Book Review – The Easter Make Believers by Finn Bell

The Easter Make Believers

“Nothing good ever happens at 3:30 a.m.”

/The Easter Make Believers by Finn Bell/

Detectives Nick and Tobe have no illusions over something being horribly wrong when they get a call out to a quiet suburb at wee hours of the morning. Why would they, an organized crime intelligence unit, be invited to a hostage situation they really have no idea. But when things go wrong with gunshots and explosions and the smoke finally settles, it turns out that the dead men are members high up in the mafia family. What could they possibly have wanted with a quiet family who has never had anything to do with anything criminal.

First, it looks like things went well, bad guys are dead and good ones will recover. When the dust settles the husband and father of the family, as well as one of the criminals, are missing. While the search perimeter gets wider and wider, seasoned cops like Tobe know that it’s done to keep the public happy. Search and rescue in the wilderness of New Zealand South Island is unlikely, and with the storm coming in it’s near impossible. The only chance is for Nick and Tobe to use what they know about the dead man to try to find the living.

New Zealand South Island
New Zealand South Island. Photo by Tyler Lastovich.

The Easter Make Believers is a modern detective story that takes place in New Zealand’s South Island. The author clearly cares about his country and it’s fascinating to read a crime story taking place anywhere other than the USA. I found myself occasionally relying on the connection with the stories from New York or LA and then correcting myself. The historical and cultural background included in the story is novel refreshingly different, though many of the crap that was made still resembles as humans are similar in many ways.

Finn Bell is a captivating storyteller who makes up vivid characters and delivers an ending that made sense but is still a surprise. As I have read many detective stories occasionally endings have become too easy to predict. Bell kept me guessing and actually managed to mislead me quite successfully and the ending didn’t disappoint. The protagonist is very human with self-doubts and somewhat ironic view of the world. As he describes himself “I’ve never been someone to quit doing stupid things just because I’m confronted with good reasons.”

The only criticism to offer is that while the author does an excellent job at foreshadowing he doesn’t quite follow the rules of the classical detective story. Meaning that some of the key elements were given too late in the story and a few storylines are left unsolved. When I asked the author about them being curious if they may be plotholes, his reasoning was that in a real life there are often things that don’t get explained. Hard to argue, yet I feel one must still do so. There are some things where the art of a storytelling doesn’t have to fit with a life perfectly. Also, side characters are on some occasions described so well that it became frustrating they only had a small part to play in the story.

Despite a few grievances, it was an enjoyable read with a captivating and well-paced storytelling and character building. A good read for any detective fiction and thrillers lovers. Not quite as cozy as miss Marple yet not as gruesome as G.R.R. Martin. Altogether, a great read!

See my full review to The Easter Make Believers in the Online Book Club.  This book is an alone-standing story not a part of a series. It was longlisted for a  Ngaio Marsh Award for the best crime novel of 2018.


Quotations from The Easter Make Believers

The first rule of bureaucracy survival—if something bad happens spread the blame as high up the ladder as you can reach.

/Nick about his boss/

My face won’t be inspiring any songs or poetry unless they are Irish or rhyme with words like Nantucket.

/Nick about himself/

I’ve never been someone to quit doing stupid things just because I’m confronted with good reasons.

/Nick about himself/