Sharks With Lipstick, Hinemura Ellison and Ted Hughes

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

SHARKS WITH LIPSTICK is a satirical romantic mystery written by Hinemura Ellison and Ted Hughes. Satirical it definitely is, as you'll get from the blurb - with the concept being that there's a Big Super Ministry as part of the government, where it seems employees spend more time playing their own form of politics than they necessarily do getting any actual work done. Aside from the trials of the workplace, there's also a train that takes workers to and from Wellington to outlying country destinations, and you get to know a lot of the characters in this novel on that train journey. The journey is a commute, social event, meeting place, gathering point and sort of all in party on rails. Everyone has their own groups of friends, the alcohol flows freely on occasions, games are played, secrets are shared, and, on one particular night, a dead body discovered. Further complications arise because the body is that of the dreaded HR Director of the Big Super Ministry and the investigating officer is central character Samantha (aka Sven) Svensson's ex. Needless to say Cat, the HR Director, and Sven have some history, but then there's pretty much no-one in the Ministry that hasn't got a problem with Cat. Everything is further complicated by an earthquake that's just hit Wellington, and there's plenty of concern about predictions of the next, really big one, happening any moment.

Firmly on the madcap side of satirical romantic mystery, SHARKS WITH LIPSTICK is often extremely funny. The biggest problem is the satirical gets in the way of the mystery, and whilst many of the scenes being executed by these authors are deadpan and often hilarious, they also form a sort of liquefaction effect (ridiculous earthquake analogy - sorry), where everything gets bogged down, and sure you're laughing whilst stuck in the bog, but there's also a suspicion that you're never actually going to get out. SHARKS WITH LIPSTICK has some potential, and I know how hard it must be to set a really good funny line free, but I did come away from it thinking a bit less would have been way more in the long run. This is flagged as the first book in the Trinity Trilogy and it feels like Sven has more than enough chutzpah to carry that off.

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Freshly back from Europe with a new job, Samantha Svensson (Sven) reconnects with her old friends while managing a new role within the Big Super Ministry – where everyone is busy playing their own internal political games.

After the HR Director ends up dead on the same train that Sven was on, suspicions abound, not least from the chief investigating police officer, Charlie Rogers, who happens to be her ex and is still incredibly damned hot!

With Wellington still reeling after a recent big earthquake, Sven must use all her canny resourcefulness to clear her name and identify the killer within their midst.

Sharks With Lipstick is set in the far away paradise of Aotearoa, New Zealand in the deep south of the Pacific Ocean. The story is set in the capital city, Wellington and reveals the drama and dilemma of twenty-first century business and life. In particular, the comical inefficiencies that lie trapped within the four walls of the newly created Government department, the Big Super Ministry.

The main theme focuses on the demise of Cathryn Ann Tennyson. Cat, the self important and vicious HR Director, a character everyone loves to hate, who until her untimely death has been planning the huge redundancy announcement of all announcements, just weeks before Christmas. Samantha Ann Svensson, Sven, of Swedish and Maori extraction, a new employee is bought in on contract who discovers too much revealing information and may be taking on more than she has bargained for.

It is Friday evening and everyone is heading home, Cat, Sven and others are on the luxurious, commuter train, looking forward to the weekend and are celebrating happily in high spirits. However, come Monday morning, Cat has been found dead (on the train).

Wellington having just suffered a terrifying medium sized earthquake, has left its’ residents, mainly public servants up in arms. The BS Minister is on tenterhooks, and Alex, the new Head of Science is busily calculating the next big earthquake, predicting it will hit Wellington soon perhaps later today! As the investigation of the untimely death of the HR Director proceeds, racing against the Capital News’ deadlines and the predicted earthquake, the finger points at different people. The top boss, deputizes Sven to do an internal investigation, parallel to the official Police enquiry led by Detective Sergeant Rogers, Sven’s ex, who she still has an unresolved emotional attachment to, in an effort to manage the media fallout and the Minister’s unrealistic expectations.

Will Sven discover the killer in their midst?

Can Charlie and her resolve their past and reconnect?

A satirical, romantic mystery that all will enjoy.

Review Sharks With Lipstick, Hinemura Ellison and Ted Hughes
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

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