Maggie Potter is an independent funeral director in picturesque tourist village Queenstown. Her life is not what she had dreamed for herself, but she does have her son, her recently-returned-from-the-UK daughter, and her firm circle of female friends. But when one of her friends is diagnosed with cancer, her daughter starts acting oddly, and an annoying Doctor seems to always be where she is, Maggie is confused and feels stretched to look after everyone. Maggie’s life may not be what she had dreamed for herself, but it turns out no-one’s is …
“Wanderer, freak, sailor, philosopher, Native boy in English costume, English boy in native costume. Exhibitionist, lover, clown, Maori boy, Man of the world.” – Hemi (James) Pōneke is recuperating in a house in Victorian London – and recording his story for “My future, my descendant, my mokopuna”. A future that must be better than what he has experienced – as appearing at first to be aged, we discover Hemi is young and has spent all his short eventful life looking at the world through the eyes of ‘the other’.
Sadie Rosenberg is hanging down a crevasse in Antarctica, refusing to cut free her friend Bill who is hanging beneath her, making it impossible for another friend, Sean Tomasin, to haul her to safety. Sadie and Sean, and a large Antarctic diamond in their possession, are saved by another geology team headed by Kirk Barnby – Bill and two others of Sadie’s group perish. Is Sadie “A protestor, political lobbyist, a greeny activist, an internet whistle-blower, internet pirate, a low-level diamond thief … diamond smuggler … terrorist”?, is she even Sadie Rosenberg? And who is Kirk - a geologist, a soldier, a government agent? And whose side is Sean on?
‘The Quaker’ is the nickname given to a serial killer who has taken three female lives, ruined families, stymied the police, and terrorised a city. The city in question is the “disintegrating city” of Glasgow in the late 1960s, and the prevailing culture of male prejudice, misogyny and corruption has been complicit in ‘The Quaker’ getting away with his crimes.
Albert Black has been accused of murder, and the death penalty stands, “Will goodness and mercy prevail?” - alas no, not in 1950s New Zealand, not with the shadow of the Second World War affecting how politicians make decisions, and not with the prejudicial Mazengarb Report being delivered to every household in the country, spreading moral panic.