Tuesday, July 17, 2018


DEATH ON D'URVILLE by Penelope Haines (Ithaca Publications, 2016)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Death on D’Urville is the first novel in a new mystery series featuring Claire Hardcastle, commercial pilot and flying instructor, who operates out of Paraparaumu airport in New Zealand. 

Claire Hardcastle is fiery, clever, daring —and she’s trying to prove herself in a man's world. Recently recovered from a disastrous relationship with her ex, she’s determined from now on to live on her own terms.

When her routine flight to pick a passenger up from a remote island in the Marlborough Sounds turns into a murder investigation Claire is excited to discover she may hold a clue to the crime. 

Book One in the Claire Hardcastle series DEATH ON D'URVILLE, the second book STRAIGHT AND LEVEL was released in 2017. Operating out of Paraparaumu airport in New Zealand, Hardcastle is a commercial pilot and flying instructor, which gives the author an opportunity to play with a number of recurring themes including women working in what's traditionally been a male dominated industry, people with the sorts of nerves of steel required to fly and stick their nose into tricky investigations and the complications of dealing with (and being) an alpha personality type; as well as the freedom to move Hardcastle into different locations, and different groups of people with ease. Add to that a disastrous previous relationship and there's lots of ingredients in this debut book.

Easy reading, with a casual, almost chatty style and an engaging central character, DEATH ON D'URVILLE ticks the boxes you'd want on something that's leaning towards the romantic suspense side of the genre. There's the budding personal relationship between the two main protagonists, there's a reasonably intricate plot with heaps of local colour and flavour. And there's the nice little twist of a dead novelist at the centre of a locked room style mystery.

The only downside for this particular reader was that this agreeable romantic suspense novel got a bit melodramatic towards the end, although that could very much be an issue of personal taste. Regardless, definitely a series that romantic suspense readers may find very appealing.

Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource - please check it out. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a judge of the  Ned Kelly Awards and the Ngaio Marsh AwardsShe kindly shares some of her reviews of crime and thriller novels from Australian and New Zealand authors on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

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