Leaping with confidence straight out of the gates, DEAD LEMONS has a cracking opening chapter that will stay with you for quite some time. You just can’t go past a man hanging over a cliff, hanging upside down in his wheelchair, thinking such dire and witty thoughts. Our lead character Finn Bell (hmmmm I hear you say) is a barely functioning alcoholic, now permanently without the use of his legs due to a self-admitted pile of poor life decisions. Having moved to a remote southern town of New Zealand to figure out what it is he needs to do – or end – Finn unexpectedly finds purpose in the violent history that is attached to his new home.
Finn’s ramshackle smugglers cottage once housed a small family that was destroyed beyond repair with the brutal killing of its youngest member, a child. Only scraps of the little girl were ever found. Everyone seems to know who is to blame, yet all are too frightened to act. This far south it seems, the guilty are destined to get away with murder.
Finn Bell presents as a surprisingly pragmatic creature for all the challenges he is required to face in his every day existence. Laconically hilarious plus unnervingly calm in a tight spot, is our Finn. This is the strength of DEAD LEMONS, as the humour is presented shockingly side by side with all the heartbreaking details of the town’s murders. The dark is balanced with the redemptive light that emanates from Finn finding his way back to what it is that makes the world turn – the complexities of human relationships.
DEAD LEMONS is an absorbing and disturbing window into a part of the world that time seems to have left well behind. Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t look, don’t dwell. Injecting a character like Finn into such an eerie and remote location is reading gold as there is a push/pull with his modern awareness and the slow pace practiced by its residents. There is so much in Finn’s character to like, admire and barrack for. Hoping very much to see this character again. The pace does slacken off during the middle of the novel a little as so much is discovered in such a short space of time right at the start. Kudos to the author for not dwelling on any physical limitations of Finn as he crawls and throws himself around where necessary. A very polished debut novel that any crime fiction enthusiast will enjoy.