Apartment 303, a new Australian thriller by Kelli Hawkins
23 February 2023
Twenty-something Sydneysider Rory is ready for a prolonged period of isolation. Her job, writing reports for a private investigator, means she doesn’t need to leave her apartment building for work. She has a pet dog to keep her company, and the roof area of the building is a fine place to exercise and walk the dog. Rory is also possessed of a vivid imagination. She has even given backstories, of her own making, to some homeless people, whom she never spoken to, camping over the road.
Lockdown is going to be kind to Rory. But there’s only one thing. The COVID-19 lockdowns are no more. Rory’s confinement is self-imposed. Her fear of the outside world is so intense, she even goes all out to avoid her neighbours. Rory is a woman with a troubled past, and the gilded cage she has created is her only tonic. But the future is about to add to her woes, in Apartment 303, published by HarperCollins Australia, in March 2023, by Newcastle based Australian author, Kelli Hawkins.
When one of the homeless people across the street is murdered, Rory is forced to adjust her relationship with the outside world. She has frequent contact with police investigating the death, and also makes the acquaintance of neighbours for the first time. But not all of the knocks at the door are welcome. And when a chapter of her past, one that Rory would rather forget, comes calling, she begins to feel unsafe in her previously protective home.
Apartment 303 is Hawkins’ third novel, and like her protagonist Rory, Hawkins’ likewise writes reports for a private investigator, between working on manuscripts. And as with many writers of fiction, Hawkins’ own experiences shape her stories. Her debut novel, Other People’s Houses, published in 2021, tells the story of a woman, Kate, who spends her Saturdays inspecting houses listed for sale.
In the same way Rory finds solace by locking herself away from the world, seeing the homes of other families bring comfort to Kate, whose son who died ten years earlier. Hawkins is no stranger to viewing properties either. Between living in Australia, and stints in the United Kingdom, and America, she has been a frequent house hunter, including more recently, in tragic circumstances, following the death of her husband.
Early reviews on Goodreads have described Apartment 303 as “a slower burn thriller”, “a stirring, suburban tale of mystery, suspense and daring”, and “a page-turner”.
Having penned three novels in as many years, Hawkins’ output could be described as prolific, and another novel is probably already in progress. Hawkins has also worked as a graphic designer, political journalist, mystery shopper, and a role as a “staple remover”, in the past. I see plenty of inspiration for more stories in amongst those occupations.