RED HERRING by Jonathan Cullinane

What a top read this turned out to be. So much diversity in what New Zealand authors are writing about at the moment. This was completely unexpected, as one would expect with a title like 'Red Herring'. Not a fish in sight. But 'red' does refer to the time and setting of this story - the 1951 Waterfront Strike -  a very significant event in NZ's history, that impacted hugely on the country in every possible way. The fear and paranoia around the rise of communism, reds under the bed, the growing power of the unions completely freaked out the government of the day. Such the perfect setting and atmosphere for a thriller, a murder, and a private investigator with his own murky past!

The hero of the day is Johnny Molloy, hard man, ex war veteran, killed a man or two in his time, now working as a private investigator in downtown Auckland. It's so interesting reading about Auckland city in 1951, suburbs we now think of prime real estate, with character homes, actually all quite new then; downtown Auckland a little seedy and down at heel with equally seedy characters lurking in the scenery. Trams are the main form of public transport, as well as taxis, s few privately owned cars.  Googling photos shows a very, very different Auckland!

Even though the war finished some six years earlier, these are still dangerous and uncertain times, with a fair few dodgy characters, hidden agendas, a heightened sense of lawlessness. An American  insurance rep has arrived in town looking for an Irishman who has apparently faked his own death and is now in Auckland. He approaches Molloy to track this miscreant down. Also doing her own detective work is young newspaper reporter Caitlin O'Carolan. Together the two of join forces, playing a dangerous game as they attempt to unravel a conspiracy linked to the strike, the government of the day, trying to stay as many steps as possible ahead of those hunting them down.

Great reading - gripping, diverse characters and motivations, really good depiction of Auckland and what it was like to live there in those times. The author is a filmmaker, and I can just see this being turned into a movie or a TV series. Fantastic stuff. 

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