Friday, April 8, 2022


THE WATER'S DEAD by Catherine Lea (Breaklight Press, 2022)

Reviewed by TJ Ramsay

Meet DI Nyree Bradshaw. For twenty-five years, Nyree has lived for the job. Now the life she sacrificed for it is catching up with her.

The chin tattoo confirms the victim is Māori. The whorls of ink from her lower lip to her chin - the moko - is worn only by Māori women. So, her ethnicity is a given. Finding who murdered her, and dumped her body in the volcanic rock pool at the base of Mason’s Rock waterfall is DI Nyree Bradshaw’s latest case. From the strangely unsympathetic parents, to the belligerent boyfriend on home detention for drugs, it seems everyone has something to hide and no one is telling truth. Then Nyree discovers six-year-old diabetic, Lily Holmes is missing, last seen in the victim's care.

Now, Nyree must now find the killer to save Lily. 

She has already failed her own son. She cannot fail this child.

A young Maori woman is murdered, her body found at the base of Mason’s Rock waterfall. Also, six-year-old Lily Holmes is missing, last seen in the victim’s care. For Detective Inspector Nyree Bradshaw, the clock is ticking. Lily is diabetic and needs to be found quickly. Nyree must find the murderer to save Lily.

This is a pitch-perfect detective crime thriller. It reminds me in flavour of Anne Cleeves and has all the twists and strong characters you would expect from one of her novels.

Lea’s DI Bradshaw follows the pattern of police officer with an imperfect life fighting to do the right thing. Bradshaw is up against the toxic masculinity which bedevilled the 1980’s New Zealand Police and the traces (perhaps more than just traces) which linger on. She’s also up against the beliefs and wishes of the Maori whanau surrounding the murdered girl – simmering violence, the need for revenge, for utu challenges her investigation.

Lea is a deft hand with dialogue and everyone we meet has their history and well-defined character. My sympathies shifted, ebbed and flowed around them all. I learned one or two things about death rituals from a Maori perspective and shared the aching misery of dire poverty which dogs the population, particularly in the North. Lea managed to show without preaching and her writing is all the more effective because of that.

Great twists in the end brought the novel to an immensely satisfying conclusion. 

I see from the back of this book, Lea has other titles to her name and I will be looking for them. But please, Catherine – I would love more from DI Nyree Bradshaw. 

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 Flaxflower founder and editor Bronwyn Elsmore. 

No comments:

Post a Comment