Death on D'Urville, Penelope Haines

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

Book One in the Claire Hardcastle series DEATH ON D'URVILLE, the second book STRAIGHT AND LEVEL was released in 2017. Operating out of Paraparaumu airport in New Zealand, Hardcastle is a commercial pilot and flying instructor, which gives the author an opportunity to play with a number of recurring themes including women working in what's traditionally been a male dominated industry, people with the sorts of nerves of steel required to fly and stick their nose into tricky investigations and the complications of dealing with (and being) an alpha personality type; as well as the freedom to move Hardcastle into different locations, and different groups of people with ease. Add to that a disastrous previous relationship and there's lots of ingredients in this debut book.

Easy reading, with a casual, almost chatty style and an engaging central character, DEATH ON D'URVILLE ticks the boxes you'd want on something that's leaning towards the romantic suspense side of the genre. There's the budding personal relationship between the two main protagonists, there's a reasonably intricate plot with heaps of local colour and flavour. And there's the nice little twist of a dead novelist at the centre of a locked room style mystery. 

The only downside for this particular reader was that this agreeable romantic suspense novel got a bit melodramatic towards the end, although that could very much be an issue of personal taste. Regardless, definitely a series that romantic suspense readers may find very appealing.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Death on D’Urville is the first novel in a new mystery series featuring Claire Hardcastle, commercial pilot and flying instructor, who operates out of Paraparaumu airport in New Zealand. 

Claire Hardcastle is fiery, clever, daring —and she’s trying to prove herself in a man's world. Recently recovered from a disastrous relationship with her ex, she’s determined from now on to live on her own terms. 

A high level of confidence is required to handle the varied risks and responsibilities of aviation, and flying attracts alpha type personalities. Claire is no exception, but there is a fine line between confidence and it’s mirror image arrogance, a line Claire sometimes struggles to negotiate successfully. Fortunately she has her boss Roger, and her sister Kate to keep her in check. 

When her routine flight to pick a passenger up from a remote island in the Marlborough Sounds turns into a murder investigation Claire is excited to discover she may hold a clue to the crime. 

Greville Harbour is home to a small number of people who, like the deceased Jorge, come to stay for short periods in their holiday homes, and Claire, whose job it is to fly them to and from the mainland has known them for several years. On the face of it, none look likely to be the murderer. Why would anyone want to murder an inoffensive, reclusive novelist? 

Claire’s interest in solving the murder is heightened by her growing attraction to Detective Sergeant Jack Body. 

The key to solving Jorge’s death depends on unravelling a tangle of motives as diverse as rifled grave goods, artefact smuggling, disputed Maori history, breached tapu, and child abuse. It seems many people had a reason to murder the man who used to be Claire’s passenger, and Jorge was not the man she thought she knew. When his criminal history is exposed, Claire unwillingly finds her sympathies realigning with the murderer. 

As Claire and Jack’s professional and personal partnership deepens they have to accept that, for others, obsession can turn sour, love can be twisted and traumatised and one man can unleash a malignant strain that leads to murder.

Review Death on D'Urville, Penelope Haines
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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