Paul Thomas, one of the biggest names in Australasian crime fiction from the 1990s, returns to the crime writing stage with DEATH ON DEMAND, his first crime novel in a decade, and his first novel to feature Detective Tito Ihaka in 15 years.
Thomas won the inaugural Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel with his second novel, INSIDE DOPE, in 1995. In an overview of Australian crime writing (Thomas lived in Sydney for a time), Michael Pollack and Margaret MacNabb wrote about Thomas’ early novels, saying: "These comic novels leave the reader laughing, that’s for sure. The sparkling dialogue, absurd situations and all the crackling one-liners are pure entertainment. But there is always the shadow of doubt falling over the page…After reading Paul Thomas… one never reads a newspaper or watches a television newscast with the quite the same degree of innocence again."
You can read more about him and his crime writing history here.
In late 2010, Thomas's first three crime novels were republished as THE IHAKA TRILOGY, and I commented at the time that this was hopefully a sign that perhaps Thomas - who is also an acclaimed newspaper columnist and the author of several bestselling sports biographies - was considering a return to the crime writing page. As it turns out, that was true. DEATH ON DEMAND will be released on 28 February.
Here's a backcover blurb:
These days Maori cop Tito Ihaka is leading a quieter life in the Wairarapa. Five years earlier he'd sought to step into the shoes of his long-time boss Detective Inspector Finbar McGrail after the latter's promotion to Auckland District Commander. Dogged by the fall-out from his handling of the hit and run death of a prominent businesswoman, Ihaka was overlooked for a younger, more presentable candidate. After a men's room confrontation with his new boss's right-hand man, Ihaka was sent into exile.
Out of the blue McGrail summons him back to Auckland. Christopher Lilywhite, the businesswoman's terminally ill husband whom Ihaka suspected was behind his wife's death, wants to see him. Lilywhite confesses that he had his wife murdered, but he dealt with the hit-man at arm's length so has no idea who he is. In quick succession Lilywhite and another potential source of information are murdered.
Ihaka's old rival Detective Inspector Tony Charlton takes control of the case but with more corpses turning up and Auckland Central stretched to breaking point, he agrees to let Ihaka investigate the apparently unrelated murder of a young man about town. As the investigations expand uncovering a blackmail operation preying on married women, gang activities controlled from inside Paremeremo prison and possible police corruption, Ihaka realises that the cases are related and he's hunting a faceless and prolific hit-man. Or is the hit-man hunting him?
I was fortunate enough to read an advance version last month, and it's a rip-roaring read, packed with action and interesting characters. Without a doubt, it's great to see Ihaka back on the page.
I'll publish a full review once the book is published. In the meantime, keep an eye out for DEATH ON DEMAND. The return of Thomas certainly bolsters an already impressive line-up of contemporary Kiwi crime writers in recent years.