Whanganui Midweek

Startling look at crime in the city


Crimechurc­h By Michael Botur Published by Rangitawa Publishing, 2020 Paperback Reviewed by Paul Brooks

Two things alert the reader to the fact that this is a book worth reading. First: it’s by Michael Botur. Second: the foreword is by Alan Duff. Not only that, Alan endorses Michael Botur as an author. He has not endorsed an author in 29 years.

The foreword takes the form of an interview in which Michael puts the questions to Alan. The questions are blunt: the answers are forthright. Don’t skip it. There are insights here which put the book in perspectiv­e.

Crimechurc­h — yes, it’s about the criminal side of Christchur­ch — is a novel about a place and a time from the viewpoint of six people, and they’re not nice. Five of them are immersed in a subculture of drugs, violence and a skewed outlook. The other is the mother of one of these people and she handles her son’s behaviour with excuses and blindness.

They don’t all come from similar background­s but the lives they lead follow a trajectory of sameness. Their reasons for doing what they do depend on where they’ve been, and to some it’s not natural, but it’s cool .. or something to brag or feel superior about.

Their stories are different but the author has managed to get under their skin and tell these tales from the inside.

It can be brutal, nasty, with moments of humour and some clever use of language.

I read this book in one sitting, not daring to interrupt the flow or decrease the story’s speed by lifting my eyes from the page.

No matter where you come from, or where you’re planning to end up, this book will have you thinking thoughts you never thought possible, and finding empathy with characters you’ll probably never want to meet. They choose to be bad because it feels powerful.

Being able to hurt someone is a seriously hot power trip if you hang out with the right crowd.

For some, there might not even be thought or intention behind it. Living in the minute is like that, and this is not a Zen thing.

There are some things and people in this book you may not understand, but it’s possibly better that way.

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