Into the Void
A crime debut from New Zealand author Christina O'Reilly, INTO THE VOID is a short novel with considerable promise. Introducing DSS John (Archie) Baldrick, DC Ben Travers and the rest of their investigation team whilst presenting the reader with a well crafted plot all in 158 pages is quite an undertaking but O'Reilly manages it without letting go of character development, plot, intrigue or pace.
The story revolves around the sudden disappearance of banker Richard Harper who appears to have run out on a desperately ill wife, and a pregnant girlfriend. The only glimmer of a lead is some abusive emails from disgruntled clients, about to lose their farm in the wake of the GFC. Meanwhile Archie (as everyone calls Baldrick) is dealing with two teenager daughters with problems and a distant wife, whilst looking on the Harper's wife Helena, in her beautiful house, ill and confused by her husband's disappearance, with considerable sympathy and kindness.
Good character development is at the heart of INTO THE VOID. The police procedural elements are sound, the investigative components good, and the shoe leather, combined with thinking, plus a bit of technology works well. The investigative team has potential, the personal elements in Archie's life are good without being overpowering, and the complications of Richard Harper's personal life more than enough to keep the mystery mysterious without stretching credibility.
All in all, there's much to like about INTO THE VOID, and a lot of potential for a good future for this team of NZ based investigators.
The entire shortlist for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel is:
How easy is it for a man to simply disappear?
When rural banker Richard Harper is reported missing, DSS John (Archie) Baldrick and DC Ben Travers are drawn into the increasingly complex details of the man’s life.
Would Harper really have chosen to leave his seriously ill wife, and abandon his pregnant girlfriend? Or is there a real threat behind the abusive emails he’d been receiving from disgruntled and desperate clients in the wake of the GFC?
Archie’s marriage is rocky and his two teenage daughters are giving him all sorts of trouble. By contrast, the frail but beautiful Helena Harper and her magnificent house offer an oasis of calm as Archie struggles to discover who is responsible for her husband’s disappearance.
Has he really been abducted, tortured or killed? Or is Richard Harper himself behind everything that has happened? Archie and Travers ultimately face a race against time as the case descends into a bewildering morass of obsession, violence and murder. “