Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New NZ crime fiction novel impresses

My Brother’s Keeper by Donna Malane
Harper Collins - $29.99

I reviewed this book with Kathryn Ryan on Radio New Zealand National this morning.

This is Malane’s second crime fiction novel again featuring Diane Rowe, a somewhat flawed, quite sexy woman who is a sort of private investigator, Wellington-based who specialises in finding missing persons.

In this one Rowe is approached by Karen who has just got out of jail after a 7 year term for murdering her young son with a request that she help her find her daughter, Sunny, who will now be 14 years old and with whom she has lost all contact while in prison. At first glance Diane thinks this is a straightforward case of family reunion but nothing is quite as it seems. Diane quickly locates the daughter but then things become quite complicated with the action moving backwards and forwards between Auckland (Ponsonby & Herne Bay) and Wellington. There are a number of twists throughout the well-crafted story as it moves back and forth between the two centres and it kept me arrested from beginning to end.

In addition to the main storyline, which includes a lot of action, murder and assault among it, and it isquite dark in places too, there is also Diane’s private life.She is used to making sense of other people′s lives but her own is a bit complicated. She was formerly married to a cop, Sean, and they are in the process of selling their former marital home, still occupied by Diane, so all that is going on; her current boyfriend, Robbie, is also a cop and he wants her to move in with him; she is attracted to Ned,a restaurant owner she meets in Auckland while working on the current case. So her life is pretty complicated, this is typical of most protagonists in crime fiction stories I have to say! Add to that she seems to be something of a man-magnet........

I must also say that the growing body of crime fiction being published in NZ is most encouraging - in recent years there have been 12-15 titles published each year among them writers like Vanda Symon, Paddy Richardson, Neil Cross, Ben Sanders and Paul Cleave.

Donna Malane has strong literary connections as she is the partner of Poet Laureate Ian Wedde, and of course she has had a long and distinguished career as a television producer and scriptwriter *, so in a way I guess she has moved from screen story-telling to book storytelling with her two Diane Rowe novels and she seems to have done it effortlessly. Her first novel published in 2010, Surrender, won the NZ Society of Authors/Pindar Prize. I remember that book and storyline well but I reckon this new one is even better. I hope she finds time in her busy television production life to keep writing more stories featuring the feisty Diane Rowe.

*NZ Book Council
Her television credits include the 'Shadow of Doubt' episode of the series 'Duggan', which won the Best Drama Script award at the 2000 TV Guide Awards. She has written scripts for comedy, drama and documentary programmes. In 2008 Donna Malane and Paula Boock, as Lippy Pictures Ltd, wrote and produced the feature length drama Until Proven Innocent which was awarded Best Drama Programme at the Qantas Film and Television Awards 2009.

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