Monday, June 28, 2010


After ACCESS ROAD by Maurice Gee and BUTTERSCOTCH by Lyn Loates last year, another New Zealand novel that appears as though it sits on the blurred edge between literary fiction and crime/mystery fiction has been released today; THE CRIME OF HUEY DUNSTAN by James McNeish.

McNeish (who turns 80 next year) is well known in New Zealand and in certain circles overseas as an acclaimed novelist, biographer, and playwright. His novel LOVELOCK was nominated for the 1986 Booker Prize. You can read more about McNeish here. There is also a good article on McNeish in this week's issue of the NZ Listener, which will be available online in a couple of weeks (I'll link to it then).

In THE CRIME OF HUEY DUNSTAN, a young man stands in the dock accused of a brutal, apparently motiveless, murder. When Professor Chesney, a blind psychologist specialising in trauma, is called as an expert witness, he is at first baffled. This young man, Huey Dunstan, was a bubbly, smiling child not so long ago. What brought him to bludgeon an old man to death? Why does he seem determined at all cost to incriminate himself? As Ches delves into Huey's past, with the sensitive insight that perhaps only a blind man could have, a psychological mystery unravels. And the jury is asked to consider an unthinkable defence.

The publisher's blurb says, "The Crime of Huey Dunstan takes us beyond questions of guilt and innocence to thought provoking ideas on justice and humanity. An emotionally engaging, beautifully written novel from one of New Zealand's most revered writers."

My fellow Good Reading reviewer Linda George reviews the book in the July issue of the magazine (in the crime section), giving it four stars and calling it "a beautifully written novel which asks some fundamental questions about the the nature of guilt, justice, and responsibility in our society".

I look forward to reading it.

Do you like 'literary crime'? Mysteries that focus more on the psychology of the people involved, rather than the detection, prevention, or solving of a crime? Have you read either of ACCESS ROAD or BUTTERSCOTCH? What did you think? What are some of your favourite 'literary' crime novels? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. Craig- Oh, I very much enjoy it when crime fiction focuses on the psychology of the murderer. That, to me, is one of the really important things about crime. I haven't read the other two novels you mention, but this one sounds compelling. As to lilterary crime novels? Well, the classic, for me, is Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.

  2. What about Elizabeth George? Her novels seem to fit this idea of literary crime don't you think? I have read them all but the most recent.

    And what a novel Rebecca is. You know I hadn't thought of it as a crime novel specifically, but I see what you mean.

    Thanks for a very interesting post and I will make a note of the three novels you have mentioned as I generally like this type of story.

  3. I've got a copy of this and am looking forward to reading it.