4 out of 4 stars
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Pancake Money, written by Finn Bell, is a fast-paced and intriguing crime novel that will have you hooked from start to finish. Immediately, we are introduced to Bobby, the narrator of the story and a detective. He works alongside Pollo, another detective who has been at the job much longer than Bobby. The book begins with a conversation between the two men, allowing the audience to understand their dynamic before jumping into the action.
The story begins in the town of Dunedin, New Zealand, where Bobby and Pollo are investigating the murder of a priest. However, this incident soon unravels to reveal a much larger situation than originally anticipated. Plenty of unexpected turns and “a-ha” moments throughout had me craving more, wondering what the investigation would turn up next, and when I would finally have the answers that I needed.
I must say, though, it was the vivid descriptions that Bell gives that drew me in. In the first few pages, I was already able to gain a sense of who the characters were. The characterization is not shallow, either. Bobby is more than a cop; he is a man with a family that we can empathize with. He has managed to create a balance, although one can sense that his work does take a toll on his home life. The descriptions of the crime scenes also allow for great visualization, bringing me further into the protagonist’s world.
It is also worth mentioning that culture was a large part of the story. It was interesting to see the ideas of family extended to most characters, good and bad, and to see what exactly family means to each. While there is plenty of information on the Maori culture, I think that there could have been more explanation of Dunedin itself. The descriptions of the places outside of the town were more than adequate, though, and this minor fault did not detract from the story.
Something I liked is the technique that Bell uses—the inner monologue. Bobby’s thought process is always provided, and while this could easily detract from a story, in this case it enhanced it. It is a privilege, being able to understand how Bobby comes to conclusions; without this information, I don’t know if I would have been as vested in his story.
The crimes in the novel provide a foundation for Bell to explore themes of family, work, and morality. Finn Bell did this exceptionally well. Therefore, I give Pancake Money 4 out of 4 stars. This book is well-written, expertly edited, and truly captivating; I would recommend it to those interested in crime, thriller, and mystery novels. The novel is gruesome and violent, and I would keep that in mind when deciding whether to read it or not. I also recommend that only mature audiences read this novel as there are images that would be unsuitable for younger readers.
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