I was prompted to highlight New Zealand after stumbling across this rather sad little collection of four entries in the New Zealand location index at Stop You’re Killing Me. Now I’m not blaming the fine people at Stop…, it’s a great website and resource for crime fiction fans, but I’m guessing they rely heavily on information from publishers to populate their various lists and I suspect they simply don’t get a lot of material from New Zealand publishers to work with.
Although we’re always at odds in the sporting arena, Aussies and Kiwis do tend to feel quite kindly towards each other on other matters (promise). Both countries are down here at the bottom of the world where it can feel like we are a bit forgotten by that part of the publishing world dealing in the English language which is heavily focussed on US and UK products and markets. So I thought I’d do my bit to promote cross-Tasman crime fiction.
Sadly my own reading of New Zealand crime fiction can’t offer much better than the meagre offerings at Stop… as I have only reviewed 4 books set in New Zealand myself (though I have read a few more in my pre-blogging days):
- Bold Blood by Lindy Kelly, which is an amateur sleuth tale set in the world of international horse eventing. It’s a light, fun tale with a dash of romance and strongly recommended for all the animal lovers.
- Murder in the Second Row by Bev Robitai is a cosy mystery set in a historic theatre in a small New Zealand town. An amateur theatre group’s production of an Agatha Christie play is thrown into disarray when one of the stars is killed in this terrific little cosy mystery.
- Overkill and Containment by Vanda Symon. These are the first and third books in the Sam Shephard series and are very entertaining police procedurals. I have the fourth book in the series, 2011′s Bound. on my TBR pile to read in the next couple of weeks.
Fortunately for you though you don’t have to rely on the meagre offerings of either me or Stop You’re Killing Me. There’s a marvellous resource at your fingertips in the form of Crime Watch, a great blog by Kiwi crime fiction fan Craig Sisterson. Craig discusses crime fiction from all over the world but he does a great job of highlighting New Zealand crime writers in particular. In fact his own contributions to this round of the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme have all highlighted books by New Zealand crime writers (not all of these are set in New Zealand but many are).
Have you read any crime fiction set in New Zealand? Got any recommendations to make?
Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is hosting the crime fiction alphabet meme which requires the posting of an article relating to the letter of the week. Do join in the fun by reading the posts and/or contributing one of your own. You don’t have to write every week.
My second book for the Global Challlenge this year takes me to New Zealand and a book I learned about from Kiwi crime fiction blogger Craig Sisterson. I’ve no clue how the digital age is going to impact writers and publishing in the long term but this is one of those books I would never have read if it hadn’t been available to me electronically. It cost me $4US at Smashwords and would have cost $30 + shipping to import it here in physical format if I could get the sole New Zealand store stocking it to ship it to me which appears unlikely from their website.
At the Regent Theatre in the small town of Whetford, New Zealand the resident amateur dramatic society are preparing for their next show which, they’ve decided, will be Agatha Christie’s Appointment With Death. They can just about afford well-known Director Adam Bryant and have soon held auditions are are in early rehearsals when one of the cast members is gruesomely murdered. This comes on top of the news that local developers want to build a shopping mall that would require the bulldozing of the theatre and the local Council, which owns 40% of the theatre, is keen to support the move. Jessica Jones, the theatre’s manager, heads up the campaign to save the theatre and takes on an amateur sleuthing role in her zeal to protect her beloved theatre.
Robitai has done a tremendous job with her setting here, really bringing to life a historic theatre with all its creaks and ghosts and the amateur dramatic society dedicated to keeping the building and its purpose alive. By the end of the novel I was feeling terribly guilty for not supporting my own local theatres more in recent years as I too have spent many happy hours at such places in the past and I liked the way the novel demonstrated the cultural value of such buildings.
There’s also a delightful cast of characters in this classic whodunnit. Refreshingly our leading heroine is not considered a suspect (well only for a moment) and becomes a conduit of sorts to the police investigation, which she doesn’t mind at all given that Jack Matherson, the detective in charge of the case, is attractive and funny. The pool of possible culprits is extensive and their personal stories are nicely varied. None are really explored in great depth but there is enough to get a sense of them as people and as a collective of ‘average’, community-spirited people they are very credible.
The mystery element itself is reasonably straight forward and would need a couple more twists and turns for seasoned readers of the genre, but the plot is logical and the big reveal at the end manages not to go too far overboard. The humorous tone of the writing, especially the dialogue between Jessica and Jack, suits the light, fun tone of the novel and there really is a lovely, genuine feel to the story. I will be keeping an eye out for more from this talented debut author.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3.5/5
Author website http://bevrobitai.co.nz/aboutme.htm
Publisher Smashwords 
Length 209 pages
Format eBook (ePub)
Book Series #1 (perhaps?) in a series featuring the theatre?
Source I bought it