Sharks With Lipstick – Hinemura Ellison and Ted Hughes

Review by Karen Chisholm (Reproduced with permission)

SHARKS WITH LIPSTICK is a satirical romantic mystery written by Hinemura Ellison and Ted Hughes. Satirical it definitely is, as you’ll get from the blurb – with the concept being that there’s a Big Super Ministry as part of the government, where it seems employees spend more time playing their own form of politics than they necessarily do getting any actual work done. Aside from the trials of the workplace, there’s also a train that takes workers to and from Wellington to outlying country destinations, and you get to know a lot of the characters in this novel on that train journey. The journey is a commute, social event, meeting place, gathering point and sort of all in party on rails. Everyone has their own groups of friends, the alcohol flows freely on occasions, games are played, secrets are shared, and, on one particular night, a dead body discovered. Further complications arise because the body is that of the dreaded HR Director of the Big Super Ministry and the investigating officer is central character Samantha (aka Sven) Svensson’s ex. Needless to say Cat, the HR Director, and Sven have some history, but then there’s pretty much no-one in the Ministry that hasn’t got a problem with Cat. Everything is further complicated by an earthquake that’s just hit Wellington, and there’s plenty of concern about predictions of the next, really big one, happening any moment.

Firmly on the madcap side of satirical romantic mystery, SHARKS WITH LIPSTICK is often extremely funny. The biggest problem is the satirical gets in the way of the mystery, and whilst many of the scenes being executed by these authors are deadpan and often hilarious, they also form a sort of liquefaction effect (ridiculous earthquake analogy – sorry), where everything gets bogged down, and sure you’re laughing whilst stuck in the bog, but there’s also a suspicion that you’re never actually going to get out. SHARKS WITH LIPSTICK has some potential, and I know how hard it must be to set a really good funny line free, but I did come away from it thinking a bit less would have been way more in the long run. This is flagged as the first book in the Trinity Trilogy and it feels like Sven has more than enough chutzpah to carry that off.

Thanks Karen for that excellent review! For more reviews of Australian and New Zealand reviews of crime fiction follow the link here:

http://www.austcrimefiction.org

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