Finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adult 2019.
Kerikeri is kiwi country. There the flightless birds live in common places like farms, sides of roads, and pine forests. That’s why the law says all dogs must be on a lead.
When a dead kiwi are found in nearby Waitangi forest, it becomes clear that someone is ignoring that law. A kiwi killer is on the prowl. Suspects are many. As the death toll increases so too do the cries for dogs to be shot.
Young Tom Smart has an injured pig dog he rescued from the forest. He can’t believe she could be the killer, but others do. There is only one way Tom can save her, and that is to find the real killer, which means confronting a man who will do anything to protect his secrets.
Author Des Hunt is well known for his novels that combine adventure with conservation. Search For A Kiwi Killer is no different. It is a gripping read that is packed full of action from the first page.
The instantly familiar setting of Northland appealed immensely to me, especially having grown up surrounded by Kiwi inhabited bush at Whangārei Heads.
Interestingly, this story was inspired from an earlier Kiwi story Hunt wrote in 2011. The serial Trail of a Kiwi Killer was written after Hunt read a story about a dog that killed almost one hundred Kiwi in a forest in Northland. It was set around Whangārei Heads but was never published as a book. He revisited that story, creating this one, Search For A Kiwi Killer, as a longer novel with similar themes.
Tom is a strong male character, as are most characters in the book. Tom comes from a split family, living with his father against the wishes of the authorities. Mum has remarried, and had another child, and lives further down the country. It is often a struggle to find books with split families, or of solo fathers, so this is a welcome addition to the bookshelf. Tom’s father is a little bit of the stereotypical ‘dead beat dad’ but Tom forges a strong relationship with a male neighbour. Dave is a strong, caring man who takes an interest in Tom and his world. Dave is also an amputee, having lost part of his arm in a workplace accident. With part of the action set in the male-dominated world of forestry, I suspect this book will appeal to younger boys a lot. Interestingly, Hunt has never written a book with a female protagonist. This is set to change with a story about wētā he is currently writing, set in Christchurch.
However, this is a story that anyone, regardless of sex, will enjoy. Hunt maintains his trademark cracking pace throughout the story. It is full of emotion too, for both animals and humans. The story touches on triumph over adversity and the bonds we form with animals. Hunt used to be a science teacher, so there is plenty of conservation, technology and science woven seamlessly into the story.
Search For A Kiwi Killer is another solid story from the master storyteller Hunt. A gripping Kiwi whodunnit highlighting the plight of our special native bird.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Torea Press, RRP $18.00