Swimming in the Dark, by Paddy RICHARDSON

This merging of the stories of two distinct families from different locations and times into one interacting tale of misery, fear, hate and hurt, resolves the unfolding drama in a most satisfactory way. Between their two stories are common themes – fear of imposed authority and abuse of power. These themes drive characters and events onward towards the inevitable end. 

The Freemans are a dysfunctional family, with no permanent father figure, a mother who seeks comfort in drink and dubious liaisons, two young adult sons who pretend to work but prefer to deal, the older daughter who ran away from home years ago, and Serena, a young girl who is targeted by the town’s sexual predator but cannot face revealing this. 

The Kleins are a family of mother and daughter, the last of a family of refugees from post-Cold War East Germany – Leipzig. Since arriving in New Zealand, age has taken the father, Oma and Opa (grandma and grandad), leaving Gerda, a former maternity nurse, still believing sometimes that old Russian-controlled Leipzig was a better place, but sometimes wracked with guilt by the discoveries of what the Russian Stasi had been doing to the populace without her knowing. Her daughter Ilse teaches at the local secondary school, and has been nurturing Serena’s unrecognized scholastic ability, giving her hope of getting away to university. 

The story’s swimming refers to the river, a gathering place for teens and families in summer, and Ilse’s place for swimming alone at night. Serena realizes the teens are being watched by a respected member of the community from the bridge, but she feels uncomfortable. His attention towards her escalates to the level of sexual abuse, and rape. She hides the resulting pregnancy as long as she can. Ilse, out one evening for her usual swim, discovers Serena in the beginning stages of labour, alone, frightened and in pain. Taking Serena back home to Ilse, Serena is terrified to let anyone know, so Gerda draws on her skills to successfully deliver Serena’s baby. 

The rapist father, still watching for her, discovers where she is in hiding. How Ilse and Gerda deal with his aggressive arrival in their home is a triumph of rights over fear and victimization, leaving this reviewer wanting to yell in triumph. The story’s conclusion leaves the right characters in the right situation for each, in a quietly triumphant ending.

Publishing: 2014, Upstart Press, Auckland NZ; paperback
ISBN: 978-1-927262-05-4

Reviewed for Booksellers NZ 

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Cross Fingers by Paddy RICHARDSON


Cross Fingers

author Paddy Richardson

If asked to produce a televisions documentary on the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand, how would you go about putting a new spin on it when it’s been hashed and rehashed in news media so many times? 
That’s a quandary faced by Rebecca Thorne, television journalist, in a gripping story of sleuthing, old case files, stalking and personal danger, as she strives to find not only a ‘new angle’ but once found, to follow it up and learn how it was resolved.

Paddy Richardson puts us in Rebecca’s place, and we follow the leads, interview the relevant parties to the acts of rebellion and hostility during the tour, read police interview files from the time, and meet some of the families and people who took part in the tour protests (or in the police Squads).
 

This was a thoroughly enjoyable, “not putting it down till I’ve finished” read. Richardson’s intriguing plot line allows her to use the technique of slipping “old files” into the current story line  smoothly and realistically; no sense of a producer calling “cut” between takes old and new. And the “old files” are so realistically like a police report they are utterly believable.

Her unique twist on an historical event is conveyed in such a believable style I’ve caught myself Wiki’ing the tour and the police squads and protests. She has sparked something – I have a question I can’t mention here as it would be a spoiler if I did. And this is one book I’d suggest parents bought for their offspring too young to have been aware of how that tour affected New Zealand. It’s fiction, sure – but Richardson provides real food for thought better than any History teacher ever could!

I don’t usually “rate” with my reviews, but for Cross Fingers I will – 10 out of 10, for readability, for a well-told twist of crime vis á vis community, for writing a crime story in a unique style.

2013, Auckland, Hatchette New Zealand
ISBN: 978-1-86971-307-2

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