Book Review: A History of Crime by Dinah Holman
A History of Crime by Dinah Holman
This well-researched and beautifully written historical novel is a delight to read, as well as illuminating a light on a little-known area of New Zealand history. In the late 1800s a group of unprincipled Auckland merchants and self-interested politians cooked up some shady deals to feather their own pockets, while illegally taking large areas of the Urewera land from the Tuhoe people. Their secret dealings brought the Bank of New Zealand to the point where it needed a bail out from the government. Dinah Holman has written a compelling and unputdownable read of fiction, which blends fictional and real characters with real flair.
The story starts dramatically when Riki Bonnell, a visiting soprano singer, is thrown off the steamship she is traveling on, along with a young Maori man, Kokako. Kokako saves Riki’s life, and indebted to him she feels compelled to help him research and reveal the secret conspiracy of a team of men to steal some Kokako’s tribal land. Riki has come to New Zealand to do a concert tour with Italian tenor Signor Francesco Bartellin – but unbeknown to her, Francesco has also been charged with investigating the goings on of the same men.
Thomas Russell, Sir Frederick Whitaker, Sir Julius Vogel and William Lanarch all populate this intelligent novel, but it is the fictional characters of Riki and Francesco that take centre stage. This is a historical novel that is blend of mystery, adventure, intrigue and a little bit of romance. I’d highly recommend this wonderful novel – one that reveals a fascinating period of New Zealand history.