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The Lost Dead

de Finn Bell

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All novels by Finn Bell have guaranteed two things. Wonderful sense of place, and morally ambiguous characters. As it is with THE LOST DEAD where we have three Maori boys, wanted criminals, on the run, barely one step ahead of the cops and the gangs they have annoyed along the way. There is also a missing, young woman, somebody one of these young lads is thoroughly infatuated with, and determined to find. Then there's the huge earthquake, that causes massive landslides across the isolated Southern Alps region of New Zealand. Everyone is scrambling around looking for victims trapped by those landslides, nobody thinks to look for a perpetrator at the same time.

This is the fourth novel by NZ Author Finn Bell, all of which are set in the glorious far south of New Zealand, and from that connection they form a loose series. The characters however, are different in each novel, but the consideration is often the same. Moral ambiguity with cops and crooks equally compromised, equally under pressure, under threat in all sorts of ways.

The scenario Bell is exploring here is particularly interesting, as it sets a gang of three against a confident, cunning serial killer, that the cops don't even realise is in their midst. Bell sets up, as he frequently does, an interesting moral tussle, with a more forceful personal analysis of society's failings in a postscript to the novel.

Perhaps it was the serial killer voice, which, although well done, really needs to contribute something more than just menace these days, perhaps it was that the plot felt a little more coincidental than in earlier books, that made THE LOST DEAD a good, rather than sock endangering read. Having said that, anything this author writes is well worth reading if you're interested at all in edge characters, and driving pace, underpinned by the grey that is all too frequently encountered when it comes to good, bad, and human nature. ( )
  austcrimefiction | Aug 23, 2020 |
It looks like Finn Bell is going to do it every single time: write an exciting, mesmerizing, extraordinary book. Lucky readers! I have thoroughly enjoyed every book I have read by him, and The Lost Dead is no exception. The gritty, earthy, strong, relentless pace and style reminds me of another favorite author of mine. Even when casual, homey, events or scenes are taking place there is still a sense of suspense and danger and the worry that something bad might happen at any moment. The setting is exotic and the characters are memorable.

From the very first page of The Lost Dead it’s as if a cloud of sadness and dread has enveloped you, or a heavy boulder has been put on your shoulders. We meet the young Maori brothers Tarana, Nikau and Googs ten years earlier and then see what’s happening to them today. Their lives have been terrible, almost hopeless. They are trying to make things better, to give the youngest brother, Googs, a chance. But even if everything works out just fine by the end of the book, you know a lot of bad, scary, tragic things are going to happen on the way there. Is there really any hope that their lives can get better?

Factor in bad choices, an earthquake, a serial killer, a kidnapping, local police with a questionable new team member, and the remote setting and you have multiple stories, stories within stories or lines connecting them all. The suspense and uncertainty are exhilarating and terrifying – is The Accountant someone I should recognize, can the brothers escape the consequences of their actions, is Sophie alive or dead, will Eustas figure anything out in time? I went back and forth: no, yes, oh no, maybe, that can’t happen, just no clue what would happen next.

Finn Bell lives somewhere that is totally foreign to me and writes about experiences that are unimaginable and people that are nothing like most of the people I know, but he makes it all come alive so that I totally lose myself in the story, I could be one of the characters, I know where they are and what they are feeling. But I never know what will happen next.

I don’t like spoilers so won’t say too much to give away the plot, but the story was gripping, full of action and suspense and compelling characters. It will make you think about how every choice in it involves a horrible sacrifice and that justice is a very elusive thing. The end is fitting and the writing is exceptional. Read the intro, read the end notes, read every word.

Thanks to author Finn Bell for providing a copy of The Lost Dead for my honest review. It gave me hours of reading pleasure. Well, not that many hours, because once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. I recommend anything and everything this author writes without hesitation. ( )
  GrandmaCootie | Jul 27, 2019 |
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