Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review: ASSIGNED TO MURDER by Trish McCormack

Former Hokitika journalist and Abel Tasman NP worker Trish McCormack combines her two great passions in her debut novel; crime fiction and the uniqueness and stunning scenery of the West Coast.

Young glacier guide Philippa Barnes is still recovering from her parents’ sudden death when her old flatmate Kirsten, a journalist, is murdered near a picturesque lake. When Kirsten’s brother Jack asks Philippa to help dig deeper into what Kirsten was investigating, Philippa finds herself on a treacherous journey involving family secrets, human frailties, and long-buried crimes. At the same time a diarist tries to come to terms with a past horror.

Good murder mysteries have strong characters as well as puzzling plots. Overall, McCormack does well on that front. Although I was a little slow to warm to Philippa (who seemed a touch annoying at first), her depth and complexity comes out as the story progresses, and there is an interesting and well-drawn wider cast. McCormack has a nice touch for the emotional intricacies of human relationships, although her characters’ dialogue is at times a little unrealistic, filled with more exposition than subtext. More absorbing slow burn than cracking page-turner, Assigned to Murder trundles along for a while before hitting its stride, then finishing strongly.

Overall, there are plenty of good things (some very good) about this debut effort, and I look forward to seeing what McCormack comes up with next.


This review was first published in the December 2010 issue of WildTomato, the magazine of Nelson and Marlborough. You can read more about this terrific magazine here.

1 comment:

  1. Craig - Thanks for this review. I like the way you make a clear distinction between the kind of book you keep reading because it's absorbing and the kind of book you keep reading because it's a sparkling page-turning filled with suspense. Both kinds of books can be terrific. Glad you enjoyed this one.