20 books of summer, 20 books of summer (2021), Australian Women Writers Challenge, Author, AWW2021, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, Fremantle Press, London, Publisher, Setting, Zoe Deleuil

‘The Night Village’ by Zoe Deleuil

Fiction – paperback; Fremantle Press; 244 pages; 2021. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Zoe Deleuil’s debut novel, The Night Village, is billed as a thriller, but it’s more accurate to describe it as a quietly unsettling portrait of new motherhood and how we should always trust our inner-most instincts.

In this tale, Simone, an Australian living and working in London, has her plans for fun and adventure thrown into disarray when she unexpectedly falls pregnant. She moves in with her boyfriend, Paul, a relatively well-off guy who works in the City, even though she doesn’t think she loves him. But he’s the father of her unborn child and he wants to look after her and she knows her lowly wage working on a magazine won’t be enough to support a baby.

This is just back story, for when the book opens, Simone is in the hospital giving birth to her son, Thomas. The event is traumatic for her and she’d like to stay in hospital to rest and recuperate, but Paul seems oblivious to her distress and urges her to come home pretty much straight away. From thereon in Simone’s life is a fug of breastfeeding, sleeping and nappy changing.

When Paul’s cousin Rachel arrives, moving into the spare bedroom and announcing she’s here to help with the baby, Simone isn’t quite sure this is the godsend everyone is claiming it to be. There’s something about Rachel she doesn’t trust, but she can’t quite pinpoint what it is that doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t help that Simone is sleep deprived, hormonal and finding it difficult to reconcile her old life with her new one.

The baby lay with his arms flung above his head in an attitude of complete abandon, his chest moving very slightly as she leaned closer and started stroking his head, right at the fontanelle where I knew there was no bone protecting the brain, only a layer of skin. I had only touched it once myself, by accident, and recoiled from the feeling of the ridged bone giving way to soft skin and nothing else between it and the baby’s brain, but she stroked it, again and again, her hands trembling slightly, and I had to bunch my hands into fists to stop myself from clobbering her.

The mood of the book is suspenseful, with a slight tinge of paranoia, and for the reader, you’re never quite sure if you can trust Simone as a narrator. Is she hiding something from us? Is she imagining things?

The evocative London setting, specifically the residential (and arts) complex known as the Barbican Estate (a place I know relatively well), adds to the mood. This housing estate on a former World War two bombsite is an example of British brutalist architecture which was dominant in the 1950s and is characterised by function over design, with rough edges, geometric shapes and lots of concrete. Visit the Barbican on a miserable London day, with its grey concrete turned black by rain, and it gives off a creepy Gothic vibe. It’s the perfect setting for a story like this one.

The Night Village is an intimate account of new motherhood thrust upon a young woman who doesn’t feel quite ready to embrace this life-changing event. And yet, when a stranger enters her domain and begins making claims on her baby, her protective instincts kick in. The tension lies in whether there really is something to worry about or whether it’s all in the mother’s head. This is a delicate balance to pull off but the author has done it exceptionally well.

I’m not really into books about motherhood, but I found this one riveting.

The Night Village will be released in Australia on 3 August. UK and US readers will be able to get the Kindle edition in August; a paperback will follow in November.

This is my 14th book for #AWW2021 and my 10th for #20booksofsummer 2021 edition. I received a very early review copy of this from Fremantle Press having flagged it in this piece about upcoming Southern Cross Crime novels and have been patiently waiting to read the book closer to the August publication date.

And because the author is from Perth (but now lives in Germany), this book also qualifies for my #FocusOnWesternAustralianWriters. You can find out more about this ongoing reading project here and see what books I’ve reviewed from this part of the world on my Focus on Western Australian page.

Book lists, Reading Projects, Southern Cross Crime Month 2021

New Southern Cross Crime novels to add to your wishlist

If you are looking for more crime books to add to your TBR, there’s a clutch of new ones about to be released in Australia* over the coming months.

Note that the book descriptions have been taken from publisher websites and the books have been arranged in alphabetical order according to the author’s surname.

Far From Home by Rosie Ayliffe

“British mother Rosie Ayliffe thought her 21-year-old daughter, Mia, would be safe travelling around Australia on a gap year. But Mia wanted to extend her visa and in order to do that needed to find 88 days of work on a farm – a requirement that would lead to catastrophic events. Four short days after Mia moved to a hostel in Queensland to take a job on a sugarcane farm, she was brutally killed. Faced with every parent’s worst nightmare, Rosie travelled to Australia to retrieve Mia’s body. In Rosie’s memoir, she describes movingly how she has found the strength to come to terms with devastating loss, drawing on inspiration from her daughter’s short life. She also explains how she has become the driving force behind an international campaign to press for change to the 88 days system. Part exposé of the dangers facing backpackers in Australia, part call to arms, ultimately Far from Home is an inspiring and heartfelt story of a mother’s love for her daughter and her fight to protect others from suffering a similar tragedy.”

This true crime book is published in Australia by Penguin on 30 March. The ebook will be published in the UK and the USA on the same date.

The Quiet People by Paul Cleave

“Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful crime-writers. They have been on the promotional circuit, joking that no-one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living. So when their 7 year old son Zach goes missing, naturally the police and the public wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time – are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime?”

This will be published in New Zealand by Upstart Press on 8 April. I can’t find a publication date for elsewhere in the world.

The Night Village by Zoe Deleuil

“When Australian expat Simone moves to London to start a career, getting pregnant is not on her agenda. But she’s excited to start a new life with her baby and determined to be a good mother. Even though her boyfriend Paul’s cold and grey apartment in the Barbican Estate seems completely ill-suited for a baby. Even though Simone and Paul have only known each other for a year. Even though she feels utterly unprepared for motherhood. The arrival of Paul’s cousin Rachel in the flat should be a godsend. But there is something about Rachel that Simone doesn’t trust. Fighting sleep deprivation and a rising sense of unease, she begins to question Rachel’s motives, and to wonder what secrets the cousins share.”

This thriller will be published in Australia by Fremantle Press later this year. Date TBC.

The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions by Kerry Greenwood 

“The elegant Miss Phryne Fisher returns in this scintillating collection, which features four brand-new stories. The Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the Lulu bob, Cupid’s bow lips, diamante garters and pearl-handled pistol – is the 1920s’ most elegant and irrepressible sleuth. Miss Phryne Fisher is up to her stunning green eyes in intriguing crime in each of these entertaining, fun and compulsively readable stories. With the ever-loyal Dot, the ingenious Mr Butler and all of Phryne’s friends and household, the action is as fast as Phryne’s wit and logic.”

This cosy crime collection will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin on 30 March. The audio book will be published in the UK and USA on the same date.

A Voice in the Night by Sarah Hawthorn 

“Following a bitter separation, Lucie moves to London to take up a position with a prestigious law firm. It seems an optimistic new beginning, until one day she receives a hand delivered note with the strange words: ‘At last I’ve found you. A shock I ‘m sure. But in time I’ll explain. Martin.’ Lucie hasn’t forgotten a man called Martin who was tragically killed twenty years ago in the 9/11 attacks. When she was working in New York as young intern Lucie had fallen in love with him and he vowed to leave his wife to be with her permanently. As an inexplicable series of events occurs Lucie wonders if her long-dead lover could have staged his own disappearance under the cover of that fateful day. Or could it be that someone else is stalking her, or that her vivid imagination is playing tricks? In a novel filled with compelling characters, and set in London, New York and Sydney, it seems that anyone could be out to sabotage Lucie’s memories and ambitions, including herself.”

This thriller will be published in Australia by Transit Lounge on 1 July. No international publication date is available, but the world rights have been sold so it may be picked up by a UK or North American publisher at a later date.

The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley

“Journalist and single mother Suzy Hamilton gets a phone call one summer morning, and finds out that the subject of one of her investigative exposes, 25-year-old wellness blogger Tracey Doran, has killed herself overnight. Suzy is horrified by this news but copes in the only way she knows how – through work, mothering, and carrying on with her ill-advised, tandem affairs. The consequences of her actions catch up with Suzy over the course of a sticky Sydney summer. She starts receiving anonymous vindictive letters and is pursued by Tracey’s mother wanting her, as a kind of rough justice, to tell Tracey’s story, but this time, the right way.”

This psychological novel will be published in Australia by HarperCollins on 7 April. No international publication date available.

You Need to Know by Nicola Moriarty

“Jill, her three sons, their wives and children are driving in convoy on Christmas Eve. But something sinister is simmering behind their happy smiles. Mimi is struggling with her new twins, but at least a glass of wine smooths out life’s jagged edges. Andrea’s starting to wonder if her marriage is as happy as she’d thought. Darren is reeling from a surprise request and teenager Callie has become increasingly withdrawn. On the way to their holiday house, a terrifying car accident devastates them all. But someone unexpected was in one of the cars. No one is searching for them. And their time is running out. You Need to Know is a dark domestic drama about family secrets and lies, fractured relationships, tragic mistakes and the ultimate betrayal.”

This domestic noir will be published in Australia by Harper Collins on 7 April. It will be published in the UK in late May.

Still by Matt Nable

“Darwin, Summer, 1963. The humidity sat heavy and thick over the town as Senior Constable Ned Potter looked down at a body that had been dragged from the shallow marshland. He didn’t need a coroner to tell him this was a bad death. He didn’t know then that this was only the first. Or that he was about to risk everything looking for answers. Late one night, Charlotte Clark drove the long way home, thinking about how stuck she felt, a 23-year-old housewife, married to a cowboy who wasn’t who she thought he was. The days ahead felt suffocating, living in a town where she was supposed to keep herself nice and wait for her husband to get home from the pub. Charlotte stopped the car, stepped out to breathe in the night air and looked out over the water to the tangled mangroves. She never heard a sound before the hand was around her mouth. Both Charlotte and Ned are about to learn that the world they live in is full of secrets and that it takes courage to fight for what is right. But there are people who will do anything to protect themselves and sometimes courage is not enough to keep you safe.”

This crime novel will be published in Australia by Hachette Australia on 31 May. The ebook will be published in the UK on 26 May.

Bound by Vanda Symon

“The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters. The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.”

This crime novel will be published in the UK by Orenda Books on 18 March and the USA on 1 September. It was previously published in Australia and New Zealand in 2011 but is now out of print.

Are there any on this list that have piqued your interest?

* Some of these books will also be published in the UK and North America, but you can always order them online direct from the Australian- or New Zealand-based publisher if you are desperate to acquire them. I also recommend the Melbourne-based independent bookstore Readings.com.au for overseas orders.

Please note publication dates are subject to change but were correct when this post was published.

This post was written for #SouthernCrossCrime2021, a month-long celebration of crime writing by authors from Australia and New Zealand. You can find out more by visiting my Southern Cross Crime Month page