Going Zero by Anthony McCarten – 2023
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
1w ago
An utterly compelling read that drags the reader through the dangers of invasive information-gathering, the “erratic, unstable, passion-ruled soul of man”, and the determination of a wronged woman. The ride starts with the beta testing of a state-of-the-art surveillance system, where ten subjects are instructed by Fusion, the agency that will search for them, to ‘go zero’ – to completely disappear for thirty days. The ten participants are a mix of five professionals and “five representatives of ordinary, uninformed credulous America” – at stake is a US$ three million reward. Thus, Going Zero ..read more
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End Times by Rebecca Priestley – 2023
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
2w ago
Two fifty-something women going on a road trip to engage with their ancestry, their past, home-baked pies – and to visit the “coal face” of today’s biggest existential threat: global warming. Rebecca Preistley is “a writer and academic who writes about climate change”, her life-long friend is Maz (Marianne Rogers) a civil engineer, once a mining engineer. End Times is a work of autofiction, and is sad, funny, scary, and educational. Maz is the extrovert of the pair, and more laid back about the world racing to environmental collapse – or, as they are on the West Coast of the South Island, the ..read more
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Mami Suzuki: Private Eye by Simon Rowe – 2023
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
1M ago
Mami Suzuki is moonlighting as a private eye in Kobe, Japan. She is doing so unbeknownst to the management of the Orient Hotel where she works – she needs the money to support herself, her mother, and her daughter. Four stories, each linked by the word of mouth of a client, present Mami Suzuki as shrewd, empathetic, and sensible – although possibly with a bit of a drinking problem. Suzuki’s four cases take us to wonderfully described destinations; you can smell hear and taste the locations. One story is set in Kobe, with the president of a major pearl business concerned about theft in the org ..read more
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Return to Blood by Michael Bennett – 2024
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
1M ago
Hana Westerman is back staking out houses, interviewing suspects, filming crimes in progress, and piecing together scraps of information. The only problem is, she’s no longer a detective: “Hana had walked away from the cops because she couldn’t live with the darkness anymore. But the darkness had followed her. And it had followed her family.” Hana has returned to where she grew up; Tātā Beach on the west coast of the North Island. Her rapper daughter Addison and Addison’s best friend PLUS1, are living in Hana’s house in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, about two hours away. Hana is renting just down ..read more
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Emergency Weather by Tim Jones – 2023
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
1M ago
An Aotearoa we are all familiar with – extreme weather events, houses washed away, roads impassable, calls for resilience and re-building. But in Emergency Weather these events have become more extreme: “Glacial slowness had become an oxymoron.” The landscape is scarred: in Wellington there are wind turbines with their blades ripped off, many roofs replaced by plastic sheeting. We trace the stories of three people through what has become a treacherous unpredictable land. Allie is an Otago dairy farmer whose husband has not been able to overcome the despair of endless droughts. Zeke is a teena ..read more
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El Flamingo by Nick Davies – 2023
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
2M ago
Lou Galloway has given up his Hollywood dream and taken off for Mexico – where he falls into a whirlwind adventure, acting out the role of a lifetime. With a magic realism start, a Narcos middle, and a [no spoilers] ending, El Flamingo is a joyous ride. From a deserted beachside bar in “Playa del something-or-other” to the jungles outside of Cali, Colombia, El Flamingo keeps the reader in what will be, for many, territory familiar from American movies and TV shows. And Lou’s lines in part coming from scripts makes the reader even more at home. “Who would’ve thought acting was a superpower?” T ..read more
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The Quarry by Kim Hunt – 2023
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
2M ago
Dif is a rough sleeper, for good reasons he is lying low, keeping clear of the law. However, when he witnesses a woman’s body being dumped in a quarry, he knows he must do something to get justice for the victim – but that he also must keep himself safe. He gathers scraps of evidence from the body before the next day’s quarry work obliterates it, and he tries for long-distance communication with his foster sister, NSW Park Ranger Cal Nyx, leaving her clues to follow. Cal is taking a break from her job, trying, but failing, to face the death of her Aunt Zin. Zin took Cal in when she was at sch ..read more
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Chasing the Dragon by Mark Wightman – 2023
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
2M ago
Inspector Maximo Betancourt is back solving crimes in sweaty bustling 1940 Singapore. Like his first outing, Waking the Tiger, Chasing the Dragon is full of colourful characters, lots of action, and an intriguing crime to solve. In Waking the Tiger, Betancourt was struggling to investigate a murder due to the victim being an Asian woman, therefore of little interest to the colonial authorities and businesses. In Chasing the Dragon, his investigation is hampered by the victim being an American man, so of such high interest that many agencies want his demise ruled an unfortunate accident and th ..read more
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Take Two by Caroline Thonger & Vivian Thonger, illustrated by Alan Thomas – 2023
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
3M ago
Take two is a random collection of incidents from the U.K. childhoods of two sisters, Caroline and Vivian Thonger. Vivian now lives in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Take two is like a catalogue of memories, complete with illustrations of remembered artefacts. The reader pieces together the sisters’ histories, their fears, their celebrations, their horrors, and the intergenerational effects of wartime trauma. Take Two reminded me of Frankie McMillan’s My mother and the Hungarians, a collection of short, short stories about the Hungarian refugee experience in New Zealand in the 1950s – each story ..read more
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Queen, King, Ace by Olivia Hayfield – 2024
alysontheblog - Reviews of New Zealand fiction
by alysonebaker
4M ago
“Britain needs someone to believe in right now” – its citizens still reeling from the aftermath of Brexit and the badly managed Covid-19 pandemic. Ace Penhalagon, who has risen to Wimbledon and Olympic glory, appears to be their knight in shining armour – “But yet again, time and fate were playing their twisted games.” Queen, King, Ace is another wonderful mash-up of romance, history, social commentary and #YeahNoir, following on from Wife after Wife (Henry VIII), Sister to Sister (Elizabeth I) and Notorious (Richard III). Ace Penhalagon is “a little Cornish boy who knew nothing of his roots ..read more
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