Back down under
Actually, I’m not sure how much I learned about New Zealand from Thomas’ book, other than a few wonderfully musical place names. A cover blurb on my edition, published in the United Kingdom, calls Thomas the “Down Under Carl Hiaasen,” and the comparison seems apt. The novel includes some of the features that can make Hiaasen so annoying. Everything is whacky and rapid-fire. The gruesome killings are farcical. Everybody is a quirky quipster, and the novel is peopled less with characters than with pasted-together sets of wry or blunt remarks, so much so that the occasional moments of drama or personal conflict seem contrived. The pacing is unrelieved rat-tat-tat, complete with sentence-fragment transitions to convey the frenzied zaniness of it all.
I’ve never been able to make it past the first chapter of any Hiaasen novel, and for a while there, I thought the same would be the case with Guerilla Season. Then the action began. Police chase down a shadowy group that claims responsibility for killings. Spies, blackmailers and shady businessmen materialize, and sex is hinted at. The scope grows from alleged Maori terrorism to international espionage, and slowly I began to realize that damn, this man knows how to tell a story. I’ll be reading more of this guy and, without knowing anything about his body of work, I’d bet Paul Thomas could write a first-rate, not necessarily comic thriller if he set his mind to it.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
New Zealand crime fiction