A compelling mystery with environmental themes, Natalya Newman
July 05, 2021
Twelve-year-old Cassi Whelan and her dad have just moved into a house on the edge of the Red Zone in Christchurch, an area that had been left to be reclaimed by nature after two deadly earthquakes struck nine years before. The Red Zone is abandoned and appears to be a ghost town, and was the part of Christchurch that would never be built on again – so they said.
There are no people, no cars, no man-made noise; nothing.
Fortunately, this suits Cassi perfectly. Every day, she runs through the deserted streets and meets nobody as she pushes her body as much as she can without breaking. Every time she stops to breathe, she makes use of the new tree growth consuming the ordered buildings and leans against them to catch her breath. She refuses to make the mistake of trusting something man-made to hold her steady, especially not after experiencing just how worthless that trust can be.
One day, her daily run leads her to a supposedly abandoned house next to her own home. Cassi’s curiosity streak is a mile wide, and when she sees a fresh, opened can of cat food through the garage window, she knows that something is up. But as she uncovers, she is not the only one taking advantage of a place that should be empty.
Yes, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. Yet what many fail to notice is that despite the possibility of satisfaction, death is still experienced. Perhaps Cassi’s life is about to get more interesting, but many journeys that start with simple curiosity can spiral out of control with no warning. And this journey is one that Cassi will not be able to escape from.
In Red Edge, we follow Cassi and her new friend and neighbour, Quinn Fordson, as they become their own detectives, determined to discover the truth behind what is going on in the abandoned house. What they didn’t know when they began was that they were only touching the tip of the iceberg, and the things that their curiosity uncovers may just have the power to bring consequences neither could have imagined.
Published in 2020 and the newest of a long list of publications, Des Hunt’s Red Edge presents intriguing themes intricately woven into a continuous thread of discovery. This environmental mystery novel covers highly relevant topics including wildlife trafficking, PTSD, medical exploitation, and interesting aspects of journalism and investigation.
Hunt writes of these topics in a compelling style that hooks readers in. This is a complex, realistic, and educational read that is suitable for many different audiences. Something I found enjoyable was that Hunt includes all of these topics and thus raises awareness of them, but also weaves them together through the characters and their own development. The way he presents the relationships built between characters is skilful, and I became more invested in the story through the community that is portrayed within this novel.
This may just be personal preference, but when a character used ‘OMG’ in a sentence, it did not seem to matter how immersed I had previously been in the incredible plotline that Hunt crafted, this served to pull me out of the story and plot. I really enjoyed this read, but reading an abbreviation that is often used in text messages being spoken by a character reminded me that this book was written, rather than felt, if that makes sense. If ‘OMG’ was replaced with ‘Oh my God’, I do not think I would have experienced the same sense of disconnection.
Another topic that I am glad was brought up was people obtaining money from MS sufferers through false claims. I do not think that this sort of exploitation of patients is talked about nearly enough, so I am glad that Hunt is spreading awareness to younger generations about this issue alongside many others.
At first, I was not particularly satisfied with the cover. For me, at least, the combination of bright red and navy blue seemed to clash quite harshly. Also, the title Red Edge does not appear to be very connected with the plot. For me, the most important messages in this book were not the Red Zone and past earthquakes, but the wildlife smuggling and exploitation. I did not think much of it until after finishing this read, but I began to wonder about the meaning and intention behind it.
A cover that attracts the eye but also deters and repels it. A title that alludes to part of the plot but not the main thread. Reflecting on it, it had me wondering whether it could have been intentional. Throughout this book, the people responsible for the wildlife smuggling had a mask in place in the form of both doctors and sellers of Wētā Nekta. Both of these are things that draw attention that serve to shift the focus from everything else they are doing to what they want you to see. Just like the colour combination of the cover. The same applies with the title: it presents one idea but really is working to achieve something else. Once I realised the possible meaning behind the cover, I can say that I really admire how subtly it presented the concept of this novel.
Hunt writes in a skilful, flowing style, and I can honestly say that I have not read a book quite like this before! As they both cover environmental issues, building relationships and friendships, and mental health, I would recommend this book to people who have read Just Remember by Donna Blaber, which I recently reviewed. Both Blaber and Hunt’s writing style draws readers in and educates people on environmental issues without them fully realising it. I have noticed that they both used this to their advantage and have allowed me to explore a new style of literature.
Overall, this book is a compelling environmental mystery read that explores relevant issues and the complexities that lie within communities. So, if you enjoy such a brilliantly diverse array of themes, this book is definitely worth reading!
- Natalya Newman lives in Whangārei.