Reading this bizarre, arresting tale, you may not always feel clear about what you are tracking — but you’ll absolutely want to track it ... The novel’s power and steady control manifest in its voice: that of an eerily inward, single male, perhaps in his 30s, who lives monkishly ... Scapegoat proves difficult to describe without spoiling. Menace gathers. So does a marvelously calibrated pace and tension. As with some of our best haunted fiction (The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Hill House), the story obeys an internal, quasi-demonic logic ... breathtakingly seductive: a noir dream watched through a handheld camera.
As our narrator loses his grip on reality, Davis drops her readers into successive scenes so fluidly that even we forget what just happened. I raced through the book, marveling at its precise, restrained prose and grasping paranoiacally at small details that might indicate what was real and what wasn’t.
Continuing with the increasingly unreliable N, the reader feels inklings of vertigo, the ground rumbling underfoot in this psychological thriller ... Within her haunting landscape and propulsive plot, she manages to introduce some morbid humor ... In these narrative gyres, Davis emerges as a legitimately skillful novelist unafraid to ask difficult questions.
To call the final act of The Scapegoat unpredictable would be a massive understatement; Davis wraps things up on her own terms, expectations be damned. That’s part of what makes The Scapegoat such a thrilling, audacious book. There’s no pigeonholing it into any neat genre demarcation—it’s a literary novel that incorporates elements of horror and noir mystery. N’s narration, whose occasionally florid diction highlights his increasing sense of dread and disassociation, is reminiscent in some ways of H.P. Lovecraft, and it suffuses the novel with a suffocating terror that escalates as the book draws to a close. N proves to be a fascinating character ... The Scapegoat is definitely the stuff of nightmares, hugely unsettling and impressively creepy. It’s a remarkable debut from an author whose imagination seems unlimited.
[A] sure-footed debut ... not a long novel—just slightly over 200 pages—but it is a deep and disturbing one. Davis’ prose is not necessarily economical, but there is no wasted space. That said, the book’s substance and its eccentric protagonist put me in the mind of a collaborative effort between Edgar Allan Poe and Doris Lessing.
In this unnervingly good debut, Davis’ narrator pieces together details of his father’s death ... The tension of the novel builds to delirious heights ... An eerie and surprising reconstruction by an unreliable narrator.
[A] delightfully off-kilter account of a man’s hallucinatory search for clues about his father’s death ... Historical details of colonial genocide add another level of ominousness...but their connection to the mystery feels tenuous. In the end it’s beside the point, as Davis offers plenty of surprises from her narrator. With the eeriness of a David Lynch film, this is made gripping by the narrator’s self-made traps.