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Reviews for Fallout by Paul Thomas
‘FALLOUT one of 5 selected for Guardian Crime Roundup: Winner of the antipodean Ned Kelly and Ngaio Marsh awards, Paul Thomas is the author of a series featuring Maori policeman Tito Ihaka. At the beginning of the latest, Fallout (Bitter Lemon, £8.99), Thomas sets several hares running: a cold case involving 17-year-old Polly Stenson, found strangled the morning after a plutocrat's election-night party; a disgraced ex-copper tasked with finding political fixer and high-level con-artist Eddie Brightside, who appears to have vanished without trace; and information given to Ihaka about his late father Jimmy, a trade unionist, renegade Marxist and fully paid-up member of the awkward squad, suggesting that his untimely death was not, as previously thought, due to natural causes. The various plotlines are adroitly woven into an eye-poppingly complicated whole in this sharp, unexpectedly funny police procedural with a cast of engaging characters, not least the maverick Ihaka himself.' - Guardian
‘Maori Tito Ihaka may be disrespectful, brash and the sort of police sergeant who ploughs his own furrow but he gets results. He therefore seems the ideal investigating officer when the cold case of a murder at the party of a political high flier is reopened. However he's also given time to investigate something more personal: his father, union activist Jimmy Ihaka, may not have died through natural causes after all. Yorkshire born, New Zealand adopted author Paul Thomas has been around the writing block. He's been a journalist, sports' biographer and scriptwriter as well as providing us with some really good fiction. Tito Ihaka is probably Paul's most famous creation and fans will have seen some changes in Tito's life since he made that first appearance in Dirty Laundry (aka Old School Tie) back in 1994. Now he's back, albeit demoted, for his fifth adventure. Don't let that put you off though - having read none of them before this, I can vouch for both writer's and hero's ability to entrance without the need for any previous knowledge. On the book blurb Ian Rankin refers to Ihaka as being …terrific maverick cop, violent, profane, funny which is an interesting mixture of adjectives as well as an accurate one. This is a guy who makes up his own rules and will swot anyone in his way (Tito not Ian). This includes a previous outing (I did my homework!) in which he not only knocked the assailant out, he urinated on the unconscious body (most definitely Tito not Ian)! However our cop has a soft side and a heart he keeps for those who deserve it. In this case it's his girlfriend's son as their troubled relationship continues behind the conflict and problems at work. Paul has a distinctive writing style that shows his journo roots. He is somewhat thorough, providing history and back stories for everyone of importance, sharing them as we go along. Being drawn away from the main story may be a little disconcerting at first, watching a myriad of names and situations come towards us. In fact some critics aren't keen. For those of us who become accustomed to them though the asides take on a fascination of their own and, as things start to fall into place, the past creates a texture for the present to be viewed against. The clever thing is that Paul manages this without ruining past novels for those of us reading backwards through the series. In fact as we realise that Tito has history with the likes of PI (formerly Police Detective) Van Roon, our readerly taste buds are tantalised. There's also some great banter between Tito and his boss, the grumpy McGrail as both hide the respect harboured for each other beneath a thin veil of huff. Meanwhile back at the tantalisation, once we understand that we're following three mysteries it grows. The party murder, the demise of Tito's father Jimmy and the disappearance of a bloke called Brightside may seem disparate but gradually they converge in an unexpected way. Including the factual disagreement between the New Zealand and American government following New Zealand declaring itself a nuclear free zone adds even more weight (in a good way) to the tale. Paul writes more about people and situations than he does about scenery but for those who want evocation of the rolling vistas of New Zealand, there are other sources. Me? I'm more interested in the raised wry eyebrow style of the humour, Tito's way of cutting to the chase and (also thanks to Ihaka) that understanding that if anyone looks at me as if their haemorrhoids are flaring up, it means they think they've said something profound. This is more the New Zealand of the blood, volatility, grit and political intrigue than that of the tourist board but I'm not complaining at all.' - Bookbag
‘New Zealand author Thomas brilliantly combines subgenres in his richly textured fifth Tito Ihaka mystery (after 2013's Death on Demand), offering a fair-play whodunit, a riveting procedural, and a hard-boiled Maori sleuth who would be at home on the mean streets of James Ellroy's L.A. Tito's mentor, Auckland District Commander Finbar McGrail, has spent 27 years living with the unsolved murder of 17-year-old Polly Stenson, who was strangled at an election-night party held at a merchant banker's mansion. A new lead gives McGrail some hope that the case can be closed, and he assigns Tito to pursue it. Meanwhile, Tito learns that his father, a “union firebrand and renegade Marxist,” may not have died of a heart attack. The complex, well-constructed plot is matched by moving prose, as in McGrail's meeting with Polly's parents in 1987 to let them know the case was stalled: “It was even possible, he thought, that they feared catharsis might compromise the emptiness they now accepted as their destiny.' - Publishers Weekly
‘Finbar McGrail, district commander of the Auckland, New Zealand, police, has never gotten over the murder, decades ago, of teenager Polly Stenson, whose killer was never caught. McGrail keeps her photo in a desk drawer. That's the promising opening of this powerfully written but ultimately frustrating novel.By the second chapter, McGrail is gone, and we meet Maori cop Tito Ihaka and learn of his romantic problems. Third chapter belongs to disgraced ex-cop Johan Van Roon as he picks up a PI job from a shady client. Readers will know, if only from the jacket copy, that Ihaka is the novel's lead, but they still may wonder whether to persist with the point-of-view-muddled tale. Gorgeous prose is one reason. The author's—and Ihaka's—zest for low comedy is another. With elephantine slowness, the plot strands do converge in a nicely savage finale. Recommend this to readers with a taste for the leisurely and contemplative. Anyone after a fast, fierce entertainment should look elsewhere.' - Booklist
‘Maori detective Tito Ihaka featured in three books published in the 1990s, and returned in 2013 with Death on Demand. In his latest outing he remains unruly, violent and profane, but is entirely capable of reserving those aspects of his behaviour for those he deems deserving. Ihaka is called in when Auckland District Commissioner McGrail receives new information on a 27-year-old case where Polly, a young woman, was strangled. It was McGrail's first case and he wants a solution before he retires, so directs Ihaka to focus on it, in the knowledge that Ihaka's persistence makes him the man most likely to get a result. Ihaka is rewarded with agreement that he can use any spare time to follow up on a hint recently received that his father's death was not an accident. Progress on both cases is rapid. Polly's death occurred in the midst of a party for Auckland's movers and shakers, and the names of many present were never reported to avoid discomfiture. Ihaka discovers that Polly overheard a covert discussion by some political bigwigs, as well as being witness to some scandalous sexual activity. The family who hosted the party are no longer so well-connected as to be able to fend off police enquiries, and Ihaka is happy to bully unmercifully until he gets answers. Ihaka's father died of a heart attack, thought to be of natural causes, but his strong left-wing political leanings and disinterest in compromise earned him some powerful enemies. Miriam, a political researcher, finds papers which suggest their enmity might have taken practical form. When Miriam is attacked, Ihaka suspects that these enemies may still be active, and soon is on the trail of the prime mover. The two intertwined investigations are further complicated by another plot line, this one following Van Roon, a disgraced former protégé of Ihaka, who is employed as a PI to find the whereabouts of a man who disappeared from New Zealand shortly after Polly's murder. This job leads him to a woman who also comes up in Ihaka's enquiries, thus bringing the two men back into contact and forcing cooperative action, although neither has any enthusiasm at the prospect. The dense plotting allows for very little let-up in the pace and, if you can retain all the names without having to refer back, this makes for an exciting book. As with its predecessor, a substantial amount of backstory is needed to bring the reader up to speed, but this is woven into new material without greatly holding up the flow. While the main stories are resolved satisfactorily, some of the subsidiary plot lines are left hanging: Ihaka's relationship with girlfriend Denise, and McGrail's retirement, in particular. One assumes that these aspects will be taken up in the next in the series.' - Crime Review
STARRED REVIEW ‘Detective Tito Ihaka, the profane, overweight, Maori star ofDeath on Demand is back to his truculent ways in Fallout. Auckland District Commander Finbar McGrail, aware of Ihaka's unorthodox, occasionally illegal and undeniably effective methods, has pulled Ihaka off active duty to delve into a cold case. In 1987, when McGrail had just immigrated to New Zealand, he investigated the murder of a girl named Patty Stenson. Patty was friendly with some wealthy teenagers, children of an Auckland high-roller named Tim Barton, who hosted a huge election-night bash. The next morning, Patty's body was found amid the party rubbish cluttering the Barton mansion. Ihaka, more obstinate than McGrail could ever be, quickly discovers that some very important people--politicians, businessmen, models--attended at the party, and Barton had left their names off the list he gave to McGrail. Now, nearly 30 years later, those guests will not be happy to be involved in a murder investigation. That just means Ihaka will have to be wilier than usual. Paul Thomas's books are deservedly popular in New Zealand. Darkly humorous and compellingly twisty, the mystery within the mystery will keep the reader guessing until nearly the end. Exploring the highest levels of political and business corruption,Fallout is a fascinating crime novel. It can be read as a standalone, but readers will surely be unable to resist going back and reading Death on Demand to enjoy more of Tito Ihaka's unusual charms.' - ShelfAwareness
‘Tito Ihaka is a Maori cop and the hero of Fallout. He likes rugby but it is not clear which code he prefers. I suspect his preference is Rugby Union, which would be a pity, because if we are ever to have a Rugby League playing policeman then Ihaka would be perfect. Ihaka is no gentleman. He is rough and tough and tackles like a prop forward. Few walk away from an Ihaka tackle. Although misanthropic disdain and disappointment may haunt Ihaka, he is not judgemental. Ihaka does not believe in good and bad guys. He recognises human weakness including his own. But he draws firm lines, and villains who transgress can be surprised by his response. Ihaka tackles hard and he can leave human wreckage. Fallout is a good title for this latest thriller by Paul Thomas. The novel explores the residue of ambition and corruption. Without tough tackling Ihaka the malaise would simply continue. Ihaka has done more than enough to be the angel of vengeance that the self-indulgent powerful require. Despite his brutal interventions, Fallout finishes with interesting loose ends that should help future books. One critic has compared Paul Thomas to Elmore Leonard on acid. This is misleading. Leonard is more playful than Thomas and Leonard indulges his talent for off the wall dialogue. Fallout has two parallel plots that have careful construction and characters whose backgrounds have been imagined with care. The crimes in Fallout may be simple but the ramifications are complicated. This rings true. Although Thomas has two interesting plots, he avoids a glib dovetail. The trail may be neon lit with corruption and human failure but it also reveals economic progress and history. The world is complicated and not just amusing. All the novels of Paul Thomas have a strong sense of location. Places are determined by geography, people and economics and as Ihaka travels we understand the alternative fates endured by his suspects and witnesses. After reading Fallout I looked at a map of New Zealand. There is a real pleasure in looking at the small and isolated spot on a world map and remembering the complex history and circumstance of the events of the novel. Violence may be important to the methods and identity of Ihaka but he is not a reactionary that yearns for a world where woman are subservient. The female characters in Fallout are strong and independent. The problems in the domestic relationship of Ihaka are not the result of a tough guy unable to cope with female independence. Instead, the fracture is rooted in a decision to commit that was always flawed and the inevitable boredom that results. This disharmony is very well done and a real bonus in a crime novel. There is no self-pity in Ihaka but he is always aware his life has insufficient hope. The inspiration from others is inadequate. He knows that the prizes from rebellion are worthless but his investigations confirm that anything is better than the sordid dishonest world of successful ambitious conformists.‘ - Crime Chronicles
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