Book Review: The Empty Coffin, by Gary Moore

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_empty_coffinIn Gary Moore’s debut thriller set in Auckland, crime is a burgeoning reality. Its imprints are challenged, yet coupled with obscurities, thus seemingly perpetuating the endemic pattern of wounding and wrongdoing.

Six-year-old Kerry Preston, an abducted girl, is found unscathed and unaffected by her tormentor. Constable Mary Clarke is shocked to find the child speaking to her like a grown-up and divulging Mary’s past life  all before resuming her juvenile self. Later, while crossing through a sports field one evening, fourteen-year-old Dean Bradley is murdered for his brand new sports shoes. Bradley’s murderer, Tom Heke, is on the run. He steals his friend’s mother’s money and joins the members of an ethnic gang, the Black Mamba. The big mystery lies in the disappearance of Bradley’s body from undertaker Ken Tamati’s funeral parlour.

Moore’s debut novel portrays just about every societal ill: murder, rape, theft, and gang violence, and dysfunctional families and communities. Each chapter in the novel opens with a radio network news broadcast, featuring reports and updates on crime and local politics all over New Zealand’s busiest city. The paths of the media, police and victims converge at the pursuit and question of “the Rainbow Man,” a mysterious saviour who punishes the violent attackers of several victims. A common detail in these victims’ contrasting accounts is the nebulous figure’s ability to heal the victims with a dazzling blue light, thus removing all pain and fear. While police try to gather information on this ostensibly supernatural being, the media circulates the public’s thought that it is the Second Coming.

The Empty Coffin is a superb debut thriller: action-packed, original and hauntingly intense. Due to its mature themes, this thriller would be suitable for older readers.

Reviewed by Azariah Alfante

The Empty Coffin
by Gary Moore
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473388959

Book Review: American Blood, by Ben Sanders

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_american_bloodBen Sanders is a New Zealand author. The film rights for this book have been sold to Warner Bros, and translation rights bought by publishers in Germany, Russia and Japan.

Marshall Grade is a former NYPD officer now in witness protection as a result of a botched undercover operation. He is now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Marshall infiltrated one of the biggest drug mobs but was outed with no idea of how it happened. All he knows is that he is a wanted man and there is a contract out on his life. The contract killer goes by the name of the Dallas Man. With no idea of who the Dallas Man really is, Marshall decides to track him down and at the same time, try to atone for past wrongs by investigating the disappearance of a woman by the name of Alyce Ray.

The local drug ring holds the clue to Alyce Ray’s disappearance. As Marshall digs more and more into her disappearance he gets tangled up even more in the seedier part of the drug world and old enemies come out of the woodwork to hunt him down.

This is a book full of action and intrigue with the story taking more twists and turns as each page and chapter gallops towards the finish line. As a thriller this book will not disappoint. I found myself wanting to put the boot into some of the villains myself.

If this book reaches the big screen I will be first off the rank to book my ticket.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

American Blood
by Ben Sanders
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN  9781760291570

Book Review: The Cutting Room, by Jilliane Hoffman

This book is available in bookstores now.

The Cutting Room reminds us that prison incarceration is not necessarily able to end the machinations of sick-minded prisoners, who can reach beyond the walls and have others commit crimes for them.

Carefully constructed in three parts, this 410 pager is a skin crawler in some chapters, and its story – beginning with a filmed snuff movie – concludes in a quiet and personal (but slightly disturbing) conquering of mental demons by the female Prosecuting Attorney, C-J.

Between those two points, we follow the progression of serial killings, mutilated victims, sick voyeurism, corrupt and perverted members of the criminal and justice systems and high society, and the personal turmoil of a surviving ex-victim. We see the strain on relationships of those working the case at its early and final stages. We lose one character who we expect to be the surviving puzzle solver.

This is a “re-reader” – I’m into my third round, revisiting scenes for the quality of the writing, the characterisation, the dialogue. And picking up on nuances I’d missed in earlier readings, so cleverly has the author drawn me into the world of sick crime and determined investigation.

Ms Hoffman’s style is a pleasure to read, the plot structure intertwines events past and current, from New York to Miami, to California, Orlando, the Santa Ynez Mountains, back to Miami and hints of the future. Rivetting stuff!

I love criminal justice and forensic drama – CSI, Law & Order, NCIS., Bones, Criminal Minds, Cold Case, et al – so The Cutting Room couldn’t have been sent to a more biased reviewer. I found myself wanting a whiteboard to chart all the victims and perpetrators and their links, but chose to re-read instead.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

The Cutting Room
by Jilliane Hoffman
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 978007 311675

Book review: The Man from Primrose Lane by James Renner

The Text Publishing cover of The Man from Primrose Lane runs the line “PROMISE: You will have never read anything like this before.”

“That’s the case for every book you’ve never read,” points out my husband; and he’s right – but don’t let the marketing put you off this part crime novel, part sci-fi work that’s an incredibly enjoyable read… as long as you’re aware that it’s going to get wacko at about page 250.

The Man from Primrose Lane will hook you from the first sentence – it’s well written; descriptive without being flowery, imaginative while taking the reader along for the ride, and the kind of book that will make you regret having a job because you’ll want to sit reading all day.

I found the twists and turns of the plot truly surprising (even before it got wacko) and the characters both believable and thoroughly enjoyable to read.

The Man from Primrose Lane came across as a good old-fashioned thriller for the start – a real whodunnit that kept me guessing throughout. The writing was so real as to be nauseating in one scene where the protagonist meets with a practicing child sex offender. What made the novel so good in the early part of it was that it wasn’t sensationalised.

The crime scenes and the events surrounding them were factually descriptive and the detective work sedate enough to be believable rather than exploded into a quick wrap-up of unbelievable coincidences that we’ve come to expect from crime stories (thanks CSI).

This was a four star read for me; what I really needed this book to have was a decent blurb on the cover, because without it I found the schism where a dystopian future becomes woven in with the gumshoe-esque crime thriller more disruptive than the author probably intended.

The heavy labouring of the scientific detail (the story even says at one point “yeah I know science blah blah blah”) was also off-putting but I guess necessary I imagine to deal with pedant readers who I probably love to point out in certain science-based scenarios what is and isn’t a possibility.

I should have – and I recommend you do this if you’re not used to reading sci-fi – given myself an hour or two to commit to reading my way right through the introduction of the sci-fi elements so I could more easily follow along. I found my reading became laboured and somewhat less enjoyable for about thirty pages as I grappled with some of the mind-benders in this novel.

However, as I came to grips with major plot twists and confirmed once again in my own mind whose story I was reading, The Man from Primrose Lane became enjoyable again. And I’m even pretty confident that I know who killed The Man from Primrose Lane … I think.

The Man from Primrose Lane is at once a thoroughly enjoyable and challenging read, which will keep you thinking and questioning what you know well beyond finishing the book. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to read again as soon as you finish.

Reviewed by Emma McCleary, Web Editor at Booksellers NZ

The Man from Primrose Rose
by James Renner
Published by Text Publishing