Monday, March 28, 2011

My HOS crime round-up: Druett, Grant, McNeish

This year I've been asked to provide a monthly crime fiction round-up for the Herald on Sunday, one of New Zealand's most well-read newspapers. It's terrific to see some of New Zealand's larger media (big newspapers, magazines, TV shows etc) starting to include a little bit more crime fiction in their review pages. I'm very pleased to be able to contribute in my small way as well.

My third 'column' was published yesterday, Sunday 27 March 2011, in the 'Detours' lifestyle supplement to the newspaper (see right), and now I can share it here with you. Each month I pick 2-3 books that I have read recently (usually new or recent releases, but not always), and talk a little about them. Due to space constraints I don't have a lot of words to play with, but I'll be doing my best to highlight some good and great crime fiction, that could be enjoyable for some of the Herald on Sunday readers to try, as best I can. So here is yesterday's column:

Crime Picks
Book blogger Craig Sisterson reveals his top picks from his recent reading
Since it's New Zealand Book Month edition, I'm looking at crime-centred novels from three terrific local authors that are well worth a read.

A Watery Grave By Joan Druett (Allen & Unwin, $30.99)
It’s 1838 and part-Maori Wiki Coffin is scheduled to embark with the US Exploring Expedition from Virginia when he’s mistakenly arrested for murder before being tasked with surreptitiously investigating the expedition, on the high seas, to find the real killer. Druett marvellously combines mystery and history in a unique crime novel setting. Wiki is a terrific and engaging lead, the book is drenched in maritime colour and detail, and the murder mystery itself twists to a satisfying end.

Death in the Kingdom
By Andrew Grant (Monsoon, $32.95)
A British secret agent is back in Thailand for the first time since he killed a top underworld boss’s son, ordered by his government to recover a small black box from the bottom of the ocean. But as his friends are beheaded one by one and he’s pursued by the CIA, he realises maybe he can’t trust his own handlers either, forcing him to turn go underground. Canterbury author Grant creates a terrific narrative drive, a nice sense of Southeast Asian setting, and memorable characters; a world-class spy thriller with layers and depth.

The Crime of Huey Dunstan
By James McNeish (Vintage, $36.99)
Blind psychologist Professor ‘Ches’ Chesney recounts a court case from years past where he was called in as an expert witness by the defence counsel of a young man accused of murder. There’s no doubt Huey battered an older man to death, but why? Did he really lose control, flashback to a suppressed, disturbing event from his childhood? Should he be guilty of manslaughter rather than murder, in the circumstances? McNeish takes readers on an intriguing ride, touching on thought-provoking issues of law and justice and humanity, as we discover what really happened to Huey.

Craig Sisterson was one of the judges of the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel last year. He blogs about crime and thriller fiction at


This column was first published in the Sunday 27 March 2011 issue of the Herald on Sunday, and is reprinted here with permission.


What do you think of my mini-reviews? Of having such a regular column in one of New Zealand's major newspapers? Have you read (or do you intend to) any of these titles? What are some of the upcoming titles I should definitely include in future columns? Comments welcome.

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