Tuesday, January 24, 2012


BEHIND THE HOOD by Marita A. Hansen

Reviewed by John Ling

I first encountered Marita A. Hansen when we bumped into each other on Goodreads. Goodreads, of course, is the largest networking site for readers and writers. And we immediately connected because we're both Kiwis writing urban fiction set in New Zealand.

On impulse, I picked up her novel, Behind The Hood, even though she didn't ask me to.

And, in hindsight, I'm glad I did.

Behind The Hood is tough, gritty and uncompromising. The kind of story that I like to call 'faction'. Where razor-sharp realism reinforces a propulsive narrative that's so gut-wrenchingly harrowing, it can only have come from the mind and soul of someone who's actually been there and done that.

Marita, you see, grew up in Manurewa. So she understands intimately and instinctively what it means to be young and desperate in a South Auckland ghetto. And she hammers her point home with prose that's punchy, gritty and unsentimental. It's incredibly precise in the the way it examines the minutiae of street life; the daily beats of the turf wars; the struggles of the underclass. Think George Pelecanos and Richard Price -- but executed with a Kiwi flair and sensibility. And if I had to compare Behind The Hood to celluloid, I would say it most closely resembles The Wire. It's not just sharp and compelling drama; it's a sociology class wrapped up in down-and-dirty observation.

This is incendiary stuff that slashes at your soul with all the power of a switchblade. And if only our politicians could read it, they would break down, weep and get their act together.

Behind the Hood is a hard-boiled story that's frighteningly authentic. So don't read it because you want to. Read it because you have to.

It's available now as an e-book and paperback from Amazon.


John Ling is the Amazon best-selling author of THE BLASPHEMER. You can find out more about him and his work at www.johnling.net.


Have you read BEHIND THE HOOD? Does it sound like the kind of book that would interest you? What do you think of John's review? Do you know any other recent New Zealand crime novels, print or ebook, that should be featured on Crime Watch? Comments appreciated.


  1. I've been following Marita's progress with this story since she brought it to the Harper Collins "Authonomy" website around 18 months ago. She decided to self publish, acknowledging the difficult job this entails in terms of marketing and publicity. I know she has worked extremely hard to network and promote this book and as a result she is, I believe making real progress in such a difficult environment. It's a credit to her that her work is gradually being acknowledged 'at home' and picked up by this site and the reviewer in turn. Please support Marita. She deserves it!

  2. Excellent review, John. Another one to add to my list!

  3. Matt has answered my question - I checked out the book on Amazon UK (your link goes to US site) and amazingly, the book is available. This fact, combined with the lack of any publisher in the listing, made me wonder if it is self-published- I see from Matt's comment that it is.
    I wish authors would state in their Amazon listing whether or not their book is self-published but none of them do. It does make a difference to a potential reader's decision about whether to purchase/read.

  4. Maxine, the easiest way on Amazon to find out if a book is self-published or not is to check under Book Details.

    If it doesn't list a publisher, then it's a self-published book. If it does list a publisher but the name of the publisher is the name of the author, then it's a self-published book. Otherwise, it's usually a traditionally published book.

    As for John's review, Marita's book sounds interesting. I'll check it out. I'm not Kiwi but I am interested in stuff that isn't usually associated with New Zealand and this sounds like something I might like.

  5. Thanks, Ted, I know this- I also know that many authors invent a publisher so it is hard to tell (though this particular book lists no publisher). I've been in email conversations with Amazon about this, as I think they should distinguish between self- and independently published books, for readers' benefit. They won't, though, they say they just go by whatever the person uploads. Their loss, as this means I only buy a self-published book if I've had a specific recommendation from a reviewer I already trust (as most of the Amazon reviews of self-published books seem to be by authors' friends or fellow authors doing reciprocal favours. All bad for discerning readers who can't sort wheat from chaff).