Thursday, January 14, 2010

My review of THE MURDER OF CHOW YAT in Latitude

The current (Summer) issue of Latitude magazine has included my short review of writing teacher Joan Rosier-Jones' THE MURDER OF CHOW YAT on its book pages.

Latitude is the lifestyle magazine of the Canterbury region of New Zealand; a 120-page glossy quarterly packed with great large features on interesting people, places, and issues - as well as travel articles, book reviews, and several other interesting columns. I started writing for the magazine (I have a six-page feature on criminologist and former inmate Professor Greg Newbold in the Summer issue) late last year (the Spring issue), and this is my first contribution to their book review pages. It's a very cool magazine, and I'm glad to be able to write for them.

Joanne Taylor (the editor of Latitude and the main book reviewer) has kindly allowed me to reprint my short THE MURDER OF CHOW YAT review on the Crime Watch blog, as Latitude is not available online.

The Murder of Chow YatJoan Rosier-Jones Stead & Daughters, $29.99
Chow Yat was an elderly Chinese market gardener in post-war Wanganui whose unsolved 1922 murder sparked generations of local ghost stories. Author Joan Rosier-Jones plays cold-case detective - sifting through detailed police files held in the National Archives, newspaper microfiche, accounts of the historic setting of the murder, and talking to locals in order to compile this fascinating account.

She creates a vivid picture with detailed and insightful chapters addressing 1920s Wanganui, Chow Yat’s early life, incidents on the day, evening of, and day after the murder, the police investigation, suspects, aftermath, and ongoing uncertainty. Her sparse writing style allows space to absorb, ponder and speculate – not only in terms of the whodunnit aspect, but also wider issues such as historic xenophobia, faulty eye-witness descriptions, family secrets, and the police tendency to focus on building a case against one suspect to the detriment of other options.

All-in-all The Murder of Chow Yat is an enjoyable read that will still have you thinking long after the final page.


What do you think of the review (I was very constrained for space)? Does historic true crime interest you? Have you read Rosier-Jones' book? If not, does it sound interesting? Thoughts and comments welcome.

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