Miller Hatcher is getting over a relationship and the recent death of her mother, with the help of alcohol, when she gets the opportunity to write a feature story that might land her the job of head reporter for the national magazine she works for, First Look. Sergeant Kahu Parata is a local cop at the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where Miller will hopefully write her masterpiece. Kahu knows all the locals and turns a blind eye to some of their misdemeanours, and he is annoyed when a team from Auckland are sent to work the case that Miller intends to cover – the discovery of the body of a missing tourist, Bethany Haliwell.
Miller in her sensitive state, and Kahu with his local knowledge, end up trying to get justice for Bethany amidst the prejudices and complacency of the locals, and the arrogance and impatience of the outsider cops and journalists. The only place Miller can find to stay is a local retreat, Haven, and when another woman goes missing from there, the possibility that the murderer is still around the town increases.
Nothing bad happens here creepily highlights the level of danger women face in our society – how so many people can become suspects when harm is done to a woman, and how often women don’t feel able to come forward and speak out about abuse, but just put up with it as part of life. It also – echoed in its wonderful title – deals with the tendency of tourist spots to downplay local danger in order to maintain business, the irresponsibility of the press when boosting circulation comes before reporting facts, and the way people are drawn to gruesome tragedy at the same time as being repelled by it.
It is a well plotted mystery, and just when you think you have guessed the final twist you are gazumped with a totally unexpected scenario. The characters are great, and are given enough background to give you a chance at understanding some pretty outrageous behaviour. I particularly liked Miller, she rapidly moves from being just one of the visiting journalists to being a concerned human being, and at times works more like a PI than a journo, and her compassion for the victims stops the story from just one where the female body count keeps clicking up. The writing is very straight forward, but this in a way works nicely against the complex plotting. A good New Zealand murder mystery.