Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Cunning Kiwi Crafts Novel Novel, DEAD LEMONS
REVIEW OF DEAD LEMONS, BY FINN BELL
This extraordinary novel opens with its protagonist, who has the same name as the author, hanging upside down over a rocky jetty near the very southernmost tip of New Zealand, suspended by his paralyzed legs wedged between the rocks and his wheelchair. Right below him is the man, Darrell Zoyl, of the infamous Zoyl family, who has just tried to kill him.
How Finn Bell got there and what happens next propel the plot, but the book is much more than just a mystery, it includes some profound reflections on life and death, suicide and survival, love and loathing, sanity and madness, happiness and depression.
The breadth of topics in Bell’s fascinating work reminded me of the tale told by Lewis Carroll’s Walrus, who captivates an Oyster audience:
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things:
Of shoes---and ships---and sealing wax---
Of cabbages and kings---
Of why the sea is boiling hot---
And whether pigs have wings.”
Those who take the pleasure of reading both Finn Bell’s gripping novel and this poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” will see a sinister parallel as well.
The author uses flashbacks, not my favorite style, to have his hero tell how he has reached this predicament, while putting many of the chapters in the present. Yet, it was effective: I could hardly put the book down once I started reading it.
The reader learns much about life in New Zealand, along with the psychology of the paraplegic male, and the offbeat but effective method of one psychologist-counselor in dealing with the nearly suicidal.
The author’s notes at the book’s end provide some additional value, about bees and their ability to sense our emotions, the African country of Benin with its unusually high incidence of twins (a pair of whom play an important role in the book), whaling and the rendering of whale blubber, cannibalism in pigs, and the various phases of New Zealand’s settling and economic development. Within the story we learn of Murder Ball, a rugby variant for men in wheelchairs.
There is love…love lost and love found, love among friends, love between man and woman and among extended family members.
And there is terror, terror generated by the Zoyl family with their wicked secrets and their cunning tactics to keep atrocities hidden for decades.
The writing flows. The editing is excellent.
If you like mystery, with psychological depth, mixed with arcane information about exotic places and people, spiced with some terror and intermittent action, you’ll love this book, as I did.
I’ve already bought another Zinn Bell novel, Pancake Money, also a mystery set in New Zealand. I can’t wait to read it.
My writing-editing-coaching site is http://WriteYourBookwithMe.com.