Friday, 19 May 2017

Do you want crime? New Zealand crime? You have it here in spades as terror and violent death is loose in the Catlins of the South Island. An animal’s only reason for killing is food. This Catlin’s killer is not an animal, but a monster with another reason to kill. What is that reason? Gloria Stuart’s dead body is found in her home, a remote farmhouse in the Clutha Valley; brutally murdered, stabbed to death in a savage attack. In the main bedroom the unconscious form of her husband Angus is found, covered in blood and reeking of alcohol. The jury’s verdict was concise, delivered in a short time. Guilty as charged; life imprisonment said the judge. The one child of this marriage was son Andrew, sixteen years old and in his first year of extended study at University. Since the cradle father and son had been at odds with each other and on many occasions as Andrew reach adolescence Angus had invited him to leave home. ‘Don’t come back, ever.’ With the death of his mother Andrew had more reason to hate his father. He broke from school and travelled the world. Angus served fourteen years of a life sentence before being freed. He returned to his home, the scene of the crime on 200 acres of land. After a week following his release he was found hanging in the hallway of the house with a note asking his son for forgiveness. Andrew’s love for his mother was unequalled. He returned with bitterness in his heart unable to forgive. His purpose was to claim his heritage and sell the land with its derelict home, but he is puzzled by the fact someone has been tending his mother’s grave since the time she was laid to rest. Andrew finds death and fear stalk the valley. The Otago towns have been troubled by the disappearance of children and strangers are met with the same distrust as that extended to locals. He finds his land is a sought after commodity and stalls over an offer from a local land baron who has had ownership of the land on a perpetual lease since the killing. Andrew is reunited with his sole surviving relative, Blind Robbie, a blind banjo picking grandfather who settled in the Catlins as a pioneer in the days of steam and logging. As Andrew learns of his family history from Blind Robbie, the ‘house of secrets’, on the banks of the Clutha, burns. Andrew is drawn deeply into another disappearance which threatens the new relationships he is establishing. Blind Robbie’s tales of early New Zealand are enthralling and Andrew learns of an uncle he never knew who had left the district hurriedly before Andrew’s birth. Andrew is introduced to a lifelong friend of his father, Jack Johnson, and their relationship endures the fear and distrust that lurks in the Catlins and surrounding areas. From Jack, Andrew learns much about his father and is in turmoil as he considers his past and the temptation to alter his opinion about the man he called father. Rebecca Johnson, Jack’s daughter, has never recovered from the trauma of her fifteenth birthday when her twin sister, Rachelle, disappeared on a routine shopping trip into town. No trace of Rachelle was ever found which added to the horror of local legend. Andrew is attracted to Rebecca and she to him, but he is unable to breakdown the barrier of distrust that has existed between her and society since Rachelle’s disappearance. With demand for his land growing and attractive cash offers being made by other sources Andrew decides to sell, but is sucked into a vortex of horror as an old school friend disappears. Both Banjo Robbie and Jack Johnson know the secret of the Stuart home and this story reaches a climax when Andrew Stuart comes face to face in terrifying circumstances with the perpetrators of the horrendous crimes that have plagued the Clutha Valley for twenty years.

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