Nothing Bad Happens Here
The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel.
Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder.
Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?
Best Book Bit:
With an arm around Emily, Miller walked across the road to her car and with some effort put her in the passenger seat. She noticed a piece of white paper fluttering under her windscreen wipers and grabbed it as she made her way round to the driver’s side.
The note was written in clean block letters on a piece of white printer paper. Miller looked around, her skin erupting in goose pimples even though the night was warm.
TAKE A LOOK AT ROY BURKE — INVERCARGILL
She looked up and over the rooftops. Coldridge Valley loomed large in the darkness. It was either her imagination or one too many vodkas, but Miller got the impression the bush was closing in on her. The main street lacked enough street lamps, and the few pools of light only made the surrounding darkness more sinister. Someone knew this was her car and why she was here.
But then excitement took over. Finally, a possible lead, or at least something to investigate.
‘Hold that for me, Emily.’
Emily took the note and read it to herself. ‘Roy Burke. Dirty old prick.’
Miller frowned. ‘What? What do you mean?’
‘The night of Delta’s birthday party, when he spilled beer all over me – on purpose, by the way – I was getting changed in my cabin. I don’t know if I left the door open or not, but when I turned around he was standing in the doorway watching me.’
‘Jesus, Emily. Why didn’t you tell someone?’ Miller asked, remembering Roy’s overly familiar farewell at the party.
‘I don’t know.’ She shrugged. Her speech had turned sluggish. ‘He’s their friend isn’t he? The policeman and Delta’s. Plus he’s got a wife. He didn’t actually do anything. Just smiled at me and walked out.’
Miller saw her shudder at the memory.
When they got back to Haven, Miller took Emily to her room. She lay her down on the bed and Emily grabbed the duvet and pulled it up to her chin, making her look absurdly childlike.
‘Thanks for looking after me, Miller.’
Miller felt a pang in her chest as she closed the door.
Back in her room, Miller sat on her bed with her laptop. She brought up Google and typed in Roy Burke. The search brought up a few Castle Bay News articles – how he belonged to Strawberry Growers New Zealand; his involvement with the Rotary Club. There were various photos of him looking uncomfortable at a fancy gala, dressed in a tuxedo and standing next to Brenda, who was spilling out of an outfit two sizes too small for her. The last photo she found was of Roy getting an award a year ago, for offering agricultural tutorials to senior students home for school holidays.
Talk about an upstanding citizen.
She then typed in Roy Burke Invercargill. Articles from the Invercargill Daily came up. She had access to the headlines but had to subscribe to get the archival articles, which she did as quickly as she could, her fingers flying over the keyboard.
She scrolled through the articles. There was a large front page photo of Roy Burke under the headline ‘Roy Burke Trial Begins’. The caption read, ‘Roy Burke (19) leaving Invercargill Crown Court after the first day of his trial’.
Miller began reading. Roy Burke had been accused of sexual assault on a minor at a party on February 9, 1980. Roy was nineteen and the unnamed girl was fifteen. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison.
While news people gather, and townspeople repeatedly state, “nothing bad happens here”, the police mount an investigation. Miller Hatcher is sent to cover the story for her magazine First Look. Knowing this could be her big break she plunges into making inquiries around town. Since the small town is overrun with reporters she is unable to find a room in a hotel. Fortunately she finds an opening at a local health spa, Haven, operated by Delta . The woman is something of a hippie who relocated to New Zealand and opened her little spa. Miller joins the other female guests and the Chinese housekeeper/cook, Oprah, at the resort. One of the guests is the wife of the mayor, Patricia Edgington-Whitely. As her name and station suggest, she is a bit of a know it all.
While visiting the site where the body was found she meets Sergeant Kahu Parata, the local police presence. However, he has been pushed aside by a Detective Nicholson from Auckland. Kahu may resent the intrusion, but it doesn’t prevent him from keeping an eye on things. While he doesn’t reveal any confidential information, he does speak with Miller on several occasions.
There are plenty of likely suspects in this story. Although Bethany was a stranger in the town, many recall her having drinks in the local bar the night she disappeared. When another girl goes missing, one of the guests at Haven, her abusive ex becomes a temporary suspect.
This is a clever story with some good twists that kept me reading. The characters were well developed. Miller has some problems of her own, not the least of which is alcohol. The townspeople are close knit, a local orchard owner has something dark in his past, and there is a handyman at Haven who is more than a little creepy.
I confess the ending provided a surprise. I usually guess the culprit, but this one was unexpected. Throughout the book I tried to follow clues, and just when I thought I had it figured out, something would throw my guess off. The climax is shocking. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with plenty of suspense and a good plot.
I have given Nothing Bad Happens Here a Gold Bookworm.
Bethany was a young naive woman found dead in the woods of the idyllic place. Nobody saw a thing that could lead to the killer though. The mysterious crime makes national news, flooding the city with reporters and crazy types. Not good for a touristic spot.
Miller is a reporter going through some bad moments in her life and an alcoholic in denial of her problem. Unaware of Miller's situation, her editor sends her for the murder story with the promise of a promotion if she did it well enough. It's not an easy task to be an investigative reporter on a murder case mostly when Miller's own issues seem too heavy for her to bear.
As Miller struggles to keep herself afloat, she keeps stumbling into things she was not supposed to know, and making powerful enemies in the tiny secretive community. What seemed an unbreakable silence vow to protect the town's people and business, shows an even uglier, more destructive side and raises a much meaner head.
The book is one of the craziest mystery stories I've read in a long time and as it takes shape it surprises the reader at every twist and turn. The main character has flaws that make her pitiful but at the same time she has strong endearing traits.
I couldn't believe when the terrible truth about the murder came out at last. An incredible and unexpected end to an excellent reading. And as a matter of fact, that was a town where everything happened.
I give this the highest rating possible.