Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Return to Blood

A Hana Westerman Thriller

by Michael Bennett

From the author of Better the Blood, the gripping second novel in a crime series starring Māori detective Hana Westerman, in which the discovery of human bones in the dunes of New Zealand upends a long-ago murder conviction

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 336
  • Publication Date May 21, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6305-9
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date May 21, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6306-6
  • US List Price $27.00

After the perils of a case that landed much too close to home, Hana Westerman turned in her badge and abandoned her career as a detective in the Auckland CIB. Hoping that civilian life will offer her the opportunity to rest and recalibrate, she returns to her hometown of Tātā Bay, where she moves back in with her beloved father, Eru. Yet the memories of the past are everywhere, and as she goes for her daily run on the beach, Hana passes a local monument to Paige, a high school classmate who was murdered more than twenty years ago and hidden in the dunes overlooking the sea. A Māori man with a previous record was convicted of the crime, although Eru never believed he was guilty.

When her daughter finds another young woman’s skeleton in the sands, Hana soon finds herself awkwardly involved. Investigators suspect that this is Kiri Thomas, a young Māori woman who disappeared four years earlier, after battling years of drug addiction. Hana and her daughter Addison are increasingly captivated by the story behind this unsolved crime, but without the official police force behind her, Hana must risk compromising her own peace and relationships if justice is to be served.

Expanding the range of vivid characters who made Michael Bennett’s first book, Better the Blood, so appealing, and offering a shocking twist at the end, Return to Blood takes readers further into Māori culture and traditions as it engages us more deeply in the story of Hana Westerman.

Praise for Return to Blood:

“Michael Bennett’s distinctive New Zealand-set series featuring Māori detective Hana Westerman continues with the pungent Return to Blood . . . The vivid picture of ethnic cultural life alone marks out the book as special, but it’s Bennett’s control of a tense narrative that is key.”—Barry Forshaw, Financial Times

“A great second novel by Bennett. The plotting is clever, and the characters are fully fleshed out and interesting . . . The cultural commentary and reflections on modern society are fascinating . . . There is also a good final reveal that comes as a real shock . . . A powerful novel that stays in the mind long after it is finished.”Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine

“Boasting a multilayered protagonist, this sequel to Bennett’s debut, Better the Blood, immerses itself in Māori culture, ranging from mysticism to the “unavoidable tension” between traditional and modern lawmaking in New Zealand . . . Smart, beguiling, and ultimately surprising . . . A skillfully rendered Māori crime story.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Bennett highlights Hana’s struggle to reconcile the pull of her Māori roots against her inner cop, a struggle that serves as a compelling backdrop for this twisty, well-crafted mystery.”—Booklist

“Following his acclaimed debut, Better the Blood, Michael Bennett’s compelling sophomore outing in his crime series starring Māori detective Hana Westerman proves the New Zealand screenwriter and author is no one-hit wonder as a mystery writer . . . An atmospheric thriller that will have readers booking flights to New Zealand.”—First Clue

Praise for Better the Blood:

Shortlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
Finalist for the Ngaio Marsh Novel and First Novel Awards
Longlisted for the ILP John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger
Named a Best Debut Mystery/Crime Novel of 2023 by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine
Named a Best Book of the Month by Amazon (Mystery, Thriller & Suspense)

“Michael Bennett’s crime fiction debut explores themes of colonization and Indigenous culture by way of New Zealand. A serial killer looking to avenge the 160-year-old murder of a Maori chief is pursued by police detective Hana Westerman, whose Maori ancestry makes the case personal.”Christian Science Monitor

“Stunning . . . With an incisive close third-person narration that digs into the thoughts and feelings of all of the players, the story commands attention from start to spectacular finish.”Oprah Daily

“A stunning and completely unique debut thriller . . . I cannot speak more highly of Michael Bennett’s ability as a writer to share his own heritage within the guise of a page-turning thriller that will keep you guessing, along with teaching you some little-known New Zealand history. I can only hope that this is the start of a wonderful and long-running series.”—Book Reporter

“Thoroughly absorbing . . . Bennett writes about Māori culture and history with generosity and care, reflected in the final acknowledgments paid to those in his community who lent him additional insights and guidance. He also crafts a compelling detective in Hana Westerman . . . Under Bennett’s strong command of tension in all directions, Better the Blood is a magnificently arranged confrontation with histories personal and public.”—Shelf Awareness

Better the Blood is an astonishing debut novel, full of twists and vivid characters, but also with much more on its mind. It is a deep exploration into cultural identity and justice, into the unbreakable bonds between the present and the past. It captures a voice like none you have read before, and it’ll keep you thinking even as you rapidly turn the pages to its devastating conclusion.”—BookTrib

“Extraordinary . . . Outstanding . . . The characters are exceptional, their motives and doubts all so magnificently drawn, so many of them strangers in a strange land in their own land.”—Nick Martin, Winnipeg Free Press

“A captivating crime story, an informative exploration of Maori culture through their history and language, and a pressurized (and very contemporary) family drama between mother and daughter.”—ArtsFuse

“When it comes to thrillers, I am hard to please. But Michael Bennett’s new novel Better the Blood amazed me. I cannot wait to read more . . . Captivating . . . Stunningly good.”—Ashley Riggleson, The Free Lance-Star

“A stellar series launch set in contemporary New Zealand . . . The narrative moves at a quick pace. Immersed in modern-day technologies and with a keen sensitivity to cultural issues, this is a finely crafted page-turner. Bennett is a writer to watch.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Bennett establishes himself as an excellent storyteller . . . The book’s immersion in tribal culture and history makes the greatest impact, lending complexity and sweep to the narrative . . . One can only hope this is the beginning of a series. A striking debut and a significant addition to Indigenous literature.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Riveting . . . Bennett deftly illuminates the plight of the Māori people and its continuing effects in New Zealand. His action-packed narrative, blended with various cultural references, recalls the novels of Tony and Anne Hillerman, Craig Johnson, and William Kent Krueger.”—Library Journal

“Bennett unflinchingly weaves together layers of fallout from New Zealand’s bloody colonization, enduring Māori culture, and gripping procedural details. Hopefully this compelling debut heralds the start of a long-running series.”—Booklist

“With plenty of suspense, sympathetically drawn characters and crisp dialogue, Better the Blood promises to be the start of a long and rewarding literary career for Bennett.”—BookPage

“A compelling, atmospheric page turner with an authentic insight into Māori culture.”—Val McDermid

“Stunning. Better the Blood is a tremendous debut, and Hana Westerman, the Māori detective at the center of the story, instantly becomes one of the great characters in crime fiction on any continent. This novel has it all: a gripping mystery, complex and memorable characters, and timely social and cultural commentary. Don’t miss it.”—David Heska Wanbli Weiden, author of Winter Counts

“Carefully crafted and beautifully written, intelligent and insightful, Bennett opens a unique window onto a fascinating Antipodean society as only world-class crime fiction can. I devoured it. (And, as a South African, I found great pleasure in the rugby references too.)”—Deon Meyer, author of The Dark Flood

Better the Blood touches on themes that have become increasingly urgent in recent years including the far-reaching impacts of colonialism and the often uneasy integration of identity and heritage into modern multicultural society. A tensely plotted, gritty crime novel that has the courage to force us all to rethink our relationship with the past.”—Vaseem Khan

“As page-turning as it is eye-opening. An excitingly fresh perspective upon a world you thought you knew.”—Ambrose Parry