Fiction – paperback; Harper Collins; 284 pages; 2020.
Terrifying. Horrifying. Disturbing. All these words spring to mind when trying to sum up Gabriel Bergmoser’s high-octane suspense novel The Hunted.
Set somewhere in the Australian outback (there are no place names in this book), it’s a scary mix of Wolf Creek meets Wake in Fright with a dash of Fear is the Rider and The Dead Heart thrown in for good measure.
I raced through it with my heart in my throat one moment and feeling like I was going to gag the next. Yes, it’s an incredibly visceral read and not always pleasant because it features some pretty gruesome scenes. You have been warned.
Service station standoff
The story focuses on Frank, a service station owner, who runs his business single-handedly on a little-used highway in the middle of nowhere.
His teenage granddaughter, Allie, whom he barely knows, is staying with him for a few weeks. Allie has been having problems at school, so her parents figured taking her out of her normal city environment might help “fix her attitude”. Yet the pair rarely see each other because Frank spends long hours at the servo and Allie sleeps late.
But one morning their quiet existence is shattered when a car pulls into the service station and a badly injured, blood-soaked woman falls out. She’s being pursued by a mob who seemingly want to kill her — and they’ve done a pretty good job of nearly doing that so far.
What happens next is an adrenaline-fuelled high stakes drama involving Frank, Allie and a group of customers who band together to protect the almost-dying woman from further danger, while they themselves get caught up in a terrifying standoff that occurs on Frank’s property involving crazed men, guns and explosions.
Woman on the run
To escalate the tension even further in this super-fast-paced novel, the author includes a second narrative thread, which goes back in time to tell the story of Maggie, the badly injured woman.
In chapters headed “Then”, which alternate with others headed “Now”, we learn how Maggie hooks up with a fellow backpacker on the road to experience the “real” Australia, only to land in an isolated country town where everything is not what it seems.
What Maggie discovers in that town triggers a massive road chase in which she becomes “the hunted” of the title. I can’t really reveal more than that for fear of ruining the plot, but let’s just say it’s pretty grim…
Too much violence
As much as I enjoyed the page-turning suspense of this novel (I ate it up in a day unable to tear my eyes away), I had issues with some of the violence in The Hunted, because it often felt gratuitous. On more than one occasion, I felt nauseous reading visceral descriptions of what happens to human bodies when they’re beaten or shot at.
Making one of the lead characters female doesn’t alleviate the misogyny in this book either. I felt sickened by the men in this novel and the ways in which they got off on doing horrible things to women.
Yes, I know it’s fiction and I know it’s supposed to be a thrilling horror story, but I question the author’s motivations: what is the point of the violence and the misogyny? If it was written in the 1970s or 1980s it might be understandable, but this is the 21st century — surely our attitudes have moved on and we don’t need to be titillated by this kind of content?
According to the book’s publishers, a film adaptation of The Hunted is currently being developed in a joint production between two US companies. It certainly has all those qualities that mainstream Hollywood loves: car chases, guns, explosions — and death. I don’t think I could bare to watch it…
About the author¹: Gabriel Bergmoser is an award-winning Melbourne-based author and playwright. He won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award in 2015, was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards at the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. In 2016, his first young adult novel, Boone Shepard, was shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize. (1. Source: Harper Collins Australia website.)
Where to buy: Widely available in most territories.
This is my 4th book for #SouthernCrossCrime2021 which I am hosting on this blog between 1st March and 31st March. To find out more, including how to take part and to record what you have read, please click here.
It is also my 6th for #TBR21 in which I’m planning to read 21 books from my TBR between 1 January and 31 May 2021.
6 thoughts on “‘The Hunted’ by Gabriel Bergmoser”
I don’t like Australian novels without fixed locations, but that’s just me. I want my authors to take the time to situate the novel somewhere real.
But of course the point of a novel like this is the Action – my least favourite genre. And like you, I believe that a lot of the detail is gratuitous, that authors cater for readers who get off on violence, and particularly violence against women.
The location is generic “outback” which is enough for readers to understand because, as you point out, this is about action and it doesn’t really matter if the location isn’t too specific; it’s more about the feel of the place (remote, isolated etc). I actually really enjoyed the novel until I reached the standoff bits which were pretty gruesome. In his acknowledgements at the end, the author mentions he didn’t think it would get published because of the subject matter so he clearly knew it was gratuitous.
Thanks for the mention of “gratuitous” violence. I read a lot of mysteries/thrillers, and at some point I guess we all have to decide what level of violence we’re comfortable with. I always avoid slasher-sounding stuff.
Yes, it’s been a very long time since I’ve read a book so overtly violent. The thing is the high level suspense would have been enough to sustain the novel so I don’t understand why the violence was included. I get it’s a shoot out and people are trying to kill each other and the men on the rampage aren’t very nice people (understatement!!) but even Quentin Tarantino knows when to pull the camera away so it’s left up to the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks. The same could have been done here and the book would have been the better for it.
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This one definitely sounds like a pulse-pounding experience! The gratuitous violence might steer me away from it though. I don’t mind a little bloodshed but it sounds like this gets pretty gruesome.