EXCERPT: A man walked through the double doors, wavering on his feet as the suction from the closing doors pulled him off balance. The mother and grandmother each made an initial movement, as if to help, then sat back, staring at the ground. The little girl jabbed her chair at him, once, twice – the world’s smallest lion tamer – then retreated to her mother’s lap.
Ngaire understood why. Every pore of the man’s body exuded death. He reminded her of an autumn leaf left to mummify in the dry winter air – no substance, no flesh to his bones. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. With no offers of assistance, he crept forward, his feet never leaving the carpet. Minutes passed.
The thick plastic panels that enclosed Ngaire behind the front counter formed her excuse not to help. To walk around to the other side, she’d have to unlock two doors with her passkey – and then what? Let him stand and tremble while she walked back?
The man still had a meter to go when she manufactured a broad smile and asked, ‘Can I help you?’ In training, an officer had instructed her to channel Gold Coast surfers when she faced the public, a method sure to produce a happy grin with no concerns. Far more tiring than ‘resting bitch’ face, but also more likely to yield positive results.
He reached the counter at last and pulled a passport out of his jacket pocket with shaking fingers. He tried to give it to Ngaire, but she nodded at the desk tray. When he dropped it in there, she picked it up and flipped through the front pages, stopping at the photograph.
In the picture, a gray scale man with thick hair kept a straight face for the camera, although happy, upturned lines still radiated from the corners of his eyes and mouth. The name was Paul Worthington, and Ngaire worked out his age from his date of birth: fifty three. She pushed the book back to him, thinking ‘Surf, sun, sand. Smile, girl.’ The poster child for cancer returned her stare, his face blank, and she tried to swallow past her sympathy, her pity. Her eyebrows raised in inquiry.
‘My identification,’ he said. ‘So you know I’m serious.’ He leaned forward until her nostrils filled with mild acid and dank grapes. ‘I want to confess to a murder.’
ABOUT THIS BOOK: Magdalene Lynton died forty years ago: a vivacious teenager who fell victim to a grotesque, accidental drowning. The coroner’s office issued a verdict of death by misadventure and filed her case. The farming commune she’d lived within, splintered apart. Her body was left behind in a small, private cemetery encircled by acres of fallow ground.
Until Paul Worthington confessed to her murder.
Magdalene’s case lands with Ngaire Blakes, a Maori detective recovering from a brutal stabbing. After fighting for the resources to investigate, Ngaire discovers that Paul’s confession doesn’t fit with the facts of Magdalene’s death. The trouble is, neither does the original verdict.
Together with her partner, Deb, Ngaire digs deeper into the case to uncover inconsistencies, lies, and mortal danger.
MY THOUGHTS: This is a good twisty tale set in and around Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, and the first in a series of three books about a female, Maori detective who seems to be a magnet for trouble.
We don’t learn much about Ngaire, or any other of the characters that are likely to appear in the other books in this series, which is a pity. The characters need a little rounding out. We know far more about the characters connected with this forty year old crime, and we are unlikely to come across them again in the series, except, perhaps, for William (aka Billy) the lawyer. But there are some interesting characters, very interesting characters, some with hidden depths, others with hidden secrets. It’s not immediately clear who falls into which camp.
I did notice a few Americanisms creep in: e,g. Mom, instead of the kiwi ‘Mum’, which particularly annoyed me.
But, that aside, The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton is an interesting story. Nothing is simple, nothing quite what it seems. The plot is well constructed, and kept my interest throughout. The mystery unfolds quite slowly, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing happening. We learn everything as the investigative team does. The ending was certainly not what I expected. Either time. But it was spectacularly perfect.
FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: Christchurch, known for its English heritage, is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Flat-bottomed punts glide on the Avon River, which meanders through the city centre. On its banks are cycling paths, the green expanse of Hagley Park and Christchurch Botanic Gardens. In 2010 and 2011, earthquakes destroyed many of the historic centre’s stone-built buildings. These earthquakes are referred to in The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton.
The Waimakariri River is one of the largest rivers in Canterbury, on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It flows for 151 kilometres in a generally southeastward direction from the Southern Alps across the Canterbury Plains to the Pacific Ocean.
THE AUTHOR: Katherine Hayton is a middle-aged woman who works in insurance, doesn’t have children or pets, can’t drive, has lived in Christchurch her entire life, and resides a two-minute walk from where she was born.
For some reason, she’s developed a rich fantasy life.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Katherine Hayton via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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