Book Review: The Call by Gavin Strawhan

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, shares his thoughts on the brilliant debut crime novel, The Call by Gavin Strawhan.

This first novel, The Call, from New Zealand TV type Gavin Strawhan (winner of Allen & Unwin’s 2023 Fiction Prize) is a character/crime thriller with enough likeable characters and sharp suspense to see you past an occasional wordiness.

Auckland police officer DS Honey Chalmers has returned to her coastal hometown of Waitutū to both recover from a brutal attack and care for her mother Rachel, whose memory is sadly failing. Honey is haunted by the memory of her sister Scarlett, whose suicide originally drove her away from the town and her oldest friend Marshall, and this basic plot is intertwined with flashbacks to how exactly she got involved in a dangerous war between rival biker gangs.

Her informant Kloe Kovich started to secretly communicate with Honey, mostly as a way for Kloe to hurt her abusive husband, but things got out of control for everyone, and Strawhan cuts back and forth between the past, the present, and Honey and Kloe’s shifting perspectives. And we build to a tense finale that’s, most impressively, not what you’re probably expecting.

With its many twists and turns, pleasing riffs of humour, and great sympathy for all these flawed people, this début is, as the Kiwis say, choice.

The Call by Gavin Strawhan is published by Allen & Unwin NZ. RRP $32.99 (paperback)


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