BETTER THE BLOOD By Michael Bennett @simonschusterUK @MBennettBooks #BetterTheBlood @annecater @RandomTTours #BlogTour #BookReview

Available 18th August / Hardback / ebook / audiobook /. ISBN:9781398512214



Hana Westerman is a tenacious Māori detective juggling single motherhood and the pressures of her career in Auckland’s Central Investigation Branch. When she’s led to a crime scene by a mysterious video, she discovers a man hanging in a secret room. As Hana and her team work to track down the killer, other deaths lead her to think that they are searching for New Zealand’s first serial killer.


With little to go on, Hana must use all her experience as a police officer to try and find a motive to these apparently unrelated murders. What she eventually discovers is a link to an historic crime that leads back to the brutal bloody colonisation of New Zealand.


When the pursuit becomes frighteningly personal, Hana realises that her heritage and knowledge are their only keys to finding the killer.


But as the murders continue, it seems that the killer’s agenda of revenge may include Hana – and her family . . .



This is a brilliantly written crime thriller, but it’s not just a crime thriller. It goes deeper, set in New Zealand the author weaves some of the horrors of Māori history into the story. It makes you think what was taken away from them many many years ago when the English landed. Some of those life experiences from long gone relatives live on in the present. Their land was stolen from them, they were treated like slaves, judged by the colour of their skin.

Māori Detective Senior Sergeant Hana Westerman is in court awaiting the verdict on a white privileged law student who had drugged, raped and humiliated a young native girl, despite being found guilty he walks free with no custodial sentence. Hana is a single mother, her daughter Addison is 17, her ex husband is white, DI Jaye Hamilton. She is mentor to DC Stan Riordan.

On 5th October 1853 six soldiers are posed under a puriri tree on the crest of a volcanic cone overlooking Auckland Harbour, the Captain is quite drunk and impatient for the photograph to be taken (a very new thing known as a daguerreotype). Above their heads a naked man is tied by the hands and feet, a noose around his neck. It is the dead body of a Māori chief.

Present day, Hana receives a video on her phone, she recognises the building, The Palace, her and Stan go to check it out it’s an old rundown building, initially searching it they find nothing, it’s only as they are walking away that Hana notices something odd about the building, theirs a secret room. In that room they discover a hanged man, Terrence McElvoy, he’s a former offender who had been convicted of manslaughter of his baby. Left nearby is a strange spiral symbol drawn with blood. It’s not long before Hana gets another video. But why is Hana receiving them? No forensics are left at the crime scenes. It’s later that Hana begins to connect the killings, as well as the markings. Linking it to the Māori concept of ‘Utu’. Hana is then forced to think back on something that had happened 18 years ago when she had first joined the police force. She had been forced and ordered to break up a peaceful Māori protest on Mount Sutton. She was seen as turning against her own she had picked the blue over the brown.

This is one gripping read, a serial killer taking revenge, can he be stopped? I loved the telling of New Zealand’s dark history. The bloodshed that should never have happened. But the way the author managed to weave some of this into the fictional story keeps you engrossed. I loved the characters Hana is really made to think of her actions many years earlier, could she have refused? Would her refusing have made a difference? Addison is a very strong character and has strong thoughts on the Māori traditions. There are times where you realise why the killer is killing who he is killing, you begin to understand why and even have some sympathy for him despite the fact it is wrong. After all two wrongs don’t make a right.

I highly recommend you read this one if you like a good crime thriller, with the setting, covering some of the atrocities that did take place, the inequalities endured by Maori’s both in the past and present. It’s thought provoking, with an engrossing plot. Great characters that have made decisions that may have not always been the right ones, but at the time they seemed right. I look forward to see what this author writes next this one is an absolute ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read.


Michael Te Arawa Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) is an award-winning screenwriter, director and author. 

His first book, a non-fiction novel telling the true story of New Zealand’s worst miscarriage of justice, In Dark Places, won Best Non-Fiction Book at the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards. Michael’s second book, Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas is a time-travel graphic novel co-authored with Ant Sang.

Michael’s short films and feature films have won awards internationally, and have screened at numerous international festivals including Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Locarno, New York, London and Melbourne. Michael is the 2020 recipient of the Te Aupounamu Māori Screen Excellence Award, in recognition of members of the Māori film-making community who have made high-level contributions to screen storytelling.

He lives in Auckland, Aotearoa (New Zealand) with his partner Jane, and children Tīhema, Māhina and Matariki.


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