Author: Lois Murphy
Genre: Literary Thriller
Publisher: Transit Lounge
Published: 1st October 2017
Synopsis: An almost deserted town in the middle of nowhere, Nebulah’s days of mining and farming prosperity – if they ever truly existed – are long gone. These days even the name on the road sign into town has been removed. Yet for Pete, an ex-policeman, Milly, Li and a small band of others, it’s the only place they have ever felt at home.
One winter solstice the birds disappear. A strange, residual and mysterious mist arrives. It is a real and potent force, yet also emblematic of the complacency and unease that afflicts so many of our small towns, and the country that Murphy knows so well.
Partly inspired by the true story of Wittenoom, the ill-fated West Australian asbestos town, Soon is the story of the death of a haunted town, and the plight of the people who either won’t or simply can’t abandon all they have ever had. With finely wrought characters and brilliant storytelling, it is a taut and original novel, where the people we come to know and those who are drawn to the town’s intrigue must ultimately fight for survival.
‘A dark and powerful novel that takes the reader on a journey through a disturbingly new and hostile world. Lois’s characters carry their old ways into this new order with grave consequences if they don’t heed the signs. Her haunting and persuasive tale which nods at the tropes of genre fiction while subverting and elevating them heralds a compelling new talent.’
Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Kate Gordon and Chris Gallagher, Judges, Tasmanian University Prize, Tasmanian Premier’s Awards
‘A powerful literary thriller where the dark, yet poetically beautiful detailing of events will draw you into a nightmarish world that will have you questioning your understanding of love and loss, and the very nature of your reality. Atmospheric, intense and thought provoking.’
Dominique Wilson, author of That Devil’s Madness and The Yellow Papers
Soon is an unusual book – a paranormal mystery that envelopes a mysterious, fictional mining town in Western Australia called Nebulah, where Pete, Milly and Li are amongst the last remaining residents of the town after the winter solstice when the birds disappear, and the mist descends upon the town, picking people off slowly, one by one. Pete, an ex-policeman, Milly, Li, a Cambodian who fled the Khmer Rouge, and the other remaining residents, feel it is the only place they belong, and are forced to stand by, watching the mist suck the life out of people and the town, unable to explain it, and unable to get help from the police in a neighbouring town, who believe it to be a hoax, a prank or Pete covering up something they believe he – or another – has done. There is a sense of stubbornness about these people who won’t leave a town that has had the life sucked out of it and run from a mist that won’t stop until the town’s last resident has had their life sucked away. It is a strange story, where I felt a bit lost until half way through, where things started to make a bit of sense, and from there, the plot unfolded to reveal the fates of those left, and the lives that the town and mist mercilessly stole from innocent people.
The world that Lois Murphy has created is also hostile and dark world that perhaps uses the paranormal elements that kill Nebulah to explore dying towns around Australia that collapse after people or industries leave, having sucked the place dry of resources, or industries closing down. The press release cites Wittenoom, an ill-fated asbestos town as the inspiration for Nebulah, a town where the residents who have lived there for years, face grave consequences for straining against whatever new order or forces the mist heralds. The devastating consequences of the choices made by some characters are not sugar coated, but dealt with in a raw and very visual fashion.
It was an unusual story, though it had a sense of mystery, it was not quite the kind of mystery I was expecting. However, it was still intriguing enough for me to complete the novel. It may not be one I will read again, but I am sure there is an audience out there for it. As thrillers go, the air of difference about this one is perhaps what will make it stand out in bookstores for prospective readers.