Māori author’s thriller featuring a detective based on the ‘incredible women’ in his life wins NZ book award

Filmmaker and author Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) has been recognised for his crime writing, winning best first novel at the 2023 Ngaio Marsh Awards in Christchurch on Friday.

Bennett won for his book Better the Blood, a thriller about a serial killer on the loose in Auckland, and Hana Westerman, a tenacious Māori detective juggling single motherhood and the pressures of her career in Auckland’s Central Investigation Branch.

“When she’s led to a crime scene by a mysterious video, she discovers a man hanging in a secret room. Hana and her team work to track down the killer, searching for New Zealand’s first serial killer.”

The award-winning screenwriter and author said his lead character is a reflection of “incredible women” in his life.

“Hana is a montage, an amalgam of so many strong women in my world. She’s an amalgam of my aunties, my sisters, my incredible daughters, of my mum - my mother’s maiden name was Westerman - [and] my partner,” Bennett said in an interview with Wardini Books in October 2022.

“She’s little bits out of all these incredible women that have been such an important part of my life – but also showed me how to move through the world with pride and strength and tenacity.”

First launched in 2010, the Ngaio Marsh Awards recognise excellence in New Zealand crime, mystery and thriller writing.