Rings on Water, Madeleine Eskedahl

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

RINGS ON WATER is the second novel in NZ author Madeleine Eskedahl's Matakana Series, set in and around the idyllic rural winemaking and tourist destination near Auckland. The series features local cop, Sergeant Bill Granger, and his Swedish wife Annika, their family, and their lifestyle in what should be a quiet, relaxed sort of a place. Except in Eskedahl's series where the location and life is cozy and laid back and the crimes are violent and confronting.

In a switch from the environmental conditions of the first novel, BLOOD ON VINE, this one is set in the wet, rainy, muddy winter of the area, with the sea being a particular focus. The plot revolves around a couple of main threads - the death of a young woman on the beach after a party that seemed like a pretty straightforward case of teenagers doing stupid things, and the reality of what's really going on drugs wise that nobody had been fully aware of until now. What Granger and his side-kick Constable Nico end up uncovering is a dangerous web of smuggling, rock and roll stars, power struggles and a ruthless motorcycle gang. Meanwhile, as Annika prepares for a major exhibition of her art works, she befriends a woman whose property developer partner is a very controlling and volatile character. All of which culminates in a threat that's way too close to home for anybody's comfort.

Following on not too closely from the first novel, it would be possible to pick this one up first if you need to. Particularly as this one concentrates eventually more on Bill Granger's policing although Annika's activites are covered closely as well - with the first part of the novel covering her connection to Crystal and her revelations about her controlling partner Andrei. There is considerably less of the Swedish cooking elements in this book though so it's possibly not quite as big a threat to anybody's diet as the first one. The downside to RINGS ON WATER is that it did seem to take a lot of time and space to get moving, with the first half wandering around a lot until the focus on the investigation tightens up, the pace increases and the threat really starts to rise. 

Eskedahl has an interesting balance going on here with a focus on character development, a strong sense of place and environment, and intricate, yet believable, plots. The feel is slightly on the cosy side, yet the content is more confrontational than that, although she does keep the discomfort for readers to a minimum. All of which has created a series that could appeal to readers of cosy looking for something a little bit more challenging, or readers who prefer the dark side but aren't opposed to the occasional foray into a more community and family focused reading experience.

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A narcotics pick-up at sea goes horribly wrong. A man is lost overboard. A dangerous series of events sends shockwaves through the local community.

On a wintery day a young woman is found dead at a local beach. Sergeant Bill Granger, the local policeman, is called in to investigate. He had hoped for a quiet off-season. Instead, what seems to be a straightforward case of an unfortunate death turns into a complex web of small town secrets and desire for revenge that will soon place Bill's family in danger.

With Niko Sopoaga, a young South Auckland constable working alongside him, Bill falls into the dark and dangerous world of drug distribution and a hardened motorcycle gang wreaking havoc, while they chase a clever killer.

As Bill and Niko search for clues to uncover the killers identity, Annika Granger prepares for an art exhibition. She is befriended by Crystal, a young woman new to the close-knit community. Crystal overhears a conversation and ultimately discovers her partner, Andrei, is not the person she believed him to be.

Everyone discovers that secrets run deep, even in the best of communities.

Review Rings on Water, Madeleine Eskedahl
Karen Chisholm
Monday, February 19, 2024
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