Wednesday, March 31, 2021


THE QUIET PEOPLE by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press, 2021)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful crime-writers. They have been on the promotional circuit, joking that no-one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.

So when their 7 year old son Zach goes missing, naturally the police and the public wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time - are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime?

Internationally bestselling Christchurch crime writer Paul Cleave never goes easy on his characters (or his readers), regularly putting them through the wringer with his dark and twisted tales. Cops, criminals, civilians: they've all faced excruciating situations, tough choices, and harsh consequences throughout Cleave's long streak of really outstanding crime thrillers. Whether series or standalone, Cleave offers plenty to chew on.

In his twelfth novel, THE QUIET PEOPLE, the Crown Prince of Antipodean Crime turns the blowtorch up high on a protagonist who has some echoes of the author himself. Cameron Murdoch is a killer, on the page. He and his wife Lisa are successful crime writers, thrilling fans all over the world with their dark and devious novels as well as their engaging festival appearances. 

But when their hard-to-handle young son Zach vanishes one night, the media, public, and the Police begin to wonder whether the Murdochs are really victims, or culprits? They kill on the page, have joked before about how crime writers could get away with the perfect murder; have they tried it for real? As Cameron scrambles for answers, her risks losing his wife, his liberty, and his sanity as well as his son. 

Or his he fooling us too?

He is a scheming storyteller, after all, more used to fiction than fact.

Cleave conjures a wrenching tale that has the poise and power of an elite boxer (or UFC fighter), with an ability to wrongfoot readers, deliver thunderous body blows, and offer plenty of style along the way. 

At times it can feel almost unrelenting as Cameron's life spirals into some really awful places - from bad to worse to horrifying to ... - yet the crackle and energy in Cleave's sentences and the dark seam of humour that runs throughout prevents things from getting too bleak. Dark yet full of vitality. 

This is a superb novel from a champion storyteller.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed Kiwi lawyer who now lives in London and writes for magazines and newspapers in several countries. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at festivals on three continents. Craig's been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, McIlvanney Prize, is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. His book SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, was published in 2020.

No comments:

Post a Comment