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Better the blood : a Hana Westerman thriller
2023
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Brief Descriptions

"An absorbing, clever debut thriller that speaks to the longstanding injustices faced by New Zealand's indigenous peoples, by an acclaimed Måaori screenwriter and director. A tenacious Måaori 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 a historic crime: 160 years before, during the brutal and bloody British colonization of New Zealand, a troop of colonial soldiers unjustly executed a Måaori Chief. Hana realizes that the murders are utu--the Måaori 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 when as a new cop two decades before, Hana 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"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

Hana Westerman?—?a Maori detective juggling career pressures, single motherhood and endemic prejudice investigates two ritualistic murders that have a chilling connection to the execution of a Maori chief during the bloody British colonization of New Zealand 160 years prior. - (Baker & Taylor)

An absorbing, clever debut thriller that speaks to the longstanding injustices faced by New Zealand’s indigenous peoples, by an acclaimed Maori screenwriter and director

A tenacious Maori 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 Maori Chief.

Hana realizes that the murders are utu—the Maori 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.

- (Perseus Publishing)

Author Biography

Michael Bennett (Ngati Pikiao, Ngati Whakaue) is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and author whose films have been selections at major festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, and New York. His nonfiction book, In Dark Places, which explored an infamous miscarriage of justice, won awards, and his young adult graphic novel, Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas, was a finalist for the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards.

- (Perseus Publishing)

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Reviews Via Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Bennett (In Dark Places: The Confessions of Teina Pora and an Ex-Cop's Fight for Justice) makes his fiction debut with a stellar series launch set in contemporary New Zealand that explores the devastating belated consequences of a horrific murder of a Maori chief by six British soldiers in 1863—an act preserved in a daguerreotype. The opening pages reveal the original crime, and it soon becomes apparent that a killer is enacting vengeance on the six soldiers' descendants. As the body count mounts, Bennett dramatically portrays the psychological fallout of age-old violence upon Auckland police detective Hana Westerman and a range of well-drawn secondary characters; and he convincingly reveals Hana's inner turmoil and the conflicts inherent among her roles of detective, Maori woman, ex-wife to the senior police officer, and mother to a talented, outspoken teen activist. Told in third person mainly from Hana's perspective but also from the perspectives of her daughter, the killer, and the victims, the narrative moves at a quick pace. Immersed in modern-day technologies and with a keen sensitivity to cultural issues, this is a finely crafted page-turner. Bennett is a writer to watch. (Jan.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

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