Donna Malane’s debut novel, Surrender (2010), follows freelance researcher Diane Rowe. Her subject: missing persons. Sometimes she works for the police, sometimes for private investigators, and other times for anyone else that wants to track down someone they miss. Her latest job is for the police force, and seems to be a rather tricky one. A body was discovered, old, and mostly decayed, in the Rimutaka State Forest. But this time it’s a struggle to figure out who this John Doe is. There are no persons listed as missing on the register that match up to the JD, but how could a man go missing without a single person noticing? Worse still, storms over the years will have shifted the body around the ranges, making it almost impossible to figure out the spot where the man died.
But at the same time, Rowe is working on another investigation – however this one is personal. She finds out that Snow, the suspected killer of her sister, Niki, who was murdered a year ago, has just been discovered, dead. Snow has been stabbed in the back with a boning knife, identical to the way that Niki was killed. But who killed him, and why? The more she investigates, the more a tangled web emerges, a web that makes Niki’s life appear a lot more sinister than Diane ever imagined. Just what was her sweet baby sister getting up to that she didn’t know about? Sometimes, some truths should stay buried.
Donna Malane is already an award-winning television producer and scriptwriter, and her partner, Ian Wedde is a novelist, so it’s no surprise she has come out with a really great tale. Surrender is fast-paced and edgy. Diane Rowe, its main character, is tough and rough but she’s also very likeable, which will make her last over the series. The judges of the award, New Zealand Herald Books Editor Linda Herrick, acclaimed editor and fiction writer Graeme Lay, and Pindar Publishing’s Mia Yardley, have made a good decision in picking this story and I look forward to seeing what further excellent books this award produces in the coming years. (From a review by Sarah Gumbley in NZLawyer magazine)