Return to Blood by Michael Bennett

08/07/2024
Return to Blood by Michael Bennett

New Zealand author and film maker Michael Bennett burst onto the crime fiction scene with his incendiary debut Better the Blood. Centring around a Māori detective in the New Zealand police force, Better the Blood explored issues of colonisation, indigenous identity and the relationship between the police and the Māori all within a page turning narrative. Bennett picks up with his characters and their world, still dealing with the aftermath of those events in Return to Blood.

Hana Westerman retired from the police force after the events of Better the Blood. When Return to Blood opens, Hana has moved to the coast, west of Auckland, to be with her ageing father and her traditional community, although not everyone is glad to see her back. The discovery of a young woman’s body in the dunes brings back memories of a similar death from twenty years before. Hana comes to believe that the man who confessed to the earlier murder may not have been responsible but has to convince her colleagues to investigate. Meanwhile, Hannah’s daughter Addison becomes obsessed with the dead woman in the dunes and starts to do her own form of investigating. Around all of this is the narration of Kiri, the woman who died, describing her final days in the knowledge of her ultimate fate.

In Return to Blood, Michael Bennett delivers another fascinating and engaging piece of indigenous crime fiction. The driving threads of the plot are connected to themes of belonging and cultural identity. Bennet is interested in using his narrative to explore the Māori community and consider what it means to be part of that community. He highlights the precarious position of Maori youth – both through the eyes of Kiri and her peers but also through Hana’s attempts to teach local teens to drive so they can get their licences and gain opportunities they might not otherwise have. Bennett also dives deeply into Māori lore – from Kiri’s discussion of the various gods and their histories, to Addison’s dreams, to the various ceremonies described through the book.  

Return to Blood is a great follow up to Bennett’s crime debut. More intimate than the first book but no less effective and anchored by a strong mystery that seems more straight-forward than it turns out to be and leads to some tragic revelations. Bennett also leaves a couple of threads hanging so it is likely that this is not the last readers have seen of Hana Westerman and her community.

Return to Blood by Michaek Bennett

8

8.0/10

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Return to Blood by Michaek Bennett

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