Friday, May 26, 2017


MYSTERY ON THE WHANGANUI by Murray Crawford (Rangitawa Publishing, 2016)

Reviewed by Nitha Vashti

Why is the deck hand behaving so suspiciously? And what is in the letter he keeps studying? On the Whanganui River Mary Paul's grandfather runs a small fleet of boats servicing the settlements along its banks, and his arch-rival, Alexander Hatrick, owns a larger fleet that goes further up the river. When Hatrick's nephew Tom arrives from England, he immediately puts Mary's back up with his arrogant manner, adding to the ill-feeling between the two families. 

But Tom persuades Mary to take a trip with him on his uncle's boat to the grand Pipiriki House Hotel, and convinces her and her brother and sister there's something suspicious about one of the deck hands. Then suddenly Mary finds herself in a very dangerous situation. The children become caught up in a mystery that involves hidden jewellery, a well, a Rookery - and a thrilling chase up the rapids of the Whanganui River.

Mystery On The Whanganui follows Mary Paul, a spirited young girl, keen for adventures and fascinated by the Whanganui River on which her grandfather, Ganga, runs a small fleet of boats.

After meeting Tom, the nephew of Alexander Hatrick, a local businessman and Ganga’s rival, Mary feels upset by his rudeness and sets out to teach him a lesson. Although this fails, she subsequently gets invited by him on a trip down the Whanganui River on one of Hatrick’s steamers. Mary accepts this opportunity and brings her brother Wayne, home from the army, along for the ride.

While on the boat, the three notice a deckhand acting suspiciously, carrying a letter around with him that he seems a little too obsessive about. Mary decides to take things into her own hands and investigate. When she takes the letter back to the boys, they discover it describes lost treasure hidden during the Maori Land Wars. Wary of the deckhand, the trio, now joined by Mary’s younger sister Billie, embark on a mission, trying to find the treasure before he does, so it can be returned to its rightful owner.

Although Murray Crawford’s style could often be described over-writing, I found this created a more descriptive story, suitable for the target audience. It reminded me of a Trixie Belden novel, entertaining but quite light, a book that you will find easy to read. Overall, after I got into the story, I found it interesting to read, full of thrills and mystery.

Mystery on the Whanganui will keep you flipping through the pages.

Nitha Vashti is a high school student in the North Island of New Zealand, and a budding journalist who has had multiple articles published in The Gisborne Herald newspaper. 

This review was first published in FlaxFlower reviews, which focuses on in-depth reviews of New Zealand books of all kinds, and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

Mystery on the Whanganui was originally published by Reed Children's Fiction in 1994, and has recently been republished by Rangitawa Press.  

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