Whatever It Takes, Paul Cleave

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Christchurch based author Paul Cleave has had a way of creating scenarios, and settings for his novels that have kept this reader awake and mildly anxious for a long time now. WHATEVER IT TAKES is a bit of a departure from his previous style, set in the USA, eschewing a lot of the slight paranormal elements that have been part of his previous books - making this particularly intriguing reading.

Cleave is, as fans of his are acutely aware, one of the great storytellers. His characters inhabit the places they move through, and the plots they encounter with considerable aplomb. They are often slightly flawed, conflicted, tricky people, engaged in a complicated balancing act between black and white. As is the case with Deputy Noah Harper who kicked the black and white into very murky grey when searching for a young kidnapped girl many years before. So much so that he lost his job, his wife, and had to leave the small town he had been happy in. Warned if he ever returned he'd go straight to jail, he's been living in the big city, running a bar, minding his own business. Until the phone call that tells him that same girl is missing again, and her father is calling in past promises. If he goes back to Acacia Pines, he'll have to confront a lot of ghosts from the past - most of whom are still living and bearing some very big grudges.

Cleave has created a wonderfully nuanced set of characters as always. Harper is a hard man, with a conscience, which he can park around the back if the perceived sin is greater than the act of resolution. Setting the action in the USA, Cleave has created an environment that these characters, and the plot make sense in. Everybody and everything in this novel feels authentic, even the sly humour of the type that fits right into the Christchurch setting works in this small town, heartland USA setting.

A bit of a page turner, WHATEVER IT TAKES, is not just a crime thriller though. There's plenty of problematic issues, and that ever present exploration of black and white, and the lines that good and bad people draw in the sand. Then kick into obscurity.


WHATEVER IT TAKES has been shortlisted for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel.


The entire shortlist for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel is:

Tugga's Mob, Stephen Johnson
Aue, Becky Manawatu (also shortlisted for Best Novel)
The Nancys, R.W.R. McDonald (also shortlisted for Best Novel)
Into the Void, Christina O'Reilly

The entire shortlist for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel is:

Whatever It Takes, Paul Cleave
Girl From The Treehouse, Gudrun Frerichs
Aue, Becky Manawatu (also shortlisted for Best First Novel)
The Nancys, R.W.R. McDonald
In The Clearing, J.P. Pomare
The Wild Card, Renee


Book Source Declaration
I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author.
Year of Publication

When seven-year-old Alyssa is kidnapped, Deputy Noah Harper decides he will do what it takes to find her – but that means crossing lines he can never come back from. Finding the girl safe, isn’t enough to stop Noah from losing his job, his wife, and from being kicked out of Acacia Pines. He’s told if he ever returns, he’ll be put in jail and left there to rot. Now, 12 years later, comes a phone call. Alyssa is missing again and her father wants him to honour the promise he made to her all those years earlier – that he would never let anything bad happen to her again. To find her, Noah is going to have to head back to the pines, and come face to face with the past…

Review Whatever It Takes, Paul Cleave
Karen Chisholm
Monday, August 31, 2020

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