A Mystery Thriller of the Best Kind
I love a good page-turning thriller with plot twist after plot twist as much as a sci-fi or horror novel. In fact, page-turning thrillers is what got me into recreation reading in the first. Alongside these, I also like a good mystery book, thanks to my time studying crime fiction in uni. It’s all these enjoyments why I got Michael Bennett’s 2022 debut novel Better the Blood.
Better the Blood is both a thrilling read and dives deep into some very flawed characters. It’s a book that dives into the colonial history of New Zealand and it impacts on the Māori population. And it’s certainly a book I recommend you check out.
A New Zealand Thriller with Plot Twists Galore
I’ll start by saying this; Better the Blood is a New Zealand thriller. Set in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, Better the Blood follows Auckland Police Senior Detective Hana Westerman in trying to solve a murder mystery that’s engulfed the city. She finds it’s related back to a picture taken in the 19th century of six British Army officers alongside a Māori man whom they killed. As she continues this investigation, she quickly discovers that it connects back to one of her most shameful acts as a police officer and herself.
This is a book with plot twist after plot twist all throughout it. Just when you think you’ve got it sorted, something new arises to disprove you. These are done in a unique way, which forward the plot and take it into places you’d never expect. They kept me reading all through this book and, at one stage, unable to put it down as I wanted to know what happened next. This came especially in the last 1/3 of the book, which all built to this massive climax that I could get enough of.
A Book With Deeper Meanings and Flawed Characters
As previously mentioned, Better the Blood does dive into the colonial history of New Zealand. This colonial history and the identity of Māori in New Zealand today is what builds a lot of this book’s plot. It investigates the injustice and anger of the Māori population following British colonisation of New Zealand, which forms the basis of the murders. Where this book goes into is tragic and raises questions about why the Māori were maltreated by the British. It does this very effectively and in a way that isn’t too pushy or in your face.
Where this book succeeds the most is in the characters themselves. A vast majority of them are flawed in various ways. Hana is one of these characters who is deeply flawed, much like other fictional detectives like Philip Marlowe (The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler) and Verity Fassbinder (Vigil, Angela Slatter). She has struggled with motherhood, has an anger problem and feels that she has betrayed her fellow Māori’s by working for the police. Beside her is the flaws of her ex-husband (also her superior officer) Jaye and Addison. Addison is young and makes many mistakes which at the start land her on the wrong side of the law. As for Jaye, he fails to understand Hana and the suffering of the Māori people, due to him being of an Anglo-European origin.
These major character flaws and connections back to Māori history in New Zealand help make Better the Blood a very engaging read and give it a unique standing in mystery thrillers. These stop it from being just another mystery thriller and make it feel more alive and emotional as a read.
Better the Blood is one of the most engaging mystery thrillers I’ve read recently. From its plot twists to the connections to Māori culture, this was one journey I didn’t want to end.
If you like well-written mystery thrillers with unique settings, give Better the Blood a read. You will get more than just another mystery thriller while reading this book, you will be getting an experience. Give this a read too if you want a book that’s different; be it a setting or characters.
Better the Blood is available at all good bookstores now.