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A Runner’s Guide to Rakiura by Jessica Howland Kany

Maudie is the central character in this ambitious debut novel, and she’s literally and figuratively on the run. She is running from her past in New York and in the present on Rakiura Stewart Island as she is on assignment to cover the local running trails in the southernmost part of Aotearoa New Zealand.

We first meet her as mourners gather to farewell her fisherman friend Vil. Her brokenness is utterly overwhelming, and it’s against this opening tragedy that the book goes back and forth in time as we follow Maudie embracing island life while on assignment. When she hears of long-buried treasure, she doggedly tries to uncover the truth – an additional focus for her time on Rakiura. There are clues buried in the Stewart Island News and on buoys washed up on the pages, and intriguing hints from the locals.

Maudie is no detective, though. Maudie has an alcohol problem and is impulsive and erratic, so it seems unlikely she will ever find the hidden treasure. Or will she? But along the way, she learns a lot about love and life in an adventure that goes from beautiful Rakiura to the battlefields of Monte Cassino, on to post-war Paris and even to the Twin Towers rebuild.

It’s almost impossible to summarise this beautifully written novel as so many elements exist. A Runner’s Guide to Rakiura is an adventure story, a love story and a treasure hunt, both a historical and a contemporary tale – and, always, running is a crucial part of the action. It’s a superb and confident debut and will appeal to any readers who like literary fiction that is something a bit different. Certainly, this is a must-read if you are a runner, or if you like puzzles or mysteries! It will also appeal to anyone who has visited the beautiful Rakiura Stewart Island, as the sense of place just leaps from the page, adding another layer of enjoyment to reading.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Quentin Wilson Publishing


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