book reviews

Book Review: An Isolated Incident

An isolated incident

An Isolated Incident
Author: Emily Maguire
Published: 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 343
My Rating: 3.5/5


From the blurb:

When 25-year-old Bella Michaels is brutally murdered in the small town of Strtahdee, the community is stunned and a media storm descends.

An Isolated Incident is a psychological thriller about everyday violence, the media’s obsession with pretty dead girls, the grip of grief and the myth of closure, and the difficulties of knowing the difference between a ghost and a memory, between a monster and a man. 


I’m not sure what to think of this book. The subject matter that Emily Maguire covers; domestic violence, misogyny, the media’s treatment of women, especially ‘dead pretty ones’, power, and grief are all sensitive topics, but ones that should be explored more than they perhaps are in today’s literature. Maguire, to her credit, has certainly explored them in depth.

The book is touted as a ‘psychological thriller’ but I don’t think it’s true to the genre. Although, the main story line is the rape and chilling murder of 25 year old Bella Michaels, the book is more about the secondary characters – her sister Chris who we explore in depth as she grapples with her grief and the unanswered questions, and reporter May, who we also hear from. The crime is really only a thin outline to the real story.

However, Maguire does a commendable job dealing with these core themes in a segment of society. She isn’t backwards about coming forwards, and provides a blunt commentary on these issues, that will leave you questioning.

What Maguire does particularly well, is character development. Maguire powerfully and poignantly captures the human psyche. Both Chris and May, although not necessarily likeable characters, were strongly developed and spoke directly from the page. Their own trials and sufferings were painfully portrayed, especially Chris as she dealt with Bella’s death. A sad, but realistic observation mostly overlooked by society. Chris’ voice in particular is very strong and it’s refreshing to see such a unique voice in storytelling.

I was intrigued to read on each time I picked the book up, but the ending left me disappointed. Without saying too much, going into the book hoping for a ‘psychological thriller’ the ending isn’t what you expect. The ending was almost an afterthought. Unfortunately, I think Maguire was all too wrapped up in presenting the themes and issues, of which she touches on many, than finishing the story.

So, psychological thriller it isn’t, but a psychological exploration of the themes and human behaviour, yes.