Thursday, June 22, 2017


MURDER ON MURITAI by Genesis Cotterell (Hayes, 2017)

Reviewed by Carolyn McKenzie

Curtis McCoy is called on to investigate his first case. Beautiful half-blood Ryxin Janux Lennan believes her husband was murdered, and she wants Curtis to find the killer or killers. They embark on their pursuit and find a bit more than they expected.

Muritai Island, somewhere off the coast of New Zealand, is a small community which has as its inhabitants some very unsavoury characters. Their mission: to take back the rights they lost upon landing on Earth and to eventually take over the planet themselves.

If you have ever met someone so ‘other-worldly’ that you thought they could almost be ‘from another planet’, then Murder on Muritai may be all the confirmation you need that aliens – Ryxins from the planet Ryxin in this case – have indeed settled on Earth, in human guise, naturally.

The book opens like any other murder mystery, with Curtis McCoy, a private investigator, listening to his client’s report of her partner’s death, which she assumes was murder. We soon learn however that this is no ordinary crime scenario since the deceased is Ryxin, and Human police are forbidden by law to investigate crimes involving Ryxins.

Muritai Island should be an idyllic setting in the southern Pacific Ocean but instead its population is deeply divided: lawless Ryxins are striving to outnumber the Human population. McCoy is a new comer to the island and a new comer to detective work – this murder is his first case and as he tries to solve it he becomes entangled with the worst features of Ryxin society. At the same time, his involvement with a couple of Ryxin women distract him from his investigation to the point where he seems to have forgotten that he has a murder mystery to solve. And yet, cunningly, as the book draws to an end, McCoy pulls himself and all his clues together and identifies the killer.

And on the surface, this is Murder on Muritai: a not overly gripping crime novel where the investigator spends much of the book either racing around the island (or catching the ferry to the mainland) in pursuit of various women, or mourning the end of his marriage to a Human.

In spite of weaknesses in the crime-solving aspects of this book, I found Murder on Muritai both fascinating and disturbing. Cotterell cleverly brought the Ryxin aliens to Earth – to Ireland in a flash of blue light, in 1905 – not so very long after the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand must have seemed like an alien invasion. From Ireland, many Ryxins have made their way to Muritai Island ‘in search of a better life’. Some of them have obeyed government regulations and only mated with Humans, thereby diluting Ryxin blood. Others are intent on illegally preserving their full-bloodedness, and all the superior powers that that entails.

Putting the science-fiction - suspended reality - aspect of Murder on Muritai aside, it is impossible not to reflect on its parallels with some of the volatile racial and migrant dramas currently unfolding around the world, with their associated issues of socio-cultural diversity, integration and identity preservation, or to muse on colonisation, ethnic cleansing and master races. And then there’s the question of those ‘other-worldly’ people that we’ve all met from time to time: could they have come ‘from another planet’?

Murder on Muritai is book one in the Ryxin trilogy. If Curtis McCoy is going to stay in business he will have to spend less time chasing beautiful women, but like all good first books in a trilogy, Murder on Muritai ends with some questions still unanswered – a reason for catching up with McCoy, as he strives for a better Muritai Island, in book two.

Carolyn McKenzie is a freelance proofreader, copy editor, and Italian-English translator. She also offers holiday accommodation for writers and others in Thames, New Zealand and Ventimiglia Alta, Italy. 

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 the kind permission of Bronwyn Elsmore and Carolyn McKenzie. 

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