ONLY THE DEAD is the third Sean Devereaux novel from NZ author Ben Sanders, but only the second I've read. Back in 2012, reading the second book, BY A...moreONLY THE DEAD is the third Sean Devereaux novel from NZ author Ben Sanders, but only the second I've read. Back in 2012, reading the second book, BY ANY MEANS, it was obvious then that Sanders is an author who likes to work with pace, and complexity. The plots in both these books are built on swirling / shifting sands, making sure that the reader is never exactly sure of anything. Add to that a strong reliance on a noir style, taking a central protagonist, putting them through all sorts of physical challenges, and keeping them dancing that line between good and bad, right and wrong.
Building on many of the basic elements from the earlier books, Devereaux plays a lone hand for most of the action, although he does have a good relationship with ex-cop John Hale, working PI in Auckland and good backstop. Particularly as Devereaux spends much of this book on the outer - sidelined, under suspicion, suspended. In this book he also has a rather shaky romantic relationship lurking around in the background, but that's more about a how to guide on screwing up your personal life.
In the earlier book the music, the popular culture references, and a tendency to lose the basic stylings detracted markedly from the plot, getting things bogged down often. That's been sorted out in ONLY THE DEAD, with the asides and around abouts less distracting and built into the action more naturally and seamlessly. That noir, pared down, choppy style is much more consistent, albeit heavy-handed, but combined with the types of characters, and the action it works. Well enough to make it perfectly acceptable that a place like Auckland would have a dark side, that there's violence and dodgy cops barely under the surface, and that a working PI would be meaningfully occupied.
If you've not read any of the earlier books, ONLY THE DEAD would still work. It is definitely the book where this series starts to make it's mark. Although you do have to feel a bit sorry for tourist authorities in these sorts of locations. There's enough realism here to make you wonder what they're not telling you about "the City of Sails".
MY BROTHER'S KEEPER is the second Diane Rowe book from New Zealand author Donna Malane, and it's a really strong idea for a protagonist. Rowe is a PI...moreMY BROTHER'S KEEPER is the second Diane Rowe book from New Zealand author Donna Malane, and it's a really strong idea for a protagonist. Rowe is a PI who specialises in looking for missing people, which seems like such a believable, unsurprising thing to do, even in this cyber-connected-technical-no-fault-divorce world, that it gives the character gravitas from the outset.
Not that she's an overly sober or considered woman. Rowe comes across as someone of great compassion, and concern for her clients, but flawed and a bit chaotic. She's a straight talker, and prepared to go the extra mile, but she's also not bullet-proof or perfect. Her personal life is just crazy enough to be believable, her professional instincts strong enough to give her credibility, her determination to continue makes her very likeable.
The book isn't all about Rowe though - Sunny, the daughter being sought, is also a strong character. A realistic 14 year old, with the sort of fragile core that seems to go with the aftermath of her mother's actions. At the same time, she's a teenager with a protective father and a fractious relationship with her stepmother. When her life starts to spiral out of control again, her turning to Rowe for support makes sense.
Finding Sunny for her mother is only part of this plot, as that doesn't take too long. Convincing Sunny and her father to meet with her mother after all these years isn't the easiest task, and Rowe has to work hard to convince everyone. Along the way the situation at Sunny's home starts to become clearer, and her father, and stepmother are soon under question. Not as much as Sunny's mother Karen though.
Whilst this plot is intricate and heads off in a lot of directions, it's reasonably strong. Even though there's a real possibility that reader's could guess the truth, getting it confirmed, and understanding the why is as important as who and what. There is even a strong romantic thread built in for fans of that sort of development. Set in both Wellington and Auckland it's possible to get a bit of a feeling for both those places. There's also a very good, dry, wry sense of humour built in. Interestingly the author is a producer and script writer, but in this book she's balanced the effects of that background by compressing the action into a number of days, without giving the entire thing a film script treatment.
Definitely a great series for fans of something slightly lighter, yet not completely cozy and fluffy, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER is a really enjoyable outing which doesn't seem to suffer from not having read the earlier book.
No doubt about it, THE PURIFIER is part of a big, brave trilogy. Nothing at all wrong with these sorts of huge, conspiracy, world domination, evil thr...moreNo doubt about it, THE PURIFIER is part of a big, brave trilogy. Nothing at all wrong with these sorts of huge, conspiracy, world domination, evil threat, nuclear armageddon, master criminal types of scenarios. As long as the reader has the option of a bit of suspension of disbelief. Which this reader couldn't achieve.
The evil component of the book was obviously aiming very high, alas it headed rapidly into farce territory. Never with the dash and élan that would carry this sort of attempt through. Quickly it all became a bit too unbelievable, dare I say, silly for me.
I'm also, personally, never comfortable when action happens, and it is then explained, just in case the reader missed the action, or the point. There were altogether too many times in this book where I was told, in some detail, what was happening, rather than just being shown. This lead to an over wordy feeling, and a tendency to feel a little like I needed the joke explained. After every single joke.
Undoubtedly there will be other readers who will disagree violently - and that's the best part about the huge range of books that are out there these days - one for every single one of us. This definitely wasn't mine.(less)
Surely we've all got one of those authors. The author whose books languish on the To Be Read pile, even though you always enjoy them immensely when at...moreSurely we've all got one of those authors. The author whose books languish on the To Be Read pile, even though you always enjoy them immensely when attention lurches into activity and you spy them sitting there. Even though they can, frequently, frighten the life out of you.
Paddy Richardson is one those authors for me, and in the past, she has frightened the life out of me, although I'm pleased to say that this time CROSS FINGER's didn't languish because of my fractured attention span, and whilst she certainly made me sit up and pay attention, this book wasn't flat out scary, rather a sobering experience.
In the early 1980's the Springbok Rugby tours in New Zealand and Australia caused considerable outrage. Even for a dedicated ignorer of football of all types, it was hard to miss the vehemence and passion with which fans of Rugby and people opposed to the tour took to their positions. Equally so in New Zealand it seems, where there were pitched battles in the streets, injuries and bad feeling that lingers to this day.
This book concentrates heavily on the character of Thorne. Everything is seen through her eyes, within her understanding. She goes about her role as a journalist with a dogged, almost fanatical dedication. Enough to make the idea that mysterious noises in her house of a night, strange phone calls and creepy photos being texted to her would obviously be something she'd put to one side, ignore whilst chasing a lead down - mostly in people's memories. The story of the tour protests is told through her "interviews" with a number of participants - protesters and cops, and it's the clues and observations in those accounts that lead her to the violent murder of the young man, onto his lover, his associates and eventually to her identifying the previously unknown "Lambs". That the Lambs, the protests, dodgy or over zealous cops all collide made sense, even though it's obvious from the start that they are going to. Her ex-boyfriend, the stalker and her new love also made sense, although the coyness with which the new boyfriend is revealed is probably something more for romance lovers.
It's strange to think of the 1980's now within a historical timeframe, but that's exactly what it comes across as in CROSS FINGERS. Historical in terms of the events, and particularly in terms of attitudes. Particularly sobering to realise that mindless anti-homosexuality laws still existed then. Although there is a small part of me that comes away from this book hoping the passion that sprung from the anti-Apartheid protesters still exists.
CROSS FINGERS is from the more thoughtful end of the thriller, investigative spectrum. Looking backwards into history might take away the immediacy of a threat (although that's compensated for by the current day stalker thread), but it does give this author a chance to look at history - and provide a timely reminder that sometimes you have to stand and fight for what you believe in.