Tuesday, March 29, 2011


For my second go around at the Crime Fiction Alphabet (read my 2010 posts here), I've set myself the challenging task of focusing not only just on New Zealand-themed posts, but just on Kiwi crime fiction books (ie I won't do any author profiles etc this time around) - although sometimes it may be the author's name that is relevant to the letter of the week.

This week I'm featuring LETHAL DELIVERIES, a young adult murder mystery by Palmerston North-based physics teacher Ken Benn that was published by Penguin early last year (I believe it may have been released earlier by a smaller publisher, achieved bestseller status, and then was picked up by Penguin as the first in a trilogy). I understand the books TRAPPED OUTSIDE THE CAGE and GUTTED also on the way in future.

In LETHAL DELIVERIES, "Rochelle has her hopes set on one day playing in the National Women's Inline Hockey team. Her goal seems to slip from her reach as she gets sucked into her brother, Jack's world of gangs and drug dealing. But is the gang life what Rochelle's brother really wants or is it a choice his father has made for him? Rochelle finds herself in a dangerous world supported by the most unlikely companions and soon learns there's a price to be paid for these friendships – an ultimate price." I understand Benn's next book should be out at some stage this year. Teenage readers who've commented online about LETHAL DELIVERIES have said things like:

  • "Exciting, well written and full of dialogue. It has highly realistic characters ... Best of all, it has that rare thing in a book that makes you not want to put it down... the writer has taken the time to get into the minds of the characters while writing it... It doesn’t try to be like those goody-goody books where no one gets hurt or killed in case the readers get sad; it is realistic. In my opinion it is just as desirable to read as the Harry Potter books, just not as famous."

  • "What I loved about this book is it’s not what everyone wants to hear. It opens our eyes to what is really happening in our communities. It has suspense, excitement, twists, turns and characters that, in many ways, were very real to me. The book made me feel many emotions—happy, sad, angry, scared."

  • "I think that it’s a very good book because it relates to the problems that some of us have today for both teenagers and adults. I thought the book was great because it shows what homeless people have to go through ... and how some of them are not as bad as people think they are."

So that's some pretty great praise from the target audience. Penguin also created high school study notes and reader questions for LETHAL DELIVERIES, getting students to think and talk about narrative, and themes such as family relationships and loyalty.

In a newspaper interview last year it was reported that schoolteacher Benn had spent five years researching tbe book, including time talking to both the victims of and perpetrators of youth crime, visiting the Palmerston North youth justice facility and talking to social workers. Also, in Wellington, he slept under a bridge with a group of streetkids "who had decided to opt out of society," to try to understand what their life was like.

Did you like reading crime fiction as a teenager? Do you think it's good for adolescent and teenage readers to read books with 'serious' content like murder, homelessness, drugs, etc? Have you read LETHAL DELIVERIES? Comments welcome.


  1. Craig - What a good idea to spotlight YA crime fiction. I liked that sort of thing as a young person, and I'm always a fan of anyone whose work encourages young people to read :-). This is great :-)

  2. I loved crime fiction as a teenager. I've loved mysteries since I was 7 years old and discovered Nancy Drew. If the books get kids to read, I don't mind that it has "serious" content--provided they have someone (parent/teacher/mentor) who they can discuss issues with if they need to.

    I haven't read Lethal Deliveries...but I don't read a lot of YA fiction. I never did, really. Hopped straight from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie.

    Here's my Letter L: http://myreadersblock.blogspot.com/2011/03/crime-fiction-alphabet-letter-l.html

  3. Thanks for this contribution to this week's CFA Craig. You are certainly telling us about interesting NZ authors

  4. I love how it's set in Palmerston North and how each character is explored in depth as each different character is written through a different characters eyes. You start feeling compassion for characters you may in real life have not liked, tensed or judged. A very good author for his first published book.