New Zealand fiction features in this month’s ‘Other Genres’ category, with some great reading selected. Included are several historical, urban suspense, and modern relationship novels. Highly recommend is Laurence Fearnley’s tenth novel titled, The quiet spectacular.
The agency / Ian Austin.
“Dan Calder is an ex Brit and ex policeman looking for a fresh start in a new country but still carrying the baggage of failed relationships and a depressed, repressed past. He chose New Zealand because it was as far as he could get from his old life but did not take into account the universal six degrees of separation is no more than two or three in the land of the long white cloud. The Agency provides a service like no other and New Zealand is the ideal location to find a new client. When Calder first encounters it by sheer chance, his life instantly changes and before long others are depending on him too. Engaged in a deadly game with an unknown foe; this was not the new life Dan Calder planned for himself but now at stake is the ultimate reward; his own salvation.” (Adapted from book cover)
The salted air / Thom Conroy.
“What happens when grief draws you to your partner’s married brother? 28 year-old Djuna is without a foothold. The suicide of her partner has left her derailed and casting about for the joy she fears may be gone for good. Her parents’ relationship has disintegrated, her family home is occupied by Burmese refugees, and she is drawn to the one man she must reject. In pursuit of a roving father and a renewed sense of belonging, Djuna wanders from Wellington to the natural beauty of New Zealand’s remote East Cape.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Scarlet & Magenta / Lindsey Dawson.
“In the 1880s, misbehaving wives were asking for trouble. Building a raw Bay of Plenty town was hard enough without free-thinking females upsetting local society. Violet comes to Tauranga from London with a scandalous past and an aching heart. She befriends a kindred spirit, Anna, and catches the eye of footloose Rupert, rival and rowing mate of Anna’s husband. In pioneer towns, it doesn’t do to speak your mind or seek unseemly delights. Angry words are soon flying in banks and bedrooms, with reputations and marriages at risk. There are secrets to keep and lost loved ones to find.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The quiet spectacular / Laurence Fearnley.
“Loretta is a school librarian, who embarks on compiling The Dangerous Book for Menopausal Women while waiting to collect her son from after-school activities. Chance is a teenager, who discovers an unusual creative outlet to offset the strain of her controlling mother. Riva is the founder of a wetlands sanctuary, who is seeking a way to fulfil her promise to her dying sister to do something ‘absolutely spectacular’. Within a clearing in the woods by a lake there is a den, a secret sanctuary and eventual meeting place for all three women.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)
A briefcase, two pies and a penthouse : a novel / by Brannavan Gnanalingam.
“In 1981, a top spy misplaced a briefcase in the Aro Valley. All it contained were his business cards, a diary of scurrilous gossip, three mince pies, two fruit pies, the NZ Listener, and a Penthouse magazine. Unfortunately for him, the briefcase was discovered by the son of a prominent political journalist. This satirical novel looks at modern day spies in New Zealand, the new existential threat of Islamic terrorism and at a very New Zealand response to a global issue.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Death on D’Urville : a Claire Hardcastle mystery / by Penelope Haines.
“Claire Hardcastle is fiery, clever, daring and she’s trying to prove herself in a man’s world. When her routine flight to pick a passenger up from a remote island in the Marlborough Sounds turns into a murder investigation she is excited to discover she may hold a clue to the crime. Why would anyone want to murder an inoffensive, reclusive novelist? Her interest in solving the murder is heightened by her growing attraction to Detective Sergeant Jack Body. As Claire and Jack’s professional and personal partnership deepens they have to accept that, for others, obsession can turn sour, and become a malignant strain that leads to murder. The key to solving Jorge’s death depends on unravelling a tangle of motives as diverse as rifled grave goods, artefact smuggling, disputed Maori history, breached tapu, and child abuse.” (Adapted from Syndetis summary)
All day at the movies / Fiona Kidman.
“Life isn’t always like it appears in the movies. In 1952, Irene Sandle takes her young daughter to Motueka. Irene was widowed during the war and is seeking a new start and employment in the tobacco fields. There, she finds the reality of her life far removed from the glamour of the screen. Can there be romance and happy endings, or will circumstances repeat through the generations? Each subsequent episode in this poignant work follows family secrets and the dynamics of Irene’s children. The story doesn’t just track their lives, but also New Zealand itself as its attitudes and opportunities change and reverberate through the decades.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Mysterious mysteries of the Aro Valley / Danyl McLauchlan. “A returning hero to a desolate valley, a missing mathematician, a glamorous and beguiling council bureaucrat with a hidden past. A cryptic map leading to an impossible labyrinth, an ancient conspiracy, an ancient evil and a housing development without proper planning permission. All these things leading to the most mysterious mystery of all.” (Adapted from Book cover)
The case of the missing body / Jenny Powell.
“The Case of the Missing Body is the true and unusual story of Lily, who has no sense of her body. She has struggled with the effects of this her whole life. Desperate to try anything to ‘be normal’, a nevertheless skeptical Lily agrees to begin work with her physiotherapist in a gymnasium. One extraordinary day, working in the gym, Lily discovers she has shoulder blades. All her life she has thought people only felt their heads, with thoughts trailing along in and behind them. Now she has shoulder blades. There is nothing easy about what is to follow. Neither Patrick (the physiotherapist) nor Lily could have predicted it. But with help from professionals, the writer of this beautiful, moving memoir becomes her own detective, searching for clues to help her find her own body.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Napoleon’s willow / Joan Norlev Taylor.
“In 1837, on remote St Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, Frenchman François Lelièvre searches for the legendary willow tree beside Napoleon’s grave. A tree in which he believes Napoleon’s spirit is still alive, inspiring the noble ideals of the French Revolution, liberty, equality and brotherhood. With cuttings from Napoleon’s willow in his care, François journeys to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular in New Zealand aboard a whaling ship, and plants these in this new land during a time of conflict, as the French and British compete to be the first to colonize this newly-discovered part of the country. Around the same time, Marianne a young schoolteacher from England sets out on a turbulent path via the new British colonies of Sydney in New South Wales and Russell in the Bay of Islands, that leads her to the same place, looking for her own sense of liberty. They both encounter and befriend a well-travelled and respected Maori man from Banks Peninsular, Manako-uri, who is facing his own difficulties and challenges as the newcomers plant their hopes and dreams in his ancestral land.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)