Category Archives: Cat Connor

Halfway Down Dominion Road*


The building in this ‘photo is Auckland’s Supreme Courthouse. It’s even more beautiful and impressive in real life than it is in the photograph. It’s also a great reminder that crime happens everywhere, including New Zealand. You wouldn’t think so, but crime happens even in a beautiful place like this. Certainly crime-fictional sorts of crime happen.

If you want a thorough, rich discussion of Kiwi crime fiction, you’ll want to go and visit Crime Watch, which is the source for all things crime-fictionally Kiwi. It’s also your stop for updates and information on the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, New Zealand’s highest award for crime writers. For now, though, let me just make mention of a few New Zealand authors who set their novels and series here.

Perhaps the most famous of New Zealand’s crime writers is Ngaio Marsh. Her Roderick Alleyn novels take place in different countries, often England. But she also wrote stories that take place in New Zealand. For example, Died in the Wool is the story of the murder of MP Florence ‘Flossie’ Flossie Rubrick. One day, she goes to one of the sheep pens on her husband’s farm to rehearse a speech she’s planning to give. She doesn’t return until three weeks later when her body turns up in a bale of wool. The victim’s nephew asks Inspector Alleyn to investigate, and he travels to New Zealand to do so. In the process of looking into the matter, he finds out that several members of Rubrick’s family had very good reasons for wanting her dead. This murder turns out to be related to espionage, and to one family member in particular.

Another crime novelist who’s gotten quite well known is Paul Cleave. In fact, Cleave won the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel for Five Minutes Alone. His debut novel, The Cleaner is set in Christchurch, where Joe Middleton works as a janitor at the police station. Unbeknownst to everyone, he is also a serial killer known as The Carver. The story is that The Carver has killed seven victims. But Middleton knows that’s not true, because he’s only killed six. He wants to find out who the ‘copycat killer’ is, so that he can frame him for the other killings, and punish him for pretending to be The Carver. It’s not going to be as easy as it seems, though…

Paddy Richardson’s novels are also set in New Zealand. Her novels Traces of Red and Cross Fingers feature Wellington TV journalist Rebecca Thorne. In the first, Thorne begins to suspect that Connor Bligh, who is in prison for murdering his sister, her husband, and their son, might be innocent. If he is, this is the story that could ensure her place at the top of New Zealand TV journalism. So she starts asking questions and looking into the case again. As time goes on, she finds herself getting closer to the case than is safe. In Cross Fingers, Thorne investigates the thirty-year-old death of a man who dressed up as a lamb and entertained crowds during the Springboks’ 1981 tour of New Zealand. That tour was controversial, and there were many, many protests and reports of police abuse of power; so at the time, not a lot of attention was paid to the death of one person. But Thorne finds it an interesting angle, and uncovers an unsolved murder. Richardson’s standalone novels, Hunting Blind and Swimming in the Dark, are set on New Zealand’s South Island.

So is Vanda Symon’s series featuring Constable Samantha ‘Sam’ Shephard, who works with the Mataura Police. Along with the crimes she investigates, she has to deal with a difficult boss, family strain, and, in Overkill, being suspected of murder. But she has plenty of grit and determination; and, despite the fact that she doesn’t always play ‘by the book’ she’s a skilled detective.

Paul Thomas’ Tito Ihaka novels are mostly set in Auckland. Ihaka is a Māori police detective with his own way of solving cases. In Guerrilla Season, his first outing, Ihaka wants to investigate a series of deaths claimed by extremists called Aotearoa People’s Army. Ihaka isn’t sure they’re responsible, though, and starts to dig deeper. This gets him into trouble with his superiors, though, and he’s taken off that case and put onto a case of suspected blackmail. When that proves to be related, it’s clear that Ihaka has uncovered something much more than he’d suspected.

Bev Robitai’s Theatre Mysteries are also set in Auckland, at the Regent Theatre. In Murder in the Second Row, and Body on the Stage, Robitai combines murder with a look backstage at the way stage productions are planned, created, rehearsed and executed (yes, pun intended ;-) ) Readers also get to know some of the people outside the theatre who make those productions possible.

Under the pseudonym of Alix Bosco, Greg McGee has written two novels, Cut and Run and Slaughter Falls, featuring Auckland legal researcher Anna Markunas. In the first, she helps defend a young man accused of killing a rugby star. In the second, she investigates a series of deaths among a New Zealand tour group that’s visiting Brisbane. It’ll be interesting to learn if another Anna Markunas novel will be released.

And then there’s Donna Malane’s Diane Rowe novels. Rowe is a Wellington missing person expert who’s called in to identify twenty-five-year-old remains in Surrender. In My Brother’s Keeper, ex-convict Karen Mackie hires Rowe to find her fourteen-year-old daughter Sunny. As Rowe learns, Mackie was in prison for trying to kill Sunny, so the dilemma in this case is a real one.

There are plenty of other New Zealand writers, such as Cat Connor and Andrew Grant, who set their novels elsewhere. For a small country, Kiwi crime fiction leaves quite a footprint…


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Mutton Birds’ Dominion Road.


Filed under Alix Bosco, Andrew Grant, Bev Robitai, Cat Connor, Donna Malane, Greg McGee, Ngaio Marsh, Paddy Richardson, Paul Cleave, Paul Thomas, Vanda Symon

We Spend Hours Now Online*

Online CommunitiesAn excellent post from author and fellow blogger Rebecca Bradley has got me thinking about the new online world in which we live. I’m very fortunate and privileged to have met some of the finest people you could ever want to have in your life through this blog and my other online connections. And it’s been wonderful to meet some of you both face-to-face and in the online crime book club that Rebecca was kind enough to facilitate. It’s all been a great experience, and I truly hope to meet more of you in person as time goes by.

But the thing is, online life isn’t always that safe, enjoyable and rewarding. People aren’t always what their online personas seem to be. And although different social media outlets can suspend accounts and so on, that’s not much protection. And that’s to say nothing of how difficult it can be to verify information you find online. So, online interactions really do involve a leap of faith, as the saying goes. I’ve been most fortunate in mine, but not everyone is. Just a quick look at crime fiction and you’ll see what I mean.

In Michael Redhill/Inger Ash Wolfe’s The Calling, Port Dundas, Ontario DI Hazel Micallef and her team investigate a series of bizarre killings, beginning with that of eighty-one-year-old Delia Chandler, who was already terminally ill. There doesn’t seem to be much of a motive for killing her; yet this isn’t a suicide. Still, the evidence shows that she admitted her killer and put up no resistance. So it’s definitely not the sort of murder you find in, say, a home invasion or a more personal killing. Then, there’s another murder. This time, the victim is twenty-nine-year-old Michael Ulmer, who had multiple sclerosis. Bit by bit, the team links these deaths to others that have occurred. And one key to the mystery is a website that they had in common…

Cat Conner’s Killerbyte introduces readers to FBI special agent Gabrielle ‘Ellie’ Conway, an ex-pat New Zealander with a love of poetry. In fact she co-moderates a poetry-themed chat room called Cobwebs. When Conway bans one of the members, Carter McClaren, from the chat room, he shows up at her home to ‘pay her back.’ He’s arrested, but makes bail. Later, he’s murdered and his body found in Conway’s car. With it is a Post-it note on which there’s a poem. Conway and her fellow moderator/lover Cormac ‘Mac’ Connelly are trying to find out who might have killed Carter when there’s another murder, also of a chat room member. Again, a poem is left by the body, and taunting emails are sent to both Conway and Connelly. Now, they have to sift through all of the members and find out which one is the murderer, and why that person is targeting other members.

In Alafair Burke’s 212, we are introduced to Megan Gunther, an undergraduate at New York University (NYU). She’s joined an online community called Campus Juice, in which people post news, upcoming events, and gossip going around campus. One day, she’s looking at the site when she sees, to her dismay, that someone has posted her class schedule. What’s more, whoever it is has also posted information about her personal schedule (e.g. when she goes to the gym). The post ends with a cryptic warning:

‘Megan Gunther, someone is watching.’

When Megan is later stabbed, NYPD detectives Ellie Hatcher and J.J. Rogan are assigned to the case and begin the investigation. Soon enough, they discover that this is not just a case of a dangerous stalker who’s used the online community to target one person. Rather, it’s connected to two other murders…

There’s an interesting online community in Qiu Xiaolong’s Enigma of China. In that novel, Shanghai police detective Chen Cao is assigned to a delicate case. Zhou Keng, head of Shanghai’s Housing Development Committee, has apparently committed suicide. It’s not a complete surprise, since he was under investigation for corruption. In fact, he’d been arrested and was under police guard in a hotel room when he died. But when Chen starts to look at the case, he sees some signs that this might have been murder. It’s going to be difficult to carry on with this investigation, though, because the Party officials to whom Chen is responsible want a simple ‘rubber stamp’ of suicide. As the case moves on, Chen finds out that Zhou’s activities came out through the efforts of a group of ‘netizens’ who posted them online. These people have found that the only successful way to really speak out about China is through online communities where they feel they can get factual information, rather than official government information. They have to be careful, though, because at the same time as the government benefits from the information they find, it also wants to be in control of what they say. So things can get dangerous.

Some online communities are themselves dangerous. The same online camaraderie that people share when they talk about recipes, clothing, cars or sport can also be used for uglier purposes. For instance, in one plot thread of Michael Connelly’s Angels Flight, LAPD detective Harry Bosch re-opens the case of twelve-year-old Stacey Kincaid, who was found raped and murdered. Michael Harris was arrested and convicted in connection with the crime, but he has claimed his confession was, to put it mildly, coerced. If that’s true, reasons Bosch, then someone else murdered Stacey. Bosch’s investigation leads to a web site called Charlotte’s Web Site, which is not a community you’d want taking an interest in your young daughter.

There are also more recent books featuring the phenomenon of online communities. Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me? is the story of Yvonne, a new mother who’s just moved from London to Ireland. She turns to an online community called NetMammy for support, and soon finds a group of other mothers who are also dealing with the stresses of new babies. Then, one of those members goes ‘off the grid,’ and Yvonne eventually begins to suspect that something is wrong, especially after a body is discovered…   There’s also Angela Clarke’s Follow Me, which explores the modern phenomenon of social media celebrity and the reality of how anonymous people can really be online. I confess I’ve not (yet) read these two novels. But they both serve as examples of what today’s online communities can be like.

It’s not surprising that more authors are exploring online groups in their crime fiction. They are a part of modern life for a lot of people. And I, for one, am better for the online communities of which I’m a member. But they’re not without danger…

Talking of online… May I suggest you visit Rebecca’s terrific blog. There you’ll find terrific reviews, and you’ll get the chance to enjoy her crime novel Shallow Waters. Thanks, Rebecca, for the inspiration.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Ken Block’s We Don’t Talk Anymore.


Filed under Alafair Burke, Angela Clarke, Cat Connor, Inger Ash Wolfe, Michael Connelly, Michael Redhill, Qiu Xiaolong, Sinéad Crowley

Science Fiction Double Feature*

Science Fiction and Crime FIctionSome of the most interesting novels and stories are those with cross-genre appeal. It takes skill to blend the elements of more than one genre and come up with a result that’s a cohesive, strong story with a solid plot and characters. But it can happen. For instance, you might not think of science fiction and crime fiction as having much in common. But if you consider it, crime can happen at any time, anywhere, including the science-fictional world. And the best characters in science fiction stories tell us something about ourselves. And whether we like it or not, crime is a part of the human condition.

It’s not easy to weave a story together that integrates elements of science fiction with elements of crime fiction. But there are plenty of examples of authors who’ve done just that. Here are just a few.

Most people think of Isaac Asimov as a scientist (he wrote several textbooks, actually) or as an author of science fiction. But he also had an interest in crime fiction. His Elijah ‘Lije’ Baley series, for instance, is a science fiction series. It takes place in a futuristic New York, and includes many scientific and technological developments that, at least at the time the novels were written, didn’t exist. Perhaps the most important of these developments was the positronic robot. And in the best tradition of science fiction, Asimov used this futuristic setting and high technology to explore very human questions. But this is a crime fiction series. Baley and his partner R. Daneel Olivaw are homicide detectives. They investigate murders and find killers. And people kill in this context just as they do in the ones that we know. Asimov also wrote several short stories that I would argue ‘count’ as crime fiction. One is The Dying Night, in which a scientist is murdered the night before he’s supposed to deliver a presentation at an important astronomy conference. It’s up to another scientist, Dr. Wendell Urth, to use his expertise to work out who the murderer is.

Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is another example of the blend of science fiction and crime fiction (and wit, too, actually). Adams’ PI sleuth Gently gets involved in a case of multiple murder when a friend of his breaks into his girlfriend’s apartment. It turns out that the time, he was under the influence of the ghost of an engineer who belonged to a people called the Salaxalans  The engineer’s slipshod ways caused the destruction of a large spaceship and the deaths of all aboard. Now the engineer is forced to remain a ghost until he can correct his mistake. The novel involves a time-travel machine, a spaceship, and other technology. It’s science fiction. But at the same time, it’s crime fiction. Gently investigates two murders caused by the malevolent ghost’s influence; other crimes take place, too. You could also argue that this has elements of the fantasy novel about it, too. It’s another clear example of the way a crime novel can also ‘count’ as science fiction.

In Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan explores the nature of what really counts as human consciousness. This novel takes place in the 25th Century, by which time a method has been discovered to store a person’s consciousness. That way, when the body is killed, that consciousness can be placed in a new body – a new ‘sleeve’ – and life can go on again. Takeshi Kovacs, who used to work for the U.N., has been killed before. His most recent death experience was especially painful, and now he’s been sent to Bay City (San Francisco many hundreds of years in the future) to be placed in a new ‘sleeve.’ The person responsible for ‘re-sleeving’ him, Laurens Bancroft, has Kovacs placed in a cop’s body, so that he can investigate Bancroft’s first death. Like other science fiction novels, this one explores the human condition through technology, as you might say. Morgan opens up questions about what ‘counts’ as being human, what the value is of one or another person, and what the impact is of wealth and power on the whole equation. But it’s also very much a crime novel, in which a sleuth goes after a very dangerous killer.

And then there’s Charles Stross’ Rule 34, which features Edinburgh Inspector Liz Kavanaugh, who heads the Innovative Crime Investigation Unit. She and her team are responsible for patrolling the Internet and separating out harmless fantasy from dangerous crime. That’s how they learn of the murder of former prisoner and spammer Michael Blair. They’re working on that case when Kavanaugh learns of other former prisoners who are killed in similarly brutal ways. Her story intersects with the story of former identity thief Anwar, who’s become a sort of consul for a Central Asian state, and of The Toymaker, an enforcer for a criminal group called the Organization. This novel is a crime novel, and features the murders and their investigation. But it’s also science fiction. It takes place in the near future, and in an alternate sort of reality that includes different technology. It’s speculative, too, as a lot of science fiction is.

There are also authors such as Michael Crichton, whose novels are often called thrillers, but arguably count as science fiction too. In Prey, for instance, we meet Jack Forman and his wife Julia. Both are successful technology experts, until Jack loses his job. Then, Julia, who’s been working overtime at Xymos Technology, begins behaving oddly. She and Jack begin to clash over matters that had never been a big problem before, and at one point, Jack even wonders whether she’s having an affair. The reality turns out to be quite different. Xymos has been working on developing nanoparticles that are self-sustaining and self-reproducing. This experiment has gone horribly wrong, and if Jack doesn’t find out what’s been going on and how to stop it, a lot of lives will be lost.

Cat Connor’s novels feature Gabrielle ‘Ellie’ Conway, an ex-pat New Zealander who now works as an FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA). This series takes place in the present day. But it frequently makes use of the kind of technological wizardry and speculation that are often present in science fiction novels. And it is definitely a crime series.

And that’s the thing about this blend between crime fiction and science fiction. The best examples feature elements of both genres. They also feature solid characters and plots, of course, as well as speculation. As my husband, who loves science fiction a highly-regarded science fiction expert whom I consulted has told me, science fiction gives the context. Crime fiction gives the plot. I think that makes sense.


*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Richard O’Brien.



Filed under Cat Connor, Charles Stross, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton, Richard K. Morgan

When We Get Together It’s So Much Fun*

OnlineGroupsWhen the Internet first came into popular use, many people saw it as a new way to get information and to do research. Of course, lots of people, myself included, still use it for that purpose. But in the last ten years or so, people have discovered an entirely new use for the Internet: online groups. It used to be that people with a common interest or a common cause had to work to meet one another and share their interest. Now, with just a few keyboard clicks, one can join any number of online groups. It’s dangerously easy.

And crime fiction novels have kept up with this important development in the way we communicate. There are now a number of novels that bring up (some that feature) the way in which we use the Internet to join together. As you’ll see, even when people use online groups to try to do some good, things don’t always work out well.

In Alafair Burke’s 212, for instance, we meet Megan Gunther, a New York Univeristy (NYU) undergraduate student. She’s joined an online community called Campus Juice to keep informed about what’s happening on campus and, if she’s honest, to keep up with the campus gossip. One day, she’s checking the website during class and notices her own name among the postings. Shocked, she checks the group’s site again as soon as she can, and reads what’s been said about her. To her dismay, someone’s posted her class schedule as well as some things about her social life (e.g. when she goes to the gym). The post ends with the disturbing sentence


‘Megan Gunther, someone is watching.’


When Megan is stabbed to death, it’s clear that someone’s been using the interest group to target her. NYPD detectives Ellie Hatcher and J.J. Rogan are assigned to the case and begin their investigation. This turns out to be far more than a case of dangerous stalking when Hatcher finds out that this murder is connected to the murders of two other people: a bodyguard and a real estate agent who ‘moonlights’ as a prostitute.

Michael Connelly’s Angels Flight features a horrible use of online groups: child pornography. In that novel, LAPD cop Harry Bosch investigates the murder of prominent lawyer Howard Elias. He’s murdered just before an important trial in which he was to represent Michael Harris in a high-profile lawsuit against the LAPD. The suit alleges that the police used illegal (to put it mildly) tactics to coerce a confession of rape and murder from Harris. The victim in that case was twelve-year-old Stacey Kincaid, and the more Bosch learns about the investigation into Stacey’s death, the more he sees that there was indeed police misconduct on many levels. That leads him to re-open the Kincaid case as well as continue to look into the Elias murder. And both trails lead to an online interest group. Crime fiction fans will know, too, that this is only one of many crime novels in which online child pornography/child trafficking interest groups play a role.

Cat Connor’s Killerbyte features an online group dedicated to poetry. Called Cobwebs, it’s moderated by FBI agent Gabrielle ‘Ellie’ Conway and Cormac ‘Mac’ Connelly. One night, group member Carter McClaren shows up at Conway’s home, ready to ‘pay her back’ for having banned him from the group. He’s arrested, but soon makes bail. Then, he’s murdered. Attached to the body is an adhesive note with a poem written on it. Conway and Connelly also begin to receive email taunts from the killer. Then, there’s another body found, also with a poem. And another. It’s clear now that someone in the group is a murderer, but this is not a case of a mad serial killer who hates poetry. It’s more complicated than that, and Conway and Connelly have to work to find out who is using their group to kill before they become victims themselves. 

In Helen Fitzgerald’s The Cry, Joanna Lindsay and Alistair Robertson travel from Scotland to Melbourne with their nine-week-old son Noah. This is Lindsay’s first trip to Australia, but for Robertson, it’s a homecoming. They land safely and begin the long drive from the airport to their final destination. They’re on their way when they have to face every parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of baby Noah. News of the missing baby soon gets out of course, and the Australian media goes into high gear, publishing every detail of the search for the baby, interviews with people and so on. And the case generates a lot of interest. There are several websites and other online groups set up; some are charitable giving sites and others are discussion sites. At first, there is an outpouring of sympathy for Noah’s parents, but after a short time, questions begin to arise about the case. Little by little, that support turns to suspicion and before long, there are just as many websites set up to vilify, especially, Lindsay as there are in support of the family.

And then there’s Qiu Xiaolong’s Enigma of China. Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police is assigned to ‘rubber stamp’ the case of the death of Zhou Keng, Head of Shanghai’s Housing Development Committee. The official police explanation of Zhou’s death is suicide, and that’s logical, considering the victim was on the point of being brought down by an investigation into his unscrupulous activities. Chen’s not completely convinced this is a suicide though, and he begins to ask questions. He finds that Zhou’s activities came out through the online community of ‘netizens’ who join interest groups because for them, it’s the only way to speak out about some of the things going on in China. Chen finds out that the authorities keep very close tabs on what these groups do and what’s posted for obvious reasons. At the same time, they use the information the groups post for their own purposes. It’s among other things an interesting look at the way communication has gone online in the last decades.

Online groups bring together people from all over the world who might not otherwise have the chance to connect. They can be fun, enriching, helpful and supportive. I know I feel that way about the online crime fiction reading and writing communities I’m lucky enough to have joined. On the other hand, you just might want to be careful about the groups you’re thinking about joining… ;-)

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to catch up with my group’s postings!



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Ziggy Marley’s Family Time.


Filed under Alafair Burke, Cat Connor, Helen Fitzgerald, Michael Connelly, Qiu Xiaolong

You’re in My Mind All the Time*

AnzacDayToday (or tomorrow, depending on when you read this) is Anzac Day. It’s a day set aside to thank and commemorate the men and women of Australia and New Zealand’s armed forces. They have served, and continue to serve, with distinction and bravery.

I’m neither an Australian nor a New Zealander. So why am I setting time aside for Anzac Day? One reason is that I am a world citizen. I know (at least a little) about the role the ANZAC forces have played in world history since WWI. Their bravery and sacrifice has helped keep me and my countrymen and women safe. There is no way to properly express gratitude for that. But you can at least learn a bit about it.

You can learn about the ANZAC forces here and here.


There’s another reason for which I set time aside for Anzac Day. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to both NZcountries. During my travels I’ve met some truly fine people. They’ve hosted me generously and treated me kindly, and I’ve made some good friends. I’ve had some memorable conversations about everything from politics to sport to film to education to social issues. And books. Of course, books. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve seen some amazing things. I’ve petted kangaroos, ‘toured’ Auckland from 328m up in the air, and seen some spectacular scenery. And that’s just the start!   All of this has been courtesy of people who wouldn’t want a fuss made about how kind they’ve been. But I remember.

AusRoosI’ve made some good online Australian and New Zealand friends too – friends I’ve not yet met in person. I hope that will change. We’ve had wonderful conversations about writing, books, and lots of other topics, too, and I’ve learned an awful lot. To all of you, thanks for reaching out.

So yes, I take some time on Anzac Day. I owe a lot, on many levels, to the good people of Australia and New Zealand. Here’s to you all!



Have you read these Australian authors?


Y.A. Erskine

Sulari Gentill 

Robert Gott

Katherine Howell

Adrian Hyland

Wendy James

Geoffrey McGeachin

Andrew Nette

Michael Robotham

Angela Savage

Peter Temple

David Whish-Wilson

Felicity Young


Australian Blogs You’ll Want to Follow



Australian Women Writers Challenge

The Crayon Files

Fair Dinkum Crime

Mysteries in Paradise

Reactions to Reading

Reading, Writing and Riesling


Have you read these New Zealand authors?


Cat Connor

Neil Cross

Donna Malane

Ngaio Marsh

Paddy Richardson

Bev Robitai

Grant Shanks (Andrew Grant)

Vanda Symon

Paul Thomas


New Zealand Blogs You’ll Want to Follow


Beattie’s Book Blog

Booksellers New Zealand

Crime Watch

The Crayon Files

NZ Book Lovers  


Give a little back. Support an Australian author. Support a New Zealand author. And let’s all of us be grateful for the way the Anzac forces have supported us.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Snapper’s Gentle Hour, also recorded by The Clean. Later, Yo La Tengo recorded a version of it too. Listen to all of the versions and see which you like best.


Filed under Adrian Hyland, Andrew Grant, Andrew Nette, Angela Savage, Bev Robitai, Cat Connor, David Whish-Wilson, Donna Malane, Felicity Young, Geoffrey McGeachin, Grant Shanks, Katherine Howell, Michael Robotham, Neil Cross, Ngaio Marsh, Paddy Richardson, Peter Temple, Robert Gott, Sulari Gentill, Vanda Symon, Wendy James, Y.A. Erskine