by Tina Clough
This crime thriller is a sequel to the same author’s book ‘The Chinese Proverb’ reviewed in May 2017 by Flaxflower.
Much of the continuing story of Hunter and Dao involves characters and events from that earlier novel and that poses problems for readers unfamiliar with it; most notably the names and influence on the story of characters and villains of the earlier work; viz Mint, John, the Boss and Bram/Bramville. A further example is that the surname of the leading character, Hunter, doesn’t appear in the first 65 pages, while Dao’s surname never does, and such omissions are irritating for a reader wishing to settle into a multi-branched and well-layered plotline.
The plot revolves around the disappearance of a successful photo-journalist from her Auckland home following her return from a fact-finding assignment involving honour killings in Pakistan. The supposition that the long arm of the Pakistani Establishment has reached out in retribution is cleverly masked when the journalist survives a terrorist attack on her way home through the active intervention of one of the terrorists. At which point New Zealand intelligence services become interested in why and wherefore, and she is placed under surveillance as possibly having terrorist links.
This doesn’t prevent her disappearance in circumstances that suggest a swift and spur-of-the-moment abduction which quickly comes to involve Hunter Grant and Dao, herself a survivor of a previous and long-lived abduction. Complicating things and drawing the odd red herring across them is the re-emergence of some of Dao’s demons from her own past and, while this muddies the waters surrounding the journalist’s abduction in providing another, if tenuous, opportunity for villainy to emerge, the journalist’s disappearance has its roots in something much simpler than either historical villainy, terrorists or Pakistani displeasure.
One Single Thing is notable for being a genuine attempt to drop a crime thriller into a New Zealand setting, and Clough is to be commended for that in full measure for it is a well-paced and enjoyable tale that moves purposefully along, even if the formality of Clough’s writing style occasionally appears at odds with the casual nature of the New Zealand vernacular.
Its central characters are a mixed bag: Noah the brother, painted as impossibly neurotic but consumed by an anxiety perfectly understandable in the circumstances; Branson, the stereotypical rumpled and creased cop whose first name we never discover; Robinson, the ‘white knight’ and the key to the whole mystery; Dao and Hunter, self-assured and almost always omniscient enough to stay ahead of the game and the other players. By comparison, Charlie, Kristen, Tyler, Matt, Willow and even the villainous John and Will receive modest brushstrokes and might have been enhanced.
There are proofreading inconsistencies: ‘kilometers’, ‘sidewalk’, ‘emmigrate’ and ‘tempter’ for ‘temper’ are a few noticeable enough to raise eyebrows but do not detract from the story.
One suspects that we will see more of Hunter Grant and Dao, and that is to be welcomed if sufficient detail is provided for readers who drop into their saga cold.
Author: Tina Clough
Publisher: Lightpool Publishing