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Missing Persons: Twelve extraordinary tales of Death and Disappearance in New Zealand

Missing Persons is an expertly curated collection of local true crime writing. It features 12 extraordinary tales of disappearance, including the mysterious Lundy family murders and the tragic disappearance of backpacker Grace Millane.

Steve shares the story of former journalist Murray Mason, who died in a creek in the Auckland Domain on the night of a storm; a traveller who lost his way, the disappearance of Socksay Chansy and the infamous Pamper Party Murder.

These are stories of New Zealanders who have gone missing. They were the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time! Whether it was an accidents, mystery or murder – bad luck intervened.

Throughout his career, award winning writer Steve Braunias has taken a special interest in reporting these stories of disappearance. A journalist is routinely afforded the privilege and honour of busting in on people’s lives at times of great distress, says Steve, acknowledging the families living with their loss while he visits for a few hours. He also provides thoughtful insight from his many years of court reporting. The question that often most interests him in court is: where. “It’s impossible to put yourself in the mind of a killer, but the setting takes you to the scene of the crime, shows you something about New Zealand,” he says, adding that it’s not a dark underbelly, it’s in plain sight.

However, the theme of Missing Persons is less concerned with where these people disappeared, but their failed test of character. “The worst is Jesse Kempson, immediately and enduringly regarded as public enemy number one who killed Grace Millane,” says Steve. “Basically, he tried to get away with it. Nothing novel about that. But he failed every test of common decency; failed, with his shovel in the Waitākere ranges and his stroll around the rubbish bins of Albert Park, any basic measure of character.”

The stories on the trial of Grace Millane and sentencing of Jesse Kempson appear for the first time in Missing Persons. The remaining chapters have been reshaped from their original publication in the New Zealand Herald. Steve Braunias is the author of 10 books and writes for the New Zealand Herald.

Reviewer: Andrea Molloy HarperCollins , RRP $35.00

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