The Plot to Kill Peter Fraser by David McGill – 2016

Plot to kill Peter FraserI really liked Dan Delaney in his first outing in McGill’s The Death Ray Debacle, and was thrilled to hear he was back.  And I wasn’t disappointed with The Plot to Kill Peter Fraser.  Not only is Dan back, but so too are some of his adversaries from his pre-war stint protecting an amateur scientist on Somes Island.  This latest outing is post the war with Germany and in the last stages of the conflict with the Japanese, and Dan is back in New Zealand having spent most of his war years in a POW camp.  He has married the nurse who cared for him after his release – a German Jewish refugee – an old trope to be sure, but Rina is much more than a cipher in this novel.  Delaney is sworn back into the police force to help track down those behind a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Peter Fraser – and as with Death Ray there are many potential suspects.  Fraser is unpopular internationally, as he has been instrumental in setting up the new United Nations, and is not only lobbying against the veto powers of the newly emerged ‘great powers’, he is also denying those powers their wish to divvy up smaller nations as spoils of war, arguing for self-determination.  The Yanks are furious he is not allowing them permanent military bases in New Zealand.  He also has powerful enemies within New Zealand due to his nationalisation policies, and ironically his socialist policies are not favoured by the Soviets – as many of them highlight the advantages enjoyed by the ruling elite in the Communist Bloc.  So, Dan and Rina head down to Wellington – and a mysterious death and a coded report leads Dan once again to Somes Island, where the disaffected interned from all sides of the political spectrum would be prime targets for enlistment in an assassination conspiracy.  The plot unfolds with twists, turns and lots of action, is very complex, and towards the end you want to yell at poor old Dan the equivalent of “look out behind you!!”.  Some of the tangential plots are cleared up a little too rapidly, but the line runs through to the final denouement nicely.  What I really loved about this book is the way it presents New Zealand plonk in the middle of international political history.  This is great if you are part of the generation who was taught New Zealand history as a sideline to international history; the latter something that happened overseas in the ‘important’ arenas of the world, and not something of which our country was an integral part.  Wellington is depicted as a cosmopolitan city of cabarets, cliques and conspiracies.  As with Death Ray, there is heaps of historical exposition, but it is folded into the flow reasonably well and is fascinating.  And the narrative features a previous friend of mine when she was a little girl – which made it even more special for me.  I am really hoping this isn’t the last outing for Dan Delaney!

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