Better the Blood: A Hana Westerman Thriller (Hardcover)

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Better the Blood: A Hana Westerman Thriller By Michael Bennett Cover Image

Better the Blood: A Hana Westerman Thriller (Hardcover)

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January 2023 Indie Next List


“Fast-paced and fascinating. Hana Westerman is a senior police detective, Māori, and a mother. It all comes into play in the chase for a serial killer intent on righting the wrongs of the colonial past. I hope this is the first of many!”
— Anne Holman, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

Staff Reviews


Looking for a new mystery series to start a new year? Even better, how about one that takes you to an unusual locale, and fills you in on culture and history you most likely never explored? Then, Michael Bennett’s Better the Blood, published 1/10/23) fits you to a T.

The Māori screenwriter and director (aka Michael Te Arawa Bennett) plunges us into the darker side of New Zealand and its history regarding its treatment of its indigenous people in his debut thriller. Māori detective Hana Westerman is deliberately led into a series of bizarre murders, signaling that New Zealand’s first serial killer is on the Auckland streets. More disturbing to Hana, she realizes the killings are being done according to a Māori tradition, one calling not for justice, but a ‘rebalancing’ to respond to long-ago savagery perpetrated by British troops. There will be more victims.

Hana has more to balance on her own plate. She’s raising a teenage daughter, who’s more connected to the killing spree than either realize, and her ex-husband is also her boss. She soon realizes she’s being singled out by the killer because of her involvement 20 years before in a police action against indigenous protesters. Her actions that day still shame her, and are meaningful to the killer.

Better the Blood reveals the mastermind’s identity early on. Readers are part of the cat-and-mouse action, and may find themselves more sympathetic to the killer than they’d ever expect. I’m looking forward to more cases with Hana Westerman.

— Rosemary

An absorbing, clever debut thriller that speaks to the longstanding injustices faced by New Zealand's indigenous peoples, by an acclaimed Māori screenwriter and directorA tenacious Māori detective, Hana Westerman juggles single motherhood, endemic prejudice, and the pressures of her career in Auckland CIB. Led to a crime scene by a mysterious video, she discovers a man ritualistically hanging in a secret room and a puzzling inward-curving inscription. Delving into the investigation after a second, apparently unrelated, death, she uncovers a chilling connection to an historic crime: 160 years before, during the brutal and bloody British colonization of New Zealand, a troop of colonial soldiers unjustly executed a Māori Chief.Hana realizes that the murders are utu--the Māori tradition of rebalancing for the crime committed eight generations ago. There were six soldiers in the British troop, and since descendants of two of the soldiers have been killed, four more potential murders remain. Hana is thus hunting New Zealand's first serial killer.The pursuit soon becomes frighteningly personal, recalling the painful event, two decades before, when Hana, then a new cop, was part of a police team sent to end by force a land rights occupation by indigenous peoples on the same ancestral mountain where the Chief was killed, calling once more into question her loyalty to her roots. Worse still, a genealogical link to the British soldiers brings the case terrifyingly close to Hana's own family. Twisty and thought-provoking, Better the Blood is the debut of a remarkable new talent in crime fiction.
Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and author whose films have been selections at major festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, and New York. His nonfiction book, In Dark Places, which explored an infamous miscarriage of justice, won awards, and his young adult graphic novel, Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas, was a finalist for the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards.
Product Details ISBN: 9780802160607
ISBN-10: 0802160603
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: January 10th, 2023
Pages: 336
Language: English