Pheasants Nest by Louise Milligan

27/03/2024
Pheasants Nest by Louise Milligan

Louise Milligan is far from the first Australian journalist to try their hand at crime fiction. And like a number of her ABC colleagues (Michael Brissinden and Tony Jones to name a couple), Milligan’s debut is not the well travelled road of rural noir. Rather, Pheasants Nest is a propulsive thriller in which most of the characters live in or come from one of Australia’s two major cities.

When Pheasants Nest opens, journalist Kate Delaney is in the back of a car. She has been abused and kidnapped off the streets of Melbourne by a man who is only ever known as “the Guy” and she is now being driven north, into New South Wales. When Kate does not return home, boyfriend Liam contacts the police. But the police investigation is hampered by their unwavering belief that as the boyfriend is almost always the perpetrator, Liam must be somehow to blame. Mainstream and social media are not far behind with this assumption, further muddying the waters. Luckily for Liam, Kate’s abductor is not the sharpest tool in the shed and makes some mistakes that eventually put the police on his tail. But the Guy is desperate and cunning and as the clock ticks down, it may be that even these leads will not be enough to save Kate.

Pheasants Nest is one sense a pure thriller, the clock is ticking from page one and Milligan puts the pieces in place for a tense finale. But being written but a journalist, the thriller structure feels like a scaffold on which to hang a series of interesting character and personality sketches. Milligan explores the lives of Kate and Liam deeply but she also dives into a range of other characters. From the policeman with PTSD, to the woman who runs a megachurch with ATM machines at the door, to the perpetrator himself.

While Pheasants Nest has a ticking clock, it is sometimes hard to work out exactly the timing of some of the action. Time seems to move differently for different point of view characters and at some points days seem to pass but it hard to tell how many or what that means for Kate. And while the finale is tense and well set up it also depends on a massive coincidence. All of which works in the context of the story but does not bear thinking too deeply about. None of which matters as Milligan is across the conventions of this type of thriller and makes sure the pages turn quickly enough for readers not to have time to worry about some of the logic.

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Pheasants Nest by Louise Milligan

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