Over the past few months, I have been gradually building up my personal collection of out-of print and harder-to-find New Zealand crime, mystery, and thriller novels. As I’ve discovered more about the history and scope of the genre in this country, I have managed to progressively purchase several dozen books - many penned by authors I’ve only recently become acquainted with.
You can see from the sidebar column "Other Kiwi crime, thriller, mystery or suspense authors" (you might have to scroll down a bit), that the history of Kiwi crime fiction is quite a bit broader than it may at first seem. And while many of those names might have only ever produced one or two crime novels, there are a handful of such 'forgotten' authors that wrote something of a series (eg Edmund Bohan, Carol Dawber, Freda Bream, and Laurie Mantell). Some were even quite well-known at the time.
So as well as reading and reviewing recent Kiwi crime fiction (which seems to be growing, slowly, both in scope and stature), I've been exploring some of our local crime and thriller writing from the past.
From 1978-1984, Mantell wrote five Wellington-set murder mysteries featuring Detective Sergeant Steve Arrow of the NZ Police. She also wrote a sixth crime novel, the standalone MATES, in the late 1990s. I understand that, particularly her first five books, were actually reasonably well-received and popular, being read and published in several countries.
I read her fourth mystery, MURDER TO BURN, over the weekend. Its style is of another era in some ways, but it was a good, enjoyable read, and there were some great twists and turns in the plot, especially as it reached the conclusion. I've also got my hands on a copy of her second book, A MURDER OR THREE, which I am currently reading.
In A MURDER OR THREE, three women are murdered, each with a pair of pantyhose. Detective Sergeant Steve Arrow knows the first victim, a shy teenager who has already told the police of a flasher seen in nearby bush. The body of the second victim, older, extremely attractive, is found in this same bush, and, later, a flirtatious wife dies in her own home with the tell-tale pantyhose around her throat. Residents are in near panic...
I'm looking forward to seeing how Mantell brings this one together.
On a related point, if anyone has any idea how I can (relatively easily) get hold of any of Mantell's other four books (MURDER IN FANCY DRESS, MURDER AND CHIPS, MURDER IN VAIN, and MATES), at a reasonable price, please let me know. The same goes for any of Freda Bream's Reverend Jabal Jarrett mysteries (other than ISLAND OF FEAR, which I already have), or Edmund Bohan's 19th century-set Inspector O’Rorke novels.
As I said, I'm trying to build up my 'library' of out-of-print and hard-to-find Kiwi mystery, crime, and thriller novels. In the near future I will post a list of what I have already sourced - but I would appreciate any help tracking down other books as well.