When I attended a romance readers conference a few years ago, New Zealand author Nalini Singh was oft-mentioned. As romance and paranormal romance aren’t genres I read (particularly the latter) I’d not heard of her, but now know she’s much-loved internationally with over 20 books to her name.
A Madness of Sunshine is her first crime novel. It’s set in New Zealand – a place she obviously knows well as the landscape of the south island – its untamed beauty in particular – plays a central role in the unfolding tale.
A Madness of Sunshine
by Nalini Singh
Published by Hachette NZ
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction
On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.
That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.
Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape. It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.
Anahera (Ana) is a renowned pianist and been living overseas with her playwright husband – until his untimely death. Unsure what to do next she returns to her old family house in New Zealand. She reconnects with her best friend and former school mates but Ana’s memories of Golden Grove aren’t good as her mother suffered at the hands of her abusive father.
Not long after Ana’s arrival a teenage girl goes missing. Miriama (Miri) is a local beauty on the precipice of leaving her small town roots and taking up an internship in the city. Miri was seemingly loved by all and had the world at her feet. It seems unlikely anyone would want to hurt her.
We’ve met new cop in town Will, a bright star on the force in Christchurch sent to Golden Grove after some incident Singh alludes to a number of times before we get the full story. It’s not long after Miri goes missing that Will learns of three hikers who’d disappeared from the area years before. Without trace.
Singh offers readers strong and complex characters – in Ana and Will as well as the support cast. Ana was part of a relatively close-knit group (of locals and wealthier kids who attended boarding school and only came home for holidays) that’s seemingly disintegrated over the years. There’s reference to a divide of sorts but it’s one that seems more obvious in adulthood than it was a decade and more earlier.
I enjoyed the unfolding mystery here and I was certainly engaged and concerned about Miri’s fate. However I struggled a little with the pacing and foreshadowing. It first came up in relation to the disappearance of the three young women years before… as I felt like I’d missed part of the storyline or come in part-way through.
And then there were references to Will’s past. It may have been something that happened during the editing process, but there’s mention of names from Will’s past before there’s any context and I didn’t feel that story unfolded with as much impact as had been intended. It certainly didn’t change the way I felt about Will as I’d liked him from the get-go. We’re in his head so we know he’s well-meaning and pragmatic about his role in the small town… not to mention the concept of justice vs punishment.
That aside, the depth of characters was great and I’ve not read a lot of New Zealand novels, but the easy reflection of its cultures and the beauty of the terrain and landscape was certainly a highlight.
I gather we’ll probably meet some of the characters from this novel again and I’ll certainly be up for that.
A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh was published in Australia by Hachette and now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.