Pheasants Nest

Louise Milligan

Pheasants Nest
Allen & Unwin
26 March 2024

Pheasants Nest

Louise Milligan

She wonders if they have discovered she is missing yet? Has it broken as a story? Who has been assigned to cover it? Have they started spooling through her social media to pull out photographs? Constructing a narrative about who she is and what possible reason any person might have to kidnap or (let's be frank) kill her? She tries not to let out the whimper that is building in her sternum, at the thought that he might. Kill her, that is. He might kill her.

Kate Delaney has made the biggest mistake of her life. On a girls' night out, she picked the wrong sleazy guy to publicly humiliate in a bar and now she is living every woman's worst nightmare.

She finds herself brutalised, bound and gagged in the back of a car being driven god knows where by a man whose name she doesn't know, and petrified about what is in store for her.

As a journalist who is haunted by the crimes she's had to report over her career, Kate is terrifyingly familiar with the statistics of women who go missing - and the fear and trauma behind the headlines. She knows only too well how those stories usually end.

Kate can only hope the police will find her before it's too late, but she's aware a random crime is hardest to solve. As the clock ticks down, she tries to keep herself sane by thinking about her beloved boyfriend and friends, escaping into memories of love and happy times together. She knows she cannot give way to despair.

As the suspense escalates, Kate's boyfriend Liam is left behind, struggling with his shock, fear and desperation as the police establish a major investigation. The detectives face their own feelings of anguish and futility as they reflect on the cases they didn't solve in time and the victims they couldn't save. They know Kate's chances of survival diminish with every passing hour.

Acclaimed and award-winning writer and journalist Louise Milligan has written a stunning and surprising thriller with a gigantic heart: a gripping, propulsive and brilliantly original debut.


Should a story, which begins in a suburb you know well, which involves sexual assault, and ends in the middle of nowhere, come with a warning even if there is a love story in it? I think so. Here is the warning: Pheasants Nest is a terrifying read – compelling, but frightening. It is a story centred on an act of violence.

This is award-winning investigative reporter and nonfiction author Louise Milligan’s first foray into fiction, and it is a blockbuster of a story. (Surely, it will end up as a television series or film.) It is the story of every woman’s nightmare. Kate Delaney, a journalist, is out with her girlfriends in Northcote. On her way home, she is raped and kidnapped by a random man she ridiculed. She is driven across the state to the middle of NSW. Kate, like Milligan, knows the statistics about what happens to women who find themselves in these situations. She understands how the police and the media work. She knows the chances of this crime being solved are slim. She knows that the police will question her boyfriend, Liam, and that he will remain a suspect.

We meet in parks to hold vigils, we hold our keys as a weapon, and message one another when we get home because of these cases. I believe Milligan has written this novel to illustrate to us all how each part of the public story is ours. It is possible your thoughts will wander to cases in the press right now, or to stories that do not get published, or even to memories of past cases and women not found. Stories like this that are set in familiar surrounds are important because they remind us to look after one another, to come forward with our truths, and to be optimistic for change. Louise Milligan has written a superb and disturbing page-turner. I could not put it down until I reached the end.

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