Home > 2010, 21st Century, Crime Fiction, New Zealand Literature, Polar, Thomas Paul, Translation Tragedy > Death on Demand by Paul Thomas – #SouthernCrossCrime2021

Death on Demand by Paul Thomas – #SouthernCrossCrime2021

Death on Demand by Paul Thomas (2012) Not available in French. Translation tragedy.

Yes, Ihaka was unkempt, overweight, intemperate, unruly, unorthodox and profane, none of which featured on McGrail’s checklist of what constituted a model citizen, let alone a police officer. But when it came to operating in the cruel and chaotic shadow-world where the wild beasts roam, he was worth a dozen of those hair-gelled careerists who brought their running shoes to work and took their paperwork home.

Meet Tito Ihaka, the Maori police officer in Death on Demand by Paul Thomas. When the book opens, he’s in the doghouse, sent away in Wairarapa as a demotion from his previous job with the Auckland police department. When working on Joyce Lilywhite’s death, he insisted that her husband Christopher was guilty of his wife’s murder even if he had no sound evidence of it. Joyce was a prominent business woman and Ihaka’s stubborn insistence on Christopher’s guilt combined with his brash behaviour on the force led to his fall.

Ihaka has been in Wairarapa for five years when his former boss, Finbar McGrail sends for him. Christopher Lilywhite wants to talk to him and when Ihaka does, Christopher –who is terminally ill—confesses that he ordered his wife’s murder but doesn’t know who did it. He also points Ihaka towards three other murders that seem committed by the same hitman. Christopher gets murdered and another source of information too. The plot thickens.

The investigation about Joyce’s murder starts again, led by Ihaka’s nemesis, Detective Inspector Charlton. When Warren Duckmanton is murdered, Charlton has too much on his plate and reluctantly delegates this investigation to Ihaka. And there’s the strange attack of undercover cop that Ihaka can’t compute. The word is that this cop got sloppy and paid the price when the mob discovered his identity. Ihaka isn’t convinced by this official version and wonders what’s behind it. So, he investigates on the side.

Ihaka is a maverick in the police department and doesn’t hesitate to ruffle some feathers to go on with an investigation. McGrail has been promoted to Auckland District Commander since Ihaka’s leaving for Wairarapa and his attitude has changed with the responsibilities. Ihaka has to face the new politics at the station and live with Charlton’s constant hostility.

Death on Demand is cleverly constructed with a prologue that gives the reader some clues about the protagonists’ pasts and motivations. Several plot threads come to life, well-sewn together and that makes of Death on Demand a compelling read. I liked Ihaka, he reminded me of Connelly’s Bosch.

To my surprise, Death on Demand is peppered with French expressions like et voilà, raison d’être (didn’t know I could use this one in English), au contraire, faux pas, tête-à-tête. Many thanks to Bitter Lemon Press for their excellent editing: not one accent is missing on French words, a rare treat in Anglophone books.

This is my second read for Kim’s Southern Cross Crime Month where we read crime fiction from Australia and New Zealand. The first one was Death in Ectasy by Ngaio Marsh and since Death on Demand won the Ngaio Marsh Award in 2013, things have come to a full circle.

Highly recommended to crime fiction lovers. Sorry for French readers, it’s a Translation Tragedy book.

  1. March 25, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Oh, banished to the Wairarapa, such beautiful countryside and the place of my birth, but that too was a banishment of another sort.
    I’ve not hear of this book or writer, but intrigued to know how it crossed your path?

    Though it’s not my genre I am enjoying reading these reviews of #southerncrime2021 raising my own awareness of antipodean themed crime novels. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 25, 2021 at 5:18 pm

      I confess that I had to look at a map of New Zealand when I was reading.
      I came across this writer when I browsed through the catalogue of the publisher, Bitter Lemon Press.


  2. Vishy
    March 25, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    Wonderful review, Emma! I’ve never read a New Zealand Crime novel before and so I was very excited to read your review! Ithaka looks like a fascinating character! I have seen people use those French expressions that you have mentioned, especially au contraire, raison d’etre and et voila, especially when they want to look sophisticated while speaking in English 😊 Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Will add this to my reading list.


    • March 25, 2021 at 5:19 pm

      I was really glad to read a crime fiction novel from New Zealand and I had a great time reading it. It’s a series, so I’ll be sure to pick another one.
      Thanks for your thoughts about French words in English lit. It helps!


  3. March 25, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks for yet another contribution, Emma. This one sounds great. I’m intrigued to know how you discovered this author and this series. I’ll be adding it to my list!


    • March 25, 2021 at 5:21 pm

      It’s a great event, Kim, a good opportunity to try new writer.

      I discovered this author by browsing the catalogue of Bitter Lemon Press. I know the French author they publish and they’re good. I assumed I’d also enjoy what they choose for other countries.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. March 27, 2021 at 1:44 am

    Ooo, what a great sounding series! It has definitely gone on the TBR list, thanks for writing such a lovely post about this book. Isn’t Bitter Lemon a terrific publisher?


    • March 28, 2021 at 9:06 pm

      If all the books are like this one, it’s a good series, indeed.

      It’s my first Bitter Lemon Press but I’ve seen reviews of their books. They have a great catalogue.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. March 31, 2021 at 3:02 pm
  2. January 8, 2022 at 7:39 pm
  3. August 28, 2022 at 11:48 am

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