Better the Blood by Michael Bennett
More than 150 years ago, on the top of Maunga Whakairoiro – or as the colonisers called it, Mount Suffolk – a picture is taken of a Māori chief, hanging from a tree, six victorious soldiers in the foreground. Despite all the inconsistent efforts of reconciliation in the intervening decades, there’s still injustice all over New Zealand. Nobody knows this better than Hana Westerman, a Māori cop with her own bitter history on that very same mountain, and who’s working the darkest case of her life. There’s a serial killer in Auckland, and they have Hana in their sights, sending her footage of crime scenes, putting her on the trail of a series of deaths that seem to otherwise have no links to each other. But Hana is tenacious, and she is determined. As the case spirals deeper into the past, she’s also the only one who can do anything about it.
Better the Blood is a superb police procedural, one that delivers a pitch-perfect crime novel that never ceases to be entertaining, all while challenging its readers to consider how they feel about death, revenge and the notion of bad guys versus good guys in fiction and real life. The footnote translations of Māori words lend the book authenticity, depth and immersion in a culture just across the Tasman Sea. Michael Bennett is in full control, effortlessly juggling these enthralling characters, gripping story, and the ever-shrinking distance between past and present when it comes to acts that must never be forgotten. Readers, let yourself hear what he has to tell you.