The Lost Dead, Finn Bell

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

All novels by Finn Bell have guaranteed two things. Wonderful sense of place, and morally ambiguous characters. As it is with THE LOST DEAD where we have three Maori boys, wanted criminals, on the run, barely one step ahead of the cops and the gangs they have annoyed along the way. There is also a missing, young woman, somebody one of these young lads is thoroughly infatuated with, and determined to find. Then there's the huge earthquake, that causes massive landslides across the isolated Southern Alps region of New Zealand. Everyone is scrambling around looking for victims trapped by those landslides, nobody thinks to look for a perpetrator at the same time.

This is the fourth novel by NZ Author Finn Bell, all of which are set in the glorious far south of New Zealand, and from that connection they form a loose series. The characters however, are different in each novel, but the consideration is often the same. Moral ambiguity with cops and crooks equally compromised, equally under pressure, under threat in all sorts of ways.

The scenario Bell is exploring here is particularly interesting, as it sets a gang of three against a confident, cunning serial killer, that the cops don't even realise is in their midst. Bell sets up, as he frequently does, an interesting moral tussle, with a more forceful personal analysis of society's failings in a postscript to the novel.

Perhaps it was the serial killer voice, which, although well done, really needs to contribute something more than just menace these days, perhaps it was that the plot felt a little more coincidental than in earlier books, that made THE LOST DEAD a good, rather than sock endangering read. Having said that, anything this author writes is well worth reading if you're interested at all in edge characters, and driving pace, underpinned by the grey that is all too frequently encountered when it comes to good, bad, and human nature.


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When a huge earthquake causes massive landslides across the isolated Southern Alps everyone scrambles in a frantic search for victims. No one is looking for a perpetrator.

But hidden now by the anonymous chaos of the massive disaster he seizes his opportunity and takes her. Like so many others who are missing young Sophie is simply counted among the earthquake’s lost. A perfect crime, unseen and unknown. Almost.

Because this time, as he attacks, he’s seen. Caught in the act. But the three brothers, the only witnesses, are themselves not innocent, not safe. Wanted criminals, they are already hunted and on the run. Barely keeping ahead of both the police and the gangs.

Now the sudden disaster and this chance encounter with a criminal much more dangerous than themselves thwarts their desperate flight into the wilds. Trapping all the wrong people in exactly the wrong place. Forcing the three brothers to choose: Between family and what’s right. Would you sacrifice a child to save your family?

Review The Lost Dead, Finn Bell
Karen Chisholm
Monday, August 24, 2020

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