The Easter Make Believers, Finn Bell
When Finn Bell entered his first two novels in the Ngaio Marsh Awards (PANCAKE MONEY and DEAD LEMONS - which won the 2017 Best First Novel), he cemented himself pretty firmly in favourite author stakes. Mostly because there was something very different about both of those novels, but both presented strong storylines; brilliant, flawed but balanced characterisations; strong dialogue and he plays more than fair with the reader who wants to guess along. So when THE EASTER MAKE BELIEVERS popped up on the 2018 list I was more than a bit pleased to revisit his work.
Again Finn presents a different scenario, this time an innocent family taken hostage in small town New Zealand for some inexplicable reason. As inexplicable as the manner in which the families father has vanished from the scene - a house surrounded by police, a siege ended with a lot of dead bodies, two young girls who have survived - and that conundrum of the missing father. Two new police characters are introduced - Detectives Nick Cooper and Tobe White, who are presented with this most peculiar set of circumstances, not helped at all by the realisation that the heavily armed perpetrators were leaders of the biggest criminal gang in the country. Why on earth would they be interested in a small town NZ family?
So a hostage situation that turns into an armed standoff, an explosion, a deadly criminal gang, and that missing father. Where on earth did he and the leader of the kidnappers vanish to? And how? Given the complicated scenario being played with here, Bell does a sterling job at expanding the story in what's really a novella in length (around 220 pages). Grouped together as "The Far South Series" all of Finn Bell's novels are from the same location, although the cast and scenarios differ mostly and none more so than THE EASTER MAKE BELIEVERS. The obvious similarity here with the other two books is the general location - and even that doesn't matter if you're NZ geography is as poor as mine. The less obvious similarity is the cleverness of the plotting, the strength of the characters and the way that the events surrounding everybody are extreme - but somehow perfectly believable.
If asked to describe Finn Bell's writing, after much due consideration, I'd probably go with a bit on the crazy brave scale. There's echoes of Paul Cleave here - without the supernatural elements, but there's something about the scenarios, the willingness to chuck everything and then some at all his characters and let them fight it out that feels familiar - and makes for a new Finn Bell book being a very happy event in these parts.
Apologies for the delay in posting this review - as previously noted, I've had a few administration / time related issues that have meant I'm embarrassingly behind.
When an innocent family is taken hostage in their home no one is ready for how fast it all goes terribly wrong. As the close knit community of small town Lawrence reels from the shock, detectives Nick Cooper and Tobe White stand among the dead bodies knowing that it’s not over. Because while grateful that at least the two young daughters survived unscathed, they now know that their father is still missing, somehow impossibly vanishing from a house surrounded by police. The mystery deepens as Nick and Tobe realize that they know every gunman lying dead here – because up to last night they were the leaders of the biggest criminal gang in the country. As the desperate search and rescue mission starts it soon collides with their own challenging investigation leading them into the centre of a deeper, older tragedy. Where they begin to learn just how far someone will go for those he truly, dearly hates.