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The Call by Gavin Strawhan

The Call by Gavin Strawhan

Screenwriter Gavin Strawhan’s debut crime novel The Call won the Allen and Unwin crime fiction prize in 2023. The prize recognises an unpublished manuscript from an Australian or New Zealand author.  Stawhan has a long experience as a screenwriter and that translates to a strong sense of character and place in The Call, a thriller set in a small New Zealand town.

Honey Chalmers has returned home to the small town of Waitutū, four hours drive from Auckland, in the aftermath of a horrific attack but also to care for her ageing mother Rachel who is starting to slip into dementia. That attack came as a result of an operation involving the wife of a gang member who had been passing information to Honey. Returning home is further complicated when she runs into her old best friend Marshall who was connected with the suicide of her sister many years before. And that is before two gang members roll into town and start watching Honey.

The Call is steeped in what is increasingly being called a Southern Cross Noir tradition (or sometimes in New Zealand: Yeah, Noir). These are thrillers set in Australian or New Zealand rural and regional areas that still manage to plumb the darker side of the crime genre. In this case there is domestic violence, rape, murder, drug trafficking, money laundering just as a starter.

Bubbling away like the toxic dairy waste that filled the rivers and lakes, hiding behind the clean, green, natural beauty served up with a hearty ‘kia ora!’ for the tourists, rural New Zealand was rife with gang turf wars, hidden dope plantations, methamphetamine manufacturing, guns and extortion rackets. There had been Wild West-type shootouts on the main streets of numerous country towns.

Strawhan may be a debut author but he has plenty of experience as a screenwriter, producer and show runner and it shows. The narrative bounces its point of view around a range of vividly drawn characters, all of whom exhibit shades of grey, and lands where needed. The language manages to be both descriptive and propulsive, giving a strong sense of place. The interesting choice given all of that is that most of the action, including the final confrontation, is told in retrospect, as flashbacks or recounts or news reports.

The Call dispels any doubt (if there was any) that the Australian/New Zealand crime scene remains strong. This is a dark, atmospheric, page turning story with a strong sense of place.

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The Call by Gavin Strawhan

$32.99 AUD


Wrap Up

The Call by Gavin Strawhan



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