I am always thrilled to have the opportunity to read the latest New Zealand fiction. I find it interesting and rewarding to hear the voice of New Zealanders as they put their thoughts and experiences to the page. Cross Fingers, the latest thriller from Otago's Paddy Richardson, did not disappoint.
Cross Fingers sees the return of TV journalist Rebecca Thorne, whom some of you may remember from Richardson's previous book Traces of Red. This time, Rebecca's life takes a turn for the worse: a marriage proposal ends in a break up, her ex seems to be stalking her, and she is taken off her winning investigation only to be lumped with producing yet another documentary about the 1981 Springbok Tour. As she gets stuck into her research, however, Rebecca becomes more and more interested in two famous and anonymous '81 protestors known as the Lambs, and soon discovers that the Black Lamb disappeared. Meanwhile, the rest of her life is growing increasingly fraught with creepy and suspicious events, events that worsen the closer she gets to discovering the truth.
We follow this gripping murder mystery through the eyes of Rebecca, making the drama and development quite palpable. I thought the heroine was clearly depicted, with refreshingly natural dialogue. The pace of the story is just right, and as each chapter ended I was entirely intrigued - and so the pages kept turning. In addition to the serious backbone of this book, Cross Fingers includes a refreshing dash of humour.
What really stands out to me in this novel, however, is the unique way that Richardson has woven her tale around a famously difficult era of New Zealand history. An immigrant to New Zealand, I have lived most of my life in South Africa, and while I know a bit about the the Springbok tour, I was unaware of the severity of the division and the violence that ensued. Following Rebecca's interviews and research, I uncovered the emotions and experiences of protestors and police alike. Cross Fingers clearly reminds us of where we have come from and the impact that it has had (the phrase "lest we forget" springs to mind).
Cross Fingers is a compelling crime story, which is told in a very entertaining way, and holds true to New Zealand, while still being accessible to anyone who enjoys this genre. Better yet, it also offers some food for thought, and should be shared with friends and family, hopefully encouraging some lively discussions about this pivotal event in New Zealand's history.
This is award-winning Paddy Richardson's fourth novel. She has also published two collections of short stories. Paddy has been awarded the University of Otago Burns Fellowship, the Beatson Fellowship, and the University of Otago/James Wallace residency.
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