Blue Hotel, Chad Taylor

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Ray Moody is washed up. He drinks too much and won't look after himself. He's separated from his wife (it's more complicated than that), living in the house that her family still pays for and he's got a full time pre-occupation with separating himself from his career. So explaining the double disappearance of Blanca Nul in small-town New Zealand becomes his quest, as well as an excellent way of pretending that the meltdown that is his own life isn't happening.

BLUE HOTEL is darkest crime noir. It takes place in old fashioned newsrooms, questionable newsagencies, seedy bars, S&M clubs and cars. It's as New Zealand-as, but it's not. Moody is as New Zealand-as, but he's not. He's a lone wolf by personal preference, a private investigator for distraction purposes, and equal parts good bloke / absolute waster. The reader is free to choose which applies at many many points in the story.

Styled as a traditional private eye, noir story, the backstory of Moody, and his wife in particular, reveal themselves as he doggedly pursues a really odd disappearance. In 1987, leather-clad (in not the right weather for that sort of attire) tourist Blanca Nul walks out of a small-town bar in quiet rural New Zealand and vanishes. Moody gets a lead on her past life as a porn model, only to crash his car, lose his job and commence a long, slow life stuff-up adding the recovery from serious injuries to the things he gets wrong. When Blanca is sighted a year after her original disappearance, Moody seizes on this as a way to get, at least, his career back on track. Which the reader will always know is going to tank on him, but how and why might surprise.

Fans of noir are going to enjoy BLUE HOTEL. It's structured exactly as you'd expect of an entry in the genre, and it works in the setting and timeline the author has constructed. Moody is a perfect example of a lone-wolf, seedy, slightly pathetic noir hero (? anti-hero), full of personal angst and questionable decisions, clawing himself precariously towards high-moral ground on occasions, with a decidedly shaky grip all the way.

Loved this book, summed up a lot by this final line from the blurb:

"As he searches for the real story Ray will learn how desperate, damaged and lonely people from all walks of life can be, and that the truth is hard-won and painful."


Year of Publication

In 1987, leather-clad tourist Blanca Nul goes missing in small-town New Zealand. Local reporter Ray Moody, washed-up and over-imbibing, gets a scoop the foreigner modelled for a pornographic magazine. He chases the story but crashes his car and loses his job.

A year to the day after she was reported missing, Blanca is mysteriously sighted a second time. Ray sees a chance to revisit the missing person story and revive his career. The doppelganger death is identified as local goth Amber Drake and labelled a suicide, but Ray is not convinced. He discovers Amber was a risk-taker with a darker purpose. She frequented the notorious S&M club Blue Hotel where the rich and powerful engaged their fantasies in anonymity.

As he searches for the real story Ray will learn how desperate, damaged and lonely people from all walks of life can be, and that the truth is hard-won and painful.

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