Our weekly reviews of the latest books from home and abroad.
Women writers seem to excel when it comes to historical
novels, and Terri Kessell (Burning the Evidence, Cape
Catley, pbk, $27) and Susan Marshall (The Tartan
Helix, distributed in New Zealand by Landmark Press, $20)
are no exception.
fast-paced and authentic-sounding narrative is built around
the infamous burning of the sailing ship Boyd in the
Bay of Islands in 1806, and the massacre and eating of the
crew by local Maori.
Told from the perspective of survivor Ann Morley, it leaves
no bone unburned as Ann unshackles herself from a convict
past and marriage to an abusive husband in Sydney, and books
passage intending to return to Manchester and a job in the
Her kindness to a young Maori male on board, falsely accused
of stealing and flogged to an inch of his life, ensures the
survival of Ann and her baby daughter, and honoured
membership of the vengeful tribe, even though she turns down
I can see this being made into a movie.
Marshall's effort is more complex:
a fictional account, but heavily reliant on a well-researched
family history, of the migration to Canada of Highlanders
made landless after they supported Bonnie Prince Charlie's
Although her particular interest is in McLeod clan members,
the hardship of the voyages, the loss of loved ones on the
way, and especially life when they reached Nova Scotia,
obviously applies to all the many Scots who ventured forth.
Spiralling (the helix) from these few brave souls are
Marshall's ancestors, who married into the Tupper family
settled in Massachusetts, before joining gold rushes to
Australia and New Zealand.
Indeed, Samuel Tupper McLeod is buried in a Dunedin cemetery.
Rich in detail and fascinating reading for anyone of Scots
descent. - Ian Williams
Fearless Fourteen by Janet
Evanovich (Headline, pbk, $38.99) is the latest in the
light-hearted, over-the-top crime series featuring bounty
hunter Stephanie Plum.
As usual in these stories, the characters are outrageously
larger than life and the situations they encounter bizarre,
to say the least.
In this one Stephanie has to find the proceeds of a bank
robbery before a hostage is killed, but this is the least of
If you enjoy farce heaped upon farce, this story will make an
enjoyable read for a wet weekend and leave you smiling. -
A sleepy hollow like New Zealand sees
little international crime and, consequently, knows little
about it, a deficiency redeemed by Misha Glenny with
McMafia, a copious review of "crime without frontiers"
(The Bodley Head, paperback, $40).
His thesis is that the coincidence of the fall of communism,
increasing globalisation of commerce and the growth of the
Internet combined to offer crooks an opportunity to indulge
in volume crime on the scale of burger chains.
Glenny, a BBC correspondent often heard on Radio New Zealand
bulletins, illustrates this with interesting anecdotes and
in-depth analysis but, Nigerian scammers apart, the world he
describes resembles something out of a Hollywood James Bond
movie, far removed from our doorstep. - Geoffrey Vine