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Whiskey Lima Golf by Darin Dance

Whiskey Lima Golf is the call sign for Wellington, New Zealand WLG. It’s also likely to be well known to author Darin Dance through his own career in military service. A successful writer prior to Whiskey Lima Golf, Dance has been assisting other writers for a long time as he mentors and shares his love for reading and writing with those who are more up and coming.

As a spy thriller, Dance has chosen the capital city to give that feeling of intimacy not often felt in the crime novel genre of New Zealand writers. There was a time when it seemed Kiwi authors wrote about more exotic locations such as New York, or London, while missing out of the throb and excitement of localised settings in which to place their characters and sequences. It is nice to see that trend change.

In this plot, Tom Yelich, a returned serviceman - injured in battle - finds himself and his close mate in the seedy underbelly of Wellington’s crime scene. But it becomes something bigger than expected when international espionage becomes the modus operandi of some of the figures in the story.

By his own admission, a lot of research has gone into the writing of the book - including contacts in the world of the underbelly. It is important to have the authenticity of the environment in which the characters exist and there are undoubtedly some elements which have been fictionalised for the sake of the novel, but the core of the information does ring true to the types of things that happen in these underworld environments, even here in the shaky isles.

However, perhaps the part about Tom living with his grandfather (koro) in the Wellington railway station may be a little tough to find authentic. It is here that the investigations begin with the heading of ‘White Rabbit’ - a wonderful play on the symbolic character of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and then of course repopularised in The Matrix.

The use of te reo throughout is a really impressive addition. Never detracting from the plot, it adds to the authenticity of a New Zealand text, and reinforces the ubiquity with which te reo is part of our culture. Having a Māori main character is brilliant also, really celebrating the culture of Māori and presenting mana through his actions and experiences.

This is the first of a series of the ‘White Rabbit’ investigative team, and a cracker of a start it is, too. The depth of writing shows the prowess of Dance’s pedigree, and also demonstrates a wonderfully rich tapestry of knowledge that he has acquired in the intelligence field. Sure to excite even the most ardent crime reader!

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Allen & Unwin


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