4 out of 4 stars
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Easter Make Believers is the second novel by author Finn Bell, after ‘Pancake Money’, that I have read and I am glad to state that this one retains everything I had loved about the previous one. The setting this time is the area in and around Lawrence, a small town in south New Zealand that had flourished in the days of gold rush, with Nick Cooper and Tobe White—detectives with the Gang Intelligence Centre—as the protagonists.
Nick and Tobe get called up in the middle of the night to the quiet neighbourhood of Lawrence amidst a hostage situation that puzzles everyone due to its sheer incongruity; the hostages are the members of a well-respected, innocent family of four and the captors are armed men—who get identified later as the top brass of a notorious Maori gang—who are not talking to anybody. Triggered by a single gunshot inside the house, the situation suddenly escalates to sniper fire by the police tactical team followed by explosions, resulting in the death of all the gangsters while the family members escape with their lives. However, the head of the family, James Chen, and one top gangster are impossibly missing from the scene. Parallel missions to search and rescue James, and unravel the mysterious connection between the Chen family and the gang—if any such connection exists at all—ensue, soon transforming into a race against time as an unseasonal snowstorm looms ominously.
The story follows three separate paths for the most part, with first-person narratives by Nick and an unnamed man, and a third-person narrative describing the rise of a snowstorm from the South Pole. The taut plot has been ably supported by a set of strong characters in this top-notch thriller. Finn Bell’s storytelling is atmospheric, drawing the reader into the scenes with vivid descriptions. The mystery is kept unfathomable, making the reader wanting to keep turning the pages. The long-drawn climax is intense, absorbing, and highly satisfying. In addition to all the action, there are many philosophical discourses on various themes like the effect of parenting on children, hope and fear, honesty and integrity, and so on. The book is very well edited, meaning almost no spelling or grammatical errors that I could find!
The only thing that somewhat put me off is the profusion of philosophising; almost every character of importance expounds some philosophy or the other, making parts of this otherwise fast-paced story drag. Apart from this single flaw, I could not find anything worth complaining about.
Though a bit upset by the amount of philosophising the author has indulged in, I would rate Easter Make Believers a solid 4 out of 4 stars for the cracking plot, deep characters, and fantastic writing. I would recommend it to all enthusiasts of crime thrillers who do not mind a dose of philosophy.
The Easter Make Believers
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