One of the great strengths of really good crime fiction is the exploration of big issues at a local level. INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE is set within a smaller community, revolving around life in the local pub / pokie venue, exploring the destruction and chaos that comes with illicit drug use, and distribution.
Setting the story around a Maori community also gives the author an opportunity to explore the good and the bad effects of drugs on those communities in particular. There’s an interesting comparison of elders trying to keep their traditions alive, a young widow trying to keep her business afloat and family together, and the havoc that the drugs, addiction, loss of identity, purpose and violence have created in the young, and the desperate.
Taking something as simple as a young man making a big mistake in the face of the threat of an armed robbery, the author draws the consequences of coincidence out in a complicated, and yet very believable manner. A robbery that was performed to get dangerous thugs to back off a young, gambling addicted idiot, suddenly lands him, the young man, the pub owner, the insurance investigator, the insurance executive and a heap of other people in a hell of a lot of bother for reasons many of them have no comprehension of. The way that this author has pulled together all those coincidences and “what the” moments is not just believable, it’s utterly and completely feasible.
There is also plenty of pace and threat, and some particularly nasty behaviour on the part of gang members, the leader of whom is dangerous, erratic and drug addled. The possibility that he could be just mad, bad and lunatic is nicely tempered by his love for his dog, granted his idea of love and care isn’t exactly mainstream, but it is there, as is a concern for family. The way that families interact and the care and concern that they show each other, as unusual as it may be for some, is a strong theme through INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE.
There’s corporate corruption, gangs, extreme violence, threats, crazy behaviour, bravery, care, concern, love and even romance, all of which are nicely balanced, all supported by strongly drawn characters and a great sense of pace and threat. Add to that some good dialogue and that strong sense of the community in which the action takes place, and INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE is a stonkingly good debut.