME EVIE was officially launched at a McLeod's Booksellers event to kickstart the first-ever Rotorua Noir festival, Pomare has firmly established himself as a massively talented author who consistently delivers great, and quite different, reads. 

His third book, TELL ME LIES, began life as an Audible Original and has now been made available in print form. Although slightly shorter than Pomare's excellent first two novels CALL ME EVIE and IN THE CLEARING, it once again demonstrates his mastery of the psychological thriller form. 

TELL ME LIES opens with psychologist Margot Scott attacking one of her clients on a train platform. What provoked, or could justify, this violent act from someone who is meant to help others? Pomare then guides us through a web of deceit as Margot’s seemingly perfect life is upended by her interactions with a suite of clients, including the seemingly charming man she spotted on the train platform. 

Pomare keeps the pace up as Margot's life unravels, and she's taken to some very dark places - suspecting a variety of her clients of being up to no good, and getting herself into all sorts of trouble, leading up to the violent act on the train platform (then through its aftermath). Pomare creates an intricate plot populated by some intriguing characters beyond our heroine - who may divide readers with her approach to various things. Margot is certainly fascinating, if not always 'likable'. 

In a sea of psychological thrillers, Pomare elevates himself with the quality of his writing and his characterisation. Pacy, full of twists, TELL ME LIES turns readers inside out, alternatively sure then unsure we know where it’s heading. Emotional switchbacks. Like Margot, readers will suspect we’re being manipulated too - while being able to enjoy the journey far more than she can.

Pomare set the bar extremely high with his first two novels, which topped bestseller lists in New Zealand and were shortlisted for numerous awards on both sides of the Tasman. While TELL ME LIES is a leaner tale that perhaps doesn't show Pomare at his fullest powers, overall it's another very, very good read (or listen) from a huge talent. I can't wait for the next book from JP Pomare. 

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at festivals on three continents. He's been a judge of Australian, Scottish, and NZ crime writing awards, and is co-founder of Rotorua Noir. His first non-fiction book, SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, was published in 2020. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

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