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Bibliophile | Tātā Bay holds secrets in the dunes in ‘Return to Blood’

Return to Blood
by Michael Bennett
Simon & Schuster

New Zealand writer Michael Bennett introduced detective Hana Westerman to the world in Better the Blood and, in his latest novel, Hana returns to Tātā Bay near Nelson, the town where the Māori woman grew up.

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Every morning Hana runs on the wild deserted beach and swims in the ocean before dawn. She scrubs her skin with the black sands of the beach – scrubbing away memories of the last six months as a Detective Senior Sergeant at the Central Police Station in Auckland.

The beach has a concrete cross that is a memorial to Paige Meadows who was murdered 21 years ago and left a permanent scar on the community. Paige was a year above Hana at high school when her strangled body was found in a shallow grave in the sand dunes.

Hana’s daughter Addison turned eighteen when her mother moved back to Tātā Bay ad she was renting Hana’s house in the city with her best buddy PLUS 1, who is non-binary. When visiting the bay, they discover the remains of a young Māori woman who went missing four years previously… in the same dunes.

With duct tape around the woman’s wrists and ankles, there is no doubting foul play, but the man who had murdered Hana’s school friend had been arrested, pleaded guilty and since died in prison.

Hana’s ex-boss and ex-husband arrives to investigate the latest murder as Hana is no longer part of the Criminal Investigation Branch. When he cuts her out of the investigation, she realises that she is going to have to find out the answers on her own.

As Hana struggles to piece together the clues, the voice of the seventeen year old murder victim Kiri Thomas punctuates the storyline as she narrates her last days. Adding to the tension, Addison also gets drawn into the investigation to find a killer who is very much alive and could target people who get too close to the truth.

Lezly Herbert

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