Crimechurch, Michael Botur

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

A brutal novel full of horrible people doing horrible things, leaving themselves no obvious path forward or out, CRIMECHURCH isn't going to be to everyone's taste. So dark, so populated by downtrodden, desperate people I'm not even sure you could call this noir - there's something breathtaking, relentless, unapologetic about the pace here that kind of doesn't feel noirish - it just, well, feels desperate.

The title is obviously a reference to Christchurch, and it's more than a bit startling for a non-New Zealand reader to think that a city renowned for its beauty (and natural hazards) has a dark, violent, drug-addled, psychopathic side to it - which is quite possibly very naive on the part of this reader. There is, although, an ending to this novel that will undoubtedly surprise readers who are finding themselves dragged down to a level that they aren't comfortable knowing exists. Especially as everything leading up to the ending is so imbued with hopelessness, and violence - there's buckets of graphic, gut-wrenching violence here that read with such believable authority that this reader was tempted to lock all the doors and never venture out the front gate again - after all if this stuff is going on in Christchurch....

Surprisingly, there are moment of humour dotted through the hopelessness, and there is a sense of community forming - not a good one sure, but there is something going on here, and there is that ending that doesn't quite come out of left field if you're really paying attention, that didn't work, and then, with even more reflection, made perfect sense.

CRIMECHURCH isn't comfort reading, and it's certainly not easy reading, combining viewpoints from the awful, to just sad, and then there's those tiny touches of hope. It's a wild wild wild ride, and this reader found it utterly fascinating despite the confrontation, brutality, and dysfunction.


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Life in the safe suburbs of Christchurch isn't dangerous enough for Marty. He needs excitement in punk, protest, politics and crackpipes. Marty soon finds Mona, a teenage runaway living in a flophouse of skinheads and goths. The two of them live for drugs and dodgy deals but they are minnows compared to siblings Jade and Shayna. Meanwhile, war has broken out among the bikers Marty and Mona depend upon for dope. Fueling the fight is 'King Kong' Chong, a thug determined to be Number One. Swimming between the sharks is Winston, Marty's baby brother, who has big plans to get himself a big reputation. When he gets in over his head, it's up to Marty to try and pull him out of a neo-Nazi nightmare before their family becomes a target.

Review Crimechurch, Michael Botur
Karen Chisholm
Friday, November 12, 2021

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