By Belinda Pollard
“The Maori call this place Ata Whenua—Shadow Land.”
Television reporter Callie Brown likes safe places with good coffee. But she joins friends from the past on a trek into New Zealand’s most brutal wilderness, in the hope of healing a broken heart.
What she doesn’t know is that someone wants them all dead.
Lost in every sense of the word, the hikers’ primal instincts erupt. Surrounded by people who have harbored secrets for a decade, Callie must choose the right ally if she doesn’t want to be the next to die…
I follow Belinda Pollard on Twitter and her blog. Her blogs are always interesting and well-written, so I bought her novel as soon as it was published.
Eight people start out on a trek in New Zealand’s wilderness. Eight people are supposed to die, and this is the story of a fight for survival.
This is a marvellous book. The writing is superb and the crafting of the story is excellent, particularly so since this is from a first-time novelist (Belinda Pollard has worked as a journalist and editor for years, but that does not necessarily automatically make a person a good story-teller). The mysteries and twists kept me hooked and the descriptions of the many fraught and dangerous situations are brilliantly written so that I felt myself alongside the characters and holding my breath in anticipation. The paranoia and distrust amongst the group is palpable and it is fascinating to read how their suspicions and loyalties shift and regroup.
I love stories that transport me to a different world, suck me into the lives and emotions of others so that I become unaware of my surroundings – there aren’t many books that really manage to do that for me, and this is one of the few that I’ve read in recent years that has done so. (Curled up on my sofa in front of the fire is not actually the same as being on a precarious ledge on a mountain while being battered by wind and driving rain and wondering whether someone has me in the sights of a rifle, but in my mind I was RIGHT THERE!)
The characters are well written – not just the eight friends, but the anxious mother and the tenacious police officer as well. Their interactions and relationships are well drawn and entirely believable. The story is told in the third-person from the points of view mainly of Jack and Callie (two of the eight friends), interspersed with the point of view of Peter, the police officer in charge of the search for them. One of the trekkers has type 1 diabetes and it was an added layer to the story to read about her particular struggle for survival, and how her friends will do everything they can to help her, even when it puts them in further danger.
Every bit of information we are given is disclosed for the sake of the story, and there is none of the over-writing or padding out that first-time novelists so often succumb to. It is clear also that Belinda Pollard has carried out thorough research.
If you like mysteries or stories about the outdoors, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Editorial Input & Design
The editing is invisible – as it should be. There were two spelling errors on names that I noticed and one or two commas that I might have changed – but really, how nit-picky can I get? This is a thoroughly professionally produced book all round. I read it on a Kindle and had no problems with the formatting.
Cover: Nicely produced and in keeping with the genre. There are two articles that make interesting reading on the making of the cover: here and here. Update 12 Jan - Belinda submitted her cover to The Book Designer e-Book Cover Awards, which run each month, and Joel had this to say about it: "A near-perfect ebook cover that has great balance, drama, and a clear hook into the story. Very accomplished for a cover by an author."
Internal design: Like I said, professionally done.
Book Clubs & Reviews
Hmm, not sure. It’s a cracking good mystery story and provides some talking points – greed, friendship, unrequited love, what a parent will do for a child, pulling together as a team, the majestic outdoors and its unforgiving elements – but I’m not sure it would provide enough substance for a book club evening. I think your food choice might be limited too – fern tips and New Zealand white anyone?
What others are saying: Poison Bay has only recently been published, so there aren't many reviews yet. Amazon UK readers give it five stars (1 reviewer); Amazon US readers give if 4.2 stars (4 reviewers); Goodreads readers give it 4.14 stars (7 ratings).