Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Groove Book Report: By Any Means by Ben Sanders - Harper Collins $24.95

For some, inexplicable, yet compelling reason, I feel the need to tell you about this book before I finish it. In fact, it's imperative that I do it now because I'm not sure I can keep the ending to this intense, fast paced thriller a secret for very long.

This is North Shore resident Ben Sanders's second effort. His first, written in his late teens, proved him to be a master of economical, witty, visual prose. With just enough paint to set the scene he encourages his reader fill in the white spaces. A script writer would hate this. Where's the dimesional characterisation; the detailed settings and the fabrics of familiarity that usually drape a good crime novel? Detective Sean Devereaux is not your average alchoholic, cigar chewing, alimony laden, pussy whipped, cheeto muncher in a dirty mac, with the boss on his heals for beating up witnesses and an ex-call girl for a girlfriend. Nope. No cocaine addiction. He doesn't frequent bars or drive a Jag. At the end of a night Devereaux heads home, puts on some quality music (he, or is it Sanders, is a bit of an aficionado), claims a Mac,s Gold from the fridge and opens a case file. No TV screams out from the corner, the unit is quiet. This is a shared quiet time between himself and the house. Only one step up from a very sad Plod, he could be just a bit little boring. Like you and me, perhaps?

Unlike the other characters and the events around him.

Friday rush hour a lone shooter fires from across a crowded street and slays an operating bus driver.

Across town, a mother daughter murder suicide occurs, with the father as the main witness. And downtown a woman is abducted from a bar in front of an ex-cop with street smarts and a '78 Escort. The pace quickens as the ex-cop makes all the investigations, follows all the clues and hunts down the kidnappers, whilst Devereaux ponders, ums and ahhs.

He's the perfect realistic Kiwi cop. No heroics, no violence and no pastel lounge suits. He goes about his work, methodically working through the clues, almost in an oblivious juxtaposition to the speeding narration of murders, violence, chases and rapid fire clues that literally spit venomously off the page. Gritty and page turning this sure is. But more effective is the distinct Kiwi accent that is present in every page. I almost get the feeling this novel wouldn't work anywhere but Auckland. The details are accutely accurate. Sanders is a keen observer, right down to the placement of CCTV cameras and the socio--economic product selection of a tavern's clientele.

It's true we love to read and see stories about ourselves, no matter what the scenario. But this one is a little creepy. The flesh is a little to close to the bone. "By Any Means" is a stunning piece of contemporary crime fiction, a real 'worth it' read.

And, no, I wont tell you how it ends, even when I get there. You'll have to do that yourself!

About the Author:
Ben Sanders is a 21-year-old university student who lives on Auckland's North Shore. He has been a keen writer since his early teens and his debut novel, The Fallen, was published to high acclaim in 2010. This is his second Sean Devereaux novel.

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