Author: Michael Bennett
Published by: Atlantic Monthly Press on Jan. 10, 2023
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Publishers Group Canada
Book Rating: 8.5/10
An absorbing, clever debut thriller that speaks to the longstanding injustices faced by New Zealand’s indigenous peoples, by an acclaimed Māori screenwriter and director
A tenacious Māori detective, Hana Westerman juggles single motherhood, endemic prejudice, and the pressures of her career in Auckland CIB. Led to a crime scene by a mysterious video, she discovers a man ritualistically hanging in a secret room and a puzzling inward-curving inscription. Delving into the investigation after a second, apparently unrelated, death, she uncovers a chilling connection to an historic crime: 160 years before, during the brutal and bloody British colonization of New Zealand, a troop of colonial soldiers unjustly executed a Māori Chief.
Hana realizes that the murders are utu—the Māori tradition of rebalancing for the crime committed eight generations ago. There were six soldiers in the British troop, and since descendants of two of the soldiers have been killed, four more potential murders remain. Hana is thus hunting New Zealand’s first serial killer.
The pursuit soon becomes frighteningly personal, recalling the painful event, two decades before, when Hana, then a new cop, was part of a police team sent to end by force a land rights occupation by indigenous peoples on the same ancestral mountain where the Chief was killed, calling once more into question her loyalty to her roots. Worse still, a genealogical link to the British soldiers brings the case terrifyingly close to Hana’s own family. Twisty and thought-provoking, Better the Blood is the debut of a remarkable new talent in crime fiction.
Meticulous, sharp, and engaging!
Better the Blood is a sinister, gripping tale featuring the relentless Auckland CIB detective Hana Westerman and her partner DC Stanley Riordan as they hunt down a cold, calculating, indigenous serial killer driven to exact revenge on six colonial soldiers who were immortalized in a photo from 160 years ago murdering a Māori Chief by making their ancestors pay for their sins.
The writing is crisp and tight. The characters are flawed, tormented, and hardworking. And the plot is a tightly-paced, ominous tale full of twists, turns, surprises, manipulation, guilt, injustice, violence, and murder.
Overall, Better the Blood is an intricately woven, informative, highly entertaining mystery by Bennett with a nice amount of suspense, good character development, great pace, and an insightful look into the history, culture, oppression, and struggles of the Māori people in New Zealand.
This book is available now.
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Thank you to PGC Books for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.