Fantasy set in Dunedin

Laura Hewson reviews The Kingfisher's Debt by Kura Carpenter. Published by IFWG Publishing Australia.

It's Dunedin, but not quite as we know it in local author Kura Carpenter's urban fantasy The Kingfisher's Debt. It looks like our Dunedin - there's the Forsyth Barr Stadium, the Esplanade, the Dunedin Public Library. Only in this version, there are people with powers hiding (for the most part) in plain sight among us.

One such person is translator Tamsin Fairchild, who has been labelled a psychic though she is most decidedly not one. Nor is she human. What she actually is is revealed throughout the novel, which unravels through two parallel storylines: one a missing-child case in the present day, the other a pivotal summer in Tamsin's life 12 years earlier.

Carpenter deftly balances the mystery and the magic in The Kingfisher's Debt, creating a whodunit story of twists and turns played out in a world vastly more interesting than our own.

When a newborn baby is reported missing, Tamsin is forced to team up with strait-laced cop Scott Gale to find out where the baby is and whether her people have anything to do with it. Things quickly become complicated as Tamsin struggles to know who to trust and which secrets to keep.

There is a lot going on here. As well as getting to know Tamsin and her world, there is the police investigation, a potential love triangle, two flashback storylines, and a cast of characters that would not be out of place in an episode of Outrageous Fortune (if the Wests had magic powers and an ongoing feud with a gang of hot surfers).

There's also an abundance of subplots, which I would love to see explored further in a sequel. This is definitely a read-twice kind of book.

Laura Hewson is a freelance writer.


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