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Better the Blood    by Michael Bennett order for
Better the Blood
by Michael Bennett
Order:  USA  Can
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2023 (2023)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's an excellent and engrossing debut thriller set in New Zealand. Better the Blood is written by Māori screenwriter/director Michael Bennett. It stars single mother, Māori Detective Senior Sergeant Hana Westerman in Auckland's police department. Hana's teen daughter Addison is a beautiful and talented rap artist.

The story opens in 1863 with 'A Smudge on the Page of History', when an artist crafts a daguerreotype of six British soldiers below a naked, hanged, high born Maori leader. Fast forward a hundred and sixty years to meet Hana in a courtroom, where she watches a judge give a white law student who raped a Maori girl, a free pass. When the rapist threatens Hana's own daughter she lashes out, getting into serious trouble.

Hana receives a phone video that leads her and her partner Stan to a hanged man. She finds a pattern of an inward-turning spiral at the crime scene, and at another one. Why is the perp sending videos to Hana? She finds a connection to the 1863 murder, which leads her to yet another victim. Complicating her investigation, many of her own people have shunned Hana since she was part of a police action to evict Maori protesters as a junior cop.

As it becomes clear that the killer has more victims in his sights, it becomes a race against time. Meanwhile danger draws ever closer to Hana's own circle. Seeking a killer who has lost his way, Hana finally finds her own path and reclaims herself. I enjoyed Better the Blood, as much for its immersion in Maori culture and colonial history as for the thriller itself. Don't miss this one!

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