Tuesday, July 21, 2015


SOMETHING IS ROTTEN by Adam Sarafis (Echo, 2015)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Late one night at the University of Auckland library, Brent, a troubled young man, feels a sense of accomplishment as he clicks 'send' and emails a life-changing manuscript, then soon after tumbles headlong over a guardrail and is impaled on the glass of the stairwell far below. 

So begins this intriguing debut from Adam Sarafis, the pen-name for a collaboration between acclaimed Swedish-born novelist Linda Olsson and award-winning young playwright Thomas Sainsbury. 

Sam Hallberg is muddling through life as a mechanic, having given away his role as a government terrorism advisor following a personal tragedy. When he’s beseeched by Jade, a young sex worker, to investigate the library death of her friend (ruled a suicide by authorities), he reluctantly becomes involved in a hunt for answers, and a missing manuscript. 

Is it just Jade’s grief talking, or is something really rotten going on: a cover-up in New Zealand's biggest city? Sam doesn't think there's much to it, but he starts to feel the old juices flowing when a few things just don't add up. But, besides Jade, who would care so much about Brent, a slovenly wannabe writer who had fantasies about a relationship with a more-dashing British immigrant? He was hardly a threat. Simultaneously, Sam’s friend, business journalist Lynette Church, is getting stonewalled by the government advisors and powerful businesspeople as she delves into dirty politics in relation New Zealand’s meat exports to Europe. 

Something is Rotten is an assured first offering, combining page-turning storytelling with some thought-provoking themes, including how we deal with tragedy, the nexus between politics, big business, and the media, and the power imbalances in society. The authors create a nice 'what's going on here?' vibe early on, which permeates as the tale evolves. It's an easy read, with some interesting characters and ideas sprinkled throughout. The Shakespearean quotes to kickstart chapters are a nice touch, and the way the plot comes together is very intriguing. All in all, a solid first offering and a promising start to a series that is well worth reading. I'll be looking forward to the second instalment, and learning more about Sam and Lynette. 

Something is Rotten can be ordered via your friendly local bookstore in Australia and New Zealand. 
For those further afield, it is also available in ebook form from Amazon Kindle

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