A crime novel set in Auckland, now that’s not something you get to read every day. Instantly intrigued, I happily delved into Andrea Jutson’s debut novel, Senseless.
As James Paxton drives home through Mission Bay late one night his life is changed forever. Initially Paxton appears to be your typical hero – gruff, dishevelled and with a shady past he can’t escape from. He finds a body in a park and immediately becomes the prime suspect for a murder case. So far, so predictable. Then we learn something interesting about Paxton. He is a medium. As in, he can speak to the dead.
This is where I developed some respect for the book. By utilising Paxton’s abilities, Jutson gives the crime genre a fresh perspective. Paxton communicates with the dead man he has found and begrudgingly makes a promise to track down his killer. An outsider by nature, English-born Paxton raises suspicion in everyone he meets. It doesn’t help that he tries to hide his psychic abilities from the police – they don’t tend to trust that kind of thing.
From here, we travel with Paxton as he investigates the man’s death and befriends the victim’s daughter, Lena. As they delve deeper, the killer strikes again and again. Each murder more disturbing than the one before bringing the narrative to a point where the tension becomes almost unbearable.
Grisly images aside, I loved how I could visualise every scene from the book and the locations weren’t your average Auckland icons, either. The first murder takes place in a small Mission Bay reserve, the second late at night in Foodtown Greenlane’s car park. Particularly chilling is another murder within the University of Auckland. I have always felt uncomfortable walking down that particular alleyway. Creepy stuff.
Andrea Jutson writes with authority and compassion and is apparently working on a second James Paxton novel. Don’t be put off by the dreary cover – Senseless is a strong, thoughtful crime novel that stands out from the crowd.