The year is 2019, and backpacking tourist Kate explores the sights of Auckland in New Zealand’s North Island, sampling food and wine pre-Covid, unaware she will become involved in a mysterious incident. It all starts on a vineyard wine-tasting tour when Kate meets Vivian Anderson, an eccentric and wealthy older man who talks in great swathes of dialogue. When calamity strikes, causing Kate to miss her flight back home to UK, Vivian suggests a stopover in his country residence ‘Cardamine’.
Kate appears naïve but weighs up the pros and cons and accepts Vivian’s offer of accommodation which certainly makes her holiday more enjoyable. However, not everyone is happy with this open-ended arrangement. Outspoken housekeeper Elly thinks her boss Vivian is yet again being taken advantage of by a woman, namely Kate.
Also, Elly doesn’t have a good word to say about Vivian’s ‘mail order’ wife Tatyana who suddenly vanished, leaving everything behind. The big question is ‘Where did she go?’ When exploring the house and grounds, Kate sees an abandoned pond at the bottom of the garden which strikes her as being rather peculiar.
Thirty year-old Kate texts and writes on-again off-again emails to her boyfriend Orlando who would like her to come home. Kate is undecided on this, having developed a crush on Silvio who works in the local Red Lotus café. She seems to fall on her feet meeting nice people like the café owner Lawan who fills her up on food and local information.
It’s all glorious beaches and swimming with Silvio, driving an Aston Martin and playing a baby grand piano, but Kate does appreciate Vivian’s hospitality. At one stage she overhauls the kitchen cupboards and makes him wholesome meals instead of the usual pre-packaged deliveries, thus cooking becomes her daily task.
Vivian enjoys Kate’s company and talks like an endearing encyclopaedia, causing her to suspect he may be on the autism spectrum. He obviously misses his wife Tatyana. Kate grows inquisitive and decides to investigate Tatyana’s disappearance. Events heat up and nasty things happen which lead the impulsive Kate into a messy and dangerous situation.
‘Cardamine’ is suitable for a general audience, but for me the overall tension could have been stronger, particularly with the themes of xenophobia, drug references and immigration fraud. In parts of the story, telling is used instead of showing (e.g. pohutukawa tree?) and I think greater use of the five senses would not have gone amiss—then along comes a glowing chapter like Kate’s first hot southern climate Christmas. Worth reading!
An intriguing combination of travelogue and cosy mystery, author Jennifer Barraclough has created an excellent cast of characters with a neat plot twist and unexpected ending. GBW
With more to explore, perhaps there is a possibility of further NZ adventures for Kate.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Quote “Most novels contain elements of autobiography and the setting for this one was informed by my own memories of visiting New Zealand for the first time, discovering the beautiful beaches and countryside, the enticing vineyards and coffee shops. Several North Island locations – Waiheke, Browns Bay, Riverhead Forest, Muriwai – are featured in the book.”
My thanks to author Jennifer Barraclough for a review copy of ‘Cardamine’.
WEBSITE AND BLOG https://www.jenniferbarraclough.com
‘CARDAMINE’ is available in either paperback or Kindle formats from your local Amazon website.
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE https://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Barraclough/e/B001HPXGZI
PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED ‘You Yet Shall Die’ https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2020/04/19/review-you-yet-shall-die-by-jennifer-barraclough/