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Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

MOLTEN MUD MURDER by Sara E. Johnson: Book Review

As may be obvious to frequent readers of this blog, I love reading and reviewing mysteries that take place outside the United States.  I can never decide if I find a novel more interesting if I’ve been to the country where it’s located or if I’ve never been there.  Either way, I really enjoy learning about the customs and culture of foreign places, and reading Sara E. Johnson’s debut mystery that takes place in New Zealand, a country I have yet to visit, grabbed me from the first page.

Forensics expert Alexa Glock has been fortunate enough to spend six months working at a lab in Auckland and wants desperately to extend her stay.  She had made a close friend at the lab, and the plan was to visit Mary in the latter’s home town of Rotorua when Alexa’s visiting professorship was finished so that the two of them could spend time together going around New Zealand.

Alexa had rented a small cottage in Rotorua and was on her way there when she got a call from Mary’s brother, telling her that his sister had been killed in an auto accident.  On her way to attend the funeral and pay her respects to her friend’s family, Alexa comes across an article in the New Zealand Herald describing a gruesome death–a man’s body has been found boiled to death in a thermal pool where the temperature reaches over two hundred degrees.  Due to the high temperature of the pool, all the man’s identifying features have been destroyed.

Having fallen in love with Kiwi, which is the name New Zealanders call their nation, Alexa thinks that her expertise could help the police and allow her to prolong her stay in the country.  She thinks that perhaps the victim can be identified by his teeth, and that’s where her expert knowledge comes in; she has a master’s degree in odontology and has worked with the police in her native North Carolina.

There is so much fascinating information about New Zealand and the Maori, the indigenous people of the country, in Molten Mud Murder.  The Maori are ethnically Polynesian and arrived in Kiwi in the 14th century, now comprising about a fifth of the population.  Ms. Johnson does a wonderful job in describing many of the group’s customs and beliefs, particularly their veneration for their ancestors.

Alexa Glock is a welcome addition to those amateur detectives whose specialized knowledge make them a valuable asset to the authorities investigating a crime.  Her delight in the country she’s visiting and her interest in all things Maori is infectious and carries the reader along as she looks into the death of the European man at the thermal pool that is sacred to the Maori and forbidden to others.

You can read more about Sara E. Johnson at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.