Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Ngaio Marsh Awards Blog Tour: In Dark Places by Michael Bennett

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for the Ngaio Marsh Awards. I've read and reviewed the true crime book In Dark Places by Michael Bennett, which is one of the finalists for the Best Non-fiction Award.

The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (popularly called the Ngaio) is a literary award presented annually in New Zealand to recognise excellence in crime fiction, mystery, and thriller writing. The Award was established by journalist and crime fiction reviewer Craig Sisterson in 2010, and is named after Dame Ngaio Marsh, one of the four Queens for Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. The Award has traditionally been presented each year in Christchurch, the hometown of Dame Ngaio.

In Dark Places
by Michael Bennett
Published by Bookbaby (4 April 2016)

Publisher's description
Teina Pora, a 17-year-old car thief, was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Susan Burdett, who had been beaten to death with the softball bat she kept next to her bed for her own protection.
Tim McKinnel, en ex-cop turned private investigator, discovered the long forgotten case 18 years later, saw an injustice had been done and set out to win Teina’s freedom. 

Reaching from the mean streets of South Auckland to the highest court in the Commonwealth, this is the story not just of Tim’s quest, but also of how an innocent man who was left rotting in a prison cell for two decades found the inner strength to rise above the dark places to which he had been condemned.

My verdict
In Dark Places is one of the best books I've read all year. The story is not only fascinating but also heart-breaking - of a man sentenced to life in prison for murder, a crime he didn't commit. And of the 18 years he spent there (more than half his life) before he was finally freed.

I was glued to the story of New Zealander Teina Pora and private investigator Tim McKinnel's quest to determine the truth about Susan Burdett's death. The book is compelling and fast-paced from the outset and reads like fiction.

There are cliffhangers, twists and turns, tensions and drama - everything you'd expect to find in a crime novel. Except this isn't fiction -  these are real life events and real people involved. I had to keep reminding myself of that. With his brilliant writing, Michael Bennett makes the people, places and events leap out of the pages.

The police procedure, legal framework and forensics are described in detail, yet very easy to understand. During his research, Tim McKinnel explored the science of false confessions and racism in the New Zealand justice system. This devastating miscarriage of justice left me with one word:


In Dark Places is perfect for true crime fans and those who followed Making a Murderer. But I also urge people who don't usually read true crime to pick up this book. I hadn't read any true crime for years, but now, thanks In Dark Places, I'll be reading lots more.

I received an Advance Reader Copy.

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1 comment:

  1. Great review Victoria, glad you enjoyed the read. It's a hell of a story, all the more remarkable being true crime.