Last year, I wrote a long feature article for New Zealand Author magazine about the depth and breadth of contemporary New Zealand crime, mystery, and thriller writing - taking readers through a tiki tour of our country as I looked at the various regions where local crime writers were based, or set their stories.
At the time, I noted that the one large area that seemed near-completely untapped was the Central North Island: "The regions between our biggest city and our capital city currently provide slimmer pickings when it comes to contemporary crime fiction, despite what would seem like a plethora of intriguing landscapes, geographic and demographic, and issues that could provide great fodder and colour for a well-told thriller story."
Well, it seems I spoke too soon, as the very month my article was published, so was a crime novel set in the forested heart of Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island): BUCKINBAH WEIR by Wayne Brooking.
BUCKINBAH WEIR is a contemporary mystery set in the forestry backblocks of New Zealand's central North Island. A weir on a forest creek has been the scene of a series of strange murders stretching back to the early 1900s that have never been solved. With the murders occurring intermittently over a long period of time, local people in the small settlements nearby have their own suspicions and theories as to who- or what - may lie behind the heinous crimes, but no one really knows why they keep happening, or when the killer will strike again.
A young Australian journalist and an Aboriginal photographer are visiting the area to cover a major eruption at Mt Ruapehu. When the journalist reads about the murders, she realises the potential for a big scoop, and decides to investigate. Could there really be a link between all of the crimes, even though they have been committed over a period of nearly 100 years? And can the investigators unravel the mystery without becoming the killer's next victims?
Brooking, a plumber for the Kawerau District Council, wrote the crime novel at night over several years - never telling anyone beyond his immediate family that he was working on a novel. He told the local "The Council" newsletter that the response from Kawerau locals purchasing his book, and their feedback that it's "a jolly good read" has made all the hard work, long nights, and knock-backs, worthwhile. You can also read more about Brooking and his debut novel in an article in the Whakatane Beacon, here.
I think the Central North Island would be a wonderful setting for crime fiction, so I'm looking forward to reading BUCKINBAH WEIR (National Pacific Press, $29.99). You can order it from various independent booksellers, or email Brooking directly on firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to purchase a signed copy.