Thursday, April 28, 2016
Review: THE JADED KIWI
Reviewed by Karen Chisholm
The summer of 1976 in Auckland, New Zealand. There is a severe marijuana drought. Two couples; a gynaecologist and a physicist, together with a violinist and an actress meet by accident in a pub and help a Maori evade the police. A group of Maori plans to deliver a truckload of cannabis to Auckland. A Chinese family has harvested four greenhouses of enhanced sensimilla. A criminal mastermind plots to start a drug war. A police Inspector hunts a fugitive Maori. The war on drugs starts in New Zealand.
A gynaecologist, a physicist, a violinist and an actress all walk into a pub and help a Maori leader evade the police. With no apologies to anyone for the pun because really, that's part of what THE JADED KIWI is all about. An absolutely madcap plot, peopled with a cast of seeming thousands and a lot of crazy behaviour.
Heaps of pace where it mattered really helps what's not so much a complicated plot, as a complex execution, scamper along. Many of the rapidly expanding character set are wonderfully engaging, if not slightly over the top. Whether it's the gynaecologist paired up with the physicist who find themselves back in his (the physicist's) home territory, or the bear like violinist with a heart of gold and concern for his musician's hands, who has gone to New York and back to rescue his girlfriend with the Asian background. All of whom meet up with the Maori fugitive from the law, and somehow find themselves at the centre of a drug war/organised crime sort of plot with stolen cars, mysterious phone calls, and much sneaking around in the back streets and byways.
It's a very busy story though, and readers will have to concentrate hard to keep up with what seems like an ever expanding cast, to say nothing of some incredibly complicated connections. For this reader, a little pairing down of some of the byways and offshoots may have uncomplicated some elements, allowing the central themes more concentration - and therefore a little more clarity.
However, everything is delivered with great verve, almost gusto, papering over any potential logical cracks with sufficient engagement to make you wonder if you actually saw what you thought you might have just seen. The added bonus is a real feeling of affection for New Zealand and it's people. All of which makes THE JADED KIWI a debut thriller which shows promise, delivered as it is, with a slightly tongue in cheek, very New Zealander sort of sense of humour, style and language.
Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a Judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. She kindly shares her reviews of crime and thriller novels written by New Zealanders on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction.