Friday, October 1, 2010

Forgotten books: MURDER ON A MUSTER (1997)

As I've noted before here on Crime Watch, including with my 'Kiwi crime bookshelves' photo back in July, I've found myself collecting a lot of out of print and hard to find Kiwi crime, mystery and thriller titles over the past year or so. There have been some terrific finds in various online and 'real' secondhand bookstores etc. Along with a strong present and a (hopefully) very bright future, New Zealand crime fiction has a much richer history than most people realise.

One out-of-print or hard-to-find book that I stumbled over recently has a very 'Kiwi' setting: a high country farm. Colin D. MacDonald's MURDER ON A MUSTER is a slimline mystery novel that was published by Certes Press in Christchurch in 1997.

In MURDER ON A MUSTER, "Hill country farmer Hamish Nicholls is well aware fo the dangerous nature of potholes that reach deeped below his pastures on Limestone Hills. His new huntaway dog, however, hasn't yet learnt to step carefully and early one frosty mustering day while in excited pursuit of some breakaway sheep, he falls down a pothole. Hamish, fond of the dog and mindful of its value, ventures down after him in a rescue attempt which results in a grisly discovery. The events which follow plunge Hamish into a nighmarish encounter with violence and lawlessness. Suddenly all that he holds most dear and most certain is under threat."

As far as I have been able to ascertain thusfar, MURDER ON A MUSTER may be the only book former farmer Colin D. MacDonald published. According to the book's back cover, MacDonald was born and brought up on a North Canterbury sheep run, and had extensive experience at managing and owning farms in Canterbury and on the West Coast, and had been on many musters similar to the one depicted in MURDER ON A MUSTER. At the time of publication he was retired and living in Christchurch, married with three children.

According to the jacket, "Author Colin MacDonald's experience of North Canterbury farming and his feel for the landscape provide an authentic backdrop to this tale of murder and the desperate flight of a violent, vindictive man who has nothing more to lose".

Sounds intriguing, and at only 117 pages in length, I'll probably find myself giving it a go sooner rather than later. Might be a nice change from all the city-based crime I've been reading lately.

Do you like crime fiction set in isolated rural areas? How important is an interesting setting in mystery writing? Had you heard of MURDER ON A MUSTER before? Does it sound like the kind of book you might like to try? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. I'm glad to have word of this book, which (to date) has not been listed in my "Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2000." I will incorporate it in the next batch of Addenda to be posted at, and include it in the full bibliography if there's another edition (it now appears only on CDROM from Locus Press).

    Allen J. Hubin

  2. This is Colin MacDonald the author of Murder on a Muster.I still have a few copies of this book available if anyone is interested. Also copies of my second book "The Life & Times of Ernie O'Neal." Email address