Ordinary Gods and Monsters

Chris Womersley

Ordinary Gods and Monsters
Pan Macmillan Australia
29 August 2023

Ordinary Gods and Monsters

Chris Womersley

It could have been any summer evening, but of course it wasn't. It was the end of some things, the beginning of so many others.

Nick Wheatley has finished high school, but he isn't ready for the rest of his life. His parents are getting divorced, his sister is downright weird and his best friend and neighbour, Marion, seems to have acquired a boyfriend.

One hot night, Marion's father is killed in a hit-and-run. There are no suspects and no leads. But a sly tip from the local psychic sends Nick and Marion into the undertow of a strange and sinister world they hadn't known existed in the suburbs - one of inscrutable gangsters, speed-dealing bikies and unpredictable, one-eyed conspiracy theorists.

It's a world they'll be lucky to survive.


Chris Womersley is one of the most interesting and inventive writers in this country, in my extremely humble opinion. He began his publishing career with The Low Road, a gritty crime novel, his next, City of Crows, was set in medieval France and had supernatural elements. His next book Cairo was set in inner-city Melbourne and dealt with art forgery and the theft of the Picasso painting The Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria. The Diplomat was a sequel of sorts and was easily one of the best novels of the last few years. This book is as entirely different from all of them as they are from each other, yet it doesn’t feel like the author showing off, it’s more informed by the feeling that he wants to explore the possibilities of novel writing. The most common theme in his writing is the story of how the experiences of youth make the person.

Nick Wheatley is a teenage boy waiting for his VCE results before he decides what to do with the rest of his life. His next-door neighbour and best friend (and secret love) Marian is interested in another boy. After her father is killed in a mysterious hit-and-run accident, Nick is drawn into investigating what happened. During a session with his local drug dealer’s girlfriend, he is informed that as a psychic she can help him, and they contact Marian’s father on a Ouija board. This sets off a chain of events that wreaks suburban havoc on the characters in this novel.

There are several references to the novel True Grit by the great American writer Charles Portis, but for some reason the character that came to me while reading this book was Huck Finn. This is an outstanding tale of the terrors of facing adulthood in the days when adolescence had a definite finish date.

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