Cover Image: The Newcomer

The Newcomer

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Member Reviews

I was a little conflicted with this one.  The novel is heavy on dialogue, which although is realistic, it is also a little tiresome. It should also come with with some warnings as it contains rape, incest, self harm and eating disorders.
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What a literary crime thriller! This is a book that will make you gasp for some air because it was dark, twisty and thrilling. 

The Newcomer is a thriller which is loosely based on a true crime (although I didn’t know this at the start). Set in the fictional island Fairfolk, this is the story of a mother, who is finding answers to the murder of her daughter. Paulina isn’t perfect. She is far from perfection. She moves to Fairfolk from Sydney, an island with its close-knit community. On the day she turns 29, during the Easter break, her mother, Judy comes to visit. With time and with no any messages from her daughter, she tries to track her down and comes to the reality of her death. In a close community with everyone’s life interwoven with everybody else’s, every person we meet is a suspect. 

The book flows in alternating chapters, Judy’s quest to finding answers and Paulina’s before her death. 

Although the book didn’t come up with some trigger warnings, this book is raw, dark and at times very disturbing. Judy’s emotional wreckage is too raw and deeply upsetting. Paulina is shown from the start as a character who is far from perfection. Her attitude and her relationship with her mother are few points in which she fails to score as a likeable human. But with the pages turning, we get to see the true nature of Paulina and what led to her being the least-likeable person. 

We should give a round of applause to the author for her portrayal of Paulina. Even if she is a highly flawed character, she drew the reader towards the victim which needs to be appreciated. There are some dark themes such as rape, abuse, self-hate and sexual violence. Also her portrayal of the motherly character was raw, yet moving and empathetic.
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In a hotel room on a sleepy Pacific island, Judy Novak waits. And worries. It isn’t the first time 29-year-old problem child Paulina has kept her mother waiting. But Judy can’t ignore the island’s jagged cliffs and towering pines — or the dread that Paulina has finally acted on her threats to take her own life.

When Paulina’s body is discovered, Judy’s worst fears seem confirmed. Only, Paulina didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

The Newcomer is being called a crime novel but it's really so much more than that. It's a deeply affecting story about a murder victim and those she leaves behind. It's about casual misogyny and domestic violence in an insular island community, mothers and daughters and mental illness. 

This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.
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An intimate, sensitive story of the final days of a self-destructive young woman, and the mother who tried to save her. While the story centers on Judy's struggle to make sense of her daughter's murder and to find out who was responsible, the focus is more on discovering who both mother and daughter really are. Beautifully written with brilliant characterisations, this novel will appeal to those who love reading about mysteries that go beyond the simple question of whodunit.
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The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a compelling and enthralling examination of Paulina Novak’s life and her mother Judy’s reaction to her death. Paulina is unlikeable and irritating but somehow the story is unputdownable. Paulina is a very flawed character yet Woollett makes you care for her.

Paulina is a dysfunctional, troubled, addicted, amoral 28 year old when she decides to make a new life on Fairfolk Island (a thinly disguised Norfolk Island in Australia). She hopes to find the paradise which will make all her woes disappear in this dreamy and scenic setting. 

Her mother Judy visits her for Easter and Paulina never turns up and is found dead. Judy really needs to find out what happened to Paulina and the story follows this and Judy’s grief interspersed with Paulina’s story before she died.

The issue of being a newcomer in a closed society is explored, and the problems of connecting appropriately in such a society.  How women are expected to behave, and the consequences of perceived transgressions are examined. Mother/daughter relationships are put under the spotlight, and Judy’s grief, guilt and trauma at the death is teased out. 

While this is more a literary mystery to unravel than a crime story, it’s a gripping tale. Inspired by a real-life murder and despite an inherently unlovable character in Paulina, I could not stop reading.

Warning: book contains themes of alcohol abuse, an eating disorder, rape, violence, and self-harm.
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Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the Newcomer. While the writing is beautiful and I enjoyed the style, the characters, the plot and the structure did not satisfy me. 
I didn’t enjoy the split perspectives structure, especially with the time jumps. I felt it confused the focus of the story and often had me uncertain of what I was meant to be taking away from the story. 
I also didn’t love the plot. Again it wasn’t clear what exactly I was meant to glean from the story of anything. It felt like it was trying to be high brow without really saying anything. It is clear the author loved the island but it feels like the whole book was written just so that the island could be explored and there was no clear story or character arc for me. 
I found the characters quite difficult. While I often don’t mind unliksble characters I really struggled with these ones. The relationships felt very contrived and forced and there didn’t feel like there was any development or change for the characters across the book. 
Overall sadly not a fan.
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‘Just like grief, waiting had stages.’

On the Pacific Island of Fairfolk, Judy Novak waits for her daughter Paulina. They were to have lunch together. But twenty-nine-year-old Paulina never turns up. Judy is worried. Paulina, troubled and moody, has threatened to take her own life before. Where is she?

Paulina’s body is discovered. She was murdered. Why, and by whom?

As the investigation unfolds and the story moves between past and present, we learn more about Paulina and her move to Fairfolk Island. Paulina was looking for a fresh start but was unable to move out of her pattern of volatile relationships, fuelled by excessive alcohol and an eating disorder. When drunk, Paulina did not care who she offended, sober she could not always make amends. And, as she lurched from one crisis to the next, she managed to offend plenty of Fairfolk Islanders.

Dead or alive, Paulina is the centre of this novel. She is disruptive, self-destructive, utterly self-absorbed. But she should never have been murdered. Judy has some issues of her own to deal with, but she is determined to find out who killed Paulina and to ensure that she is not forgotten. 

This novel made me uneasy as it captured and held my attention. While Paulina’s premature death (given her self-destructive behaviour) seemed almost inevitable, her murder was shocking. But it leads me into that uncomfortable space where sometimes the behaviour of the victim is scrutinised more closely than that of the murderer. And what about those left behind?

While I wanted to know who murdered Paulina, it was her life rather than her death that has stayed with me. And Judy’s struggle to understand and to try to find her own place in a world without Paulina. This is an uncomfortable novel to read. There are few likeable characters and no neat endings.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Scribe UK for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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The Newcomer redefines the modern mystery genre. It strips away all the things you take for granted in a mystery and focusses in on the victim. And it works!

The Newcomer is Paulina, newly arrived on Fairfolk Island for a 'fresh start'. Her life is a mess...alcohol dependency, eating disorder, dangerous relationships and relationship problems with her mother. When Pauline is found dead (not a spoiler) her mother tries to discover the secret behind her death.

This is mystery without a police investigation or police. We do not know the details of the investigation, the suspect interviews, or the information that leads to the capture of the killer.

We also never know the full details of Paulina's death. We know the 'how' in thin detail. We know almost nothing of the killer.

What we do discover is that 'victim' is not easily defined. We know so much of Paulina's life leading up to her death, and her mother's life after her daughter's death, as she tries to put the pieces of her daughter's life, and her own, back together.

It is so different to any other mystery that t can sometimes feel directionless. But trust me! There is mystery and tension galore for even the most hard-core of mystery buffs, driven by a deep character study of a woman exploring what her life should be, before it is prematurely taken from her.
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I had read really good reviews on this book and was keen to read it, thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to access a copy,  however I struggled, in fact I only got halfway through before I gave up. I rarely give up halfway through a book, I always like to see them through to the end but the language in The Newcomer was annoying and at times difficult to understand and, that wasn't from the people of Fairfolk Island but from Judy and Paulina, the maines as they were called.  

I also found it quite distasteful when comparing the people on the island of Fairfolk to Tasmanians, saying they would fit in well.  

Paulina is a horrible out of control adult child and Judy appears as an ungrateful mother to anyone who wants to help her, her sister Caro wasn't much better.  I found the characters quite horrible and Judy quite childish.  

I did smile though when I read some of the characters names such as Barry White (who in real life is an American singer songwriter) and in the first time that Belinda Carlisle (who is a British pop singer) is mentioned but then her name changes to Merlinda Carlyle later on.    

Whilst I would have loved to find out what happened to Paulina I could not stick with the story long enough.
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4.42 stars

Paulina is the titular newcomer on a small Australian island. After uprooting her whole life and moving to Fairfolk Island, Paulina has spent the past two days finding happiness and throwing it away. She was well known on the island for her antics and erratic behaviour, but that didn’t stop her from making friends who cared for her. Judy visits to celebrate her daughter’s 30th birthday, but Paulina is murdered before she gets the chance.

In a place where outsiders are frowned upon, and islanders protect each other, Judy will fight to make sure her daughter’s killer is brought to justice.

I had to adjust my expectations not long into the book. Based on the description, I was expecting a fast-paced, intense thriller. The Newcomer reads more like a contemporary/character study. The mystery is there, but the focus is on the victim and her mother’s grief. The characters were so well-drawn, and the atmosphere was so compelling that I had no problem adjusting my expectations and enjoying the book. 

Even though it is not typically what I go for, Woollett’s prose is stunning. The focus of the book is Paulina, the victim, and her mess of a life. She is such an interesting character - not likable at all, but at the same time so vulnerable and sad.  If I am honest, though, I wish that the focus on the murdered had been more significant. 

I fell in love with the way Woollett described Fairfolk and its inhabitants. I knew nothing about life in small Australian Islands, and the way Woollett described the setting and the culture of the place was so vivid, it felt tangible. 

Woollett did not waste any time introducing the reader to Paulina, Judy, and their relationship. In the first chapter, we get a clear feeling for who they are. Paulina is a force, and as such, she leaps through the page. She is one of the most real characters I have met. She is complex, intense, vibrant, annoying, magnetic, and detestable. 

Through flashbacks, we slowly learn how much of a mess Paulina really is. She seemed to be on a very destructive path of binge drinking and self-sabotaging. She always tried so hard to rub people the wrong way, as if she was terrified of being vulnerable and being rejected. She seems to favour projecting an unbearable version of herself- it’s easier to be rejected or disliked for something you know you can change than to risk people not liking who you are. Leading this life took its toll on Paulina, though. Unspeakable things happened to her, and she never took the time to fight back because she believed she deserved it. Her downward spiral got dark fast. 

My heart broke for Judy the whole way through. Even though Paulina treated her like garbage, yet she returned it with nothing but kindness. She was a great mother and wanted nothing more than happiness for her daughter. As a mother, I cannot imagine what it must feel like to know that while you were so angry with them, your child was killed. Judy dealt with it much better than I would.

Some people win the life lottery; Paulina lost hardcore. Self-fulfilling prophecy and self-destruction tendencies made it impossible for her to be happy - she looked for misery and found it until her bitter end. 

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to  Laura Elizabeth Woollett, Scribe UK, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Newcomer.
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4 stars.
Ah, this book hurts! 
An island community, with Norfolk Island serving as the inspiration, is the setting for the murder of a troubled young woman. She's a mainie (a newcomer to the island from mainland Australia). In flashbacks we can see the depths of her troubles and her alienation from the community as she systematically puts pretty much everyone offside. On the other end of the story, her mother tries to deal with her grief and the fallout of her daughter being gone. 
This book is hard to read. Beautifully written and characterised, but not easy. Highly recommended for those who read and loved An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire. Definitely a slow burn novel, less thriller, more literary crime?
An excellent novel however you categorise it.
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This is the story of a young woman who decides she wants to live on the remote Fairfolk Island off of Australia.  Paulina moves there on a whim, leaving her job as a financial consultant in Sydney. She is not the most likeable of characters and rubs the islanders up the wrong way constantly.
The story flits between then and after she is found murdered.  It follows both her life on the island and her mother's life after her death.
I struggled to like Paulina, she was very self centred and constantly drunk.  There are actually very few characters in this book that are likeable with the exception of her mother and possibly Jesse.
It is an interesting book to read and the descriptions of the Island, inspired by Norfolk Island, are lovely.
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Unfortunately, this didn’t really click with me! I found I had some issues with the pacing of this novel and I wasn’t really invested in the narrative or any of the characters. I still think it was enjoyable and easy to read ⭐️⭐️⭐️
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First of all...Cover Love ❤ Second of all...the "I want to find my daughters killer" trope has been done to death, BUT...Laura Elizabeth Woollett has done a wonderful job of making it interesting and refreshing. I loved this book right from the start and read it in a day. 

The book is so well written, well crafted, and just plain good. The writing lures you in...the whole family drama thing, dysfunction, loss, grief, etc. What I really want to say is...caution. This is a very disturbing book. Like many readers I like to try to figure out what happened...the whodunit...but this time around I just savoured the story and the words. What you find out about Paulina and the other characters in the book is triggering. This is not for the weak of heart as it deals with rape, sexual abuse, addiction and highly damaged, manipulative people.

What I loved most about this book was how the author has created a cast of deplorable characters, all with their own personalities, flaws and back stories. And even though our main character is one of those deplorables you can't help but feel for her and cheer her on while she tries to fight her demons.

Unpredictable, imaginative and intriguing...This sad, well written mystery slowly unravelled and kept me captivated from beginning to end. A real page turner and I wholeheartedly recommend it!
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I'm afraid to say that The Newcomer and I did not get on at all. I was fully ready to embrace a fast-paced crime mystery/thriller set in a far-flung location where a newcomer interacts with the locals (think Scrublands) and thought this would be the perfect book to read during the heatwave we've been having.

Instead this tested my patience as reader. There was so much dialogue which did not further the plot, and which - while the subject matter differed - felt like the protagonist was having the exact same conversation with everyone she came across. Paulina (said protagonist) is portrayed as some wild party girl who drinks too much and is constantly in some sort of state of rebelling against her mother. Aged 28, she relocates from Sydney to a remote Pacific island with the hope of finding a job and settling down there, and much of the first third of the book is her meeting various locals and clashing with them due to her ~wild party girl/irreverent personality~. Everyone who meets her is shocked by her, and she ingratiates her way into their lives (with what read to me like ulterior motives). While the novel reads relatively quickly it ended up feeling really quite repetitive.

This brings me to my next gripe with The Newcomer: Flawed and complex protagonists have their place in novels but Paulina is, honestly, insufferable, and I found her borderline unbearable to read about. Now, I think this is the point on the author's part but it elicited so much eye rolling from my end I couldn't look past it and it impacted upon my enjoyment of the novel.

The sections with Paulina's mother, Judy Novak, were more enjoyable and were well-written, but I'm sorry to say that this was not the book for me.
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Coming to my rating : out of 5 stars
Cover : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Title : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Plot : ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Writing quality : ⭐️⭐️
Character development : ⭐️⭐️
Overall rating : ⭐️⭐️
Thanks for this ARC, but I was not able to connect to the characters and the plot, and so is my rating low. But maybe others enjoy this book, my rating is purely based on my emotions.
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Set on a tiny Australian island in the South Pacific ocean, this is a thriller based on the death of a hard drinking, party girl called Paulina.  Paulina, who is just turning 30,  has swapped a boring office job in Sydney for island life.  Based on Norfolk Island, the island she now calls home is known for its pine trees, sandy beaches and jagged cliffs.  Paulina has a serious drink problem and also a tendency to meet the very worst types of men, cue the stereotypes!  She picks up occasional work in the local restaurant and store.  When she is found bludgeoned to death, every man on the island becomes a potential suspect.  Paulina, despite being the victim, is the central character in this novel about her own murder.  The narrative switches from Paulina before she died, to that of her mother, Judy, who is determined to find out who murdered her daughter.

I really, really did not like this book.  There was nothing appealing about any of the characters.  Paulina was very two dimensional and lacked both empathy and depth.  I’m not a prude but I found the language was gratuitously coarse and vulgar.  The book was about 100 pages too long and I found large chunks repetitive. There was a lot of banter between Paulina and her friends that offered very little by way of plot development.  It was all very grim and very slooooow with zero suspense.  I love a good thriller that keeps the reader hooked,  but unfortunately this is not one of them.  I got bored ¾ of the way through and sped-read to the end.  This book may appeal to many, but not to me. I wish the author well with her publication.

Many thanks to @netgalley and @scribe_uk for this ebook in return for my honest opinion
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