I selected this mystery to purchase for review because I was attracted by both the setting and also the protagonist, who is half Maori.
Here’s the story:
Carlos Wallace spent thirteen years in Australia, eight of them as a police officer in New South Wales. When he kills a man in the line of duty and his wife is subsequently murdered, he comes under suspicion and he’s dismissed from the force. He’s devastated and decides to return home to Christchurch and become a private detective. He arrives shortly after the earthquake of 2011, which leveled the city’s business district, and the reality of the devastation is a grim backdrop to his depressed mood. An absent and mysterious Mr. Prince sets Carlos up with a PI business office and funds to continue cases that Prince left behind. A blood relative deeds him a house, asking only that in return, he look after his cousin Miriama (a beautiful matakite or seer to whom he is attracted) and his whānau or family.
The main case Carlos sets out to solve is the disappearance of a young French girl, missing since the earthquake and presumed dead. His search is tortuous and has international tentacles, but he acquires a feisty and capable partner, Ginny Andrews, who has a mysterious background of her own. Interspersed in this case are searches for lost dogs and unfaithful wives, which at first seem rather superfluous but which eventually tie in. One of the best character in the book is Uncle Tau, a local cop whose links to the community are a big help to Carlos. But his uncle also reminds him of his duty to family and a supposed curse he needs to explore.
To be honest, I found this book a tough read with some definite roadblocks. There are initially many Maori terms, which are defined at the end of the book, but going back and forth with an e-reader is tedious. The plot lines are complicated, and when I put the book down, I had to go back when I picked it up again and skim through what I had read.
Nevertheless, the setting and the Maori family culture are fascinating and that kept me going, when I felt a little frustrated. Initially slow with the introduction of characters and their past, the pace picks up as the various plot lines come to the fore. There are many interesting and complicated turns, but the characters are vivid and compelling. To me, they were one of the best aspects of the story. I particularly like the taciturn Uncle Tau and Carlos’ beautiful but troubled cousin. The descriptive details are spare, but Christchurch itself, as it struggles to revive and rebuild, is a wonderful background.
The Maori Detective was not a totally satisfying mystery for me because of the density and the foreignness. I felt like I was standing to the side, observing the story and trying to understand it, rather than being pulled into it. I do think the book will be a huge draw to readers in that part of the world. All in all, the insight into Maori life and the backdrop made it a read worth the effort.
About the author (courtesy of Amazon)
David (D.A.) Crossman is a novelist and short story writer with a passion for flawed detectives, sinister spies, and femme fatales. English on his father’s side and Norwegian on his mother’s, he was born in South Africa and raised in South East London. He spent a number of years as an itinerant worker and he has resided in France, Israel, India, and Australia before settling down in rural New Zealand where he now lives with his family and their clowder of cats.
You can find him
on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.cl/da_crossman/
on Twitter: @crossmanDA
and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DA-Crossman-1040957715953267/?ref=py_c
The Maori Detective is his fourth book. You can find all his books on Amazon: