Traces of Red

Paddy Richardson

Rebecca Thorne is a successful television journalist, but her world is thrown into turmoil when her Saturday night programme is axed because of falling ratings. Not only will she lose her job but her big story on the convicted triple murderer Connor Bligh, whom Rebecca believes is innocent, has to be abandoned.

 

Rebecca's lover Joe, a married man and the barrister representing Bligh, also thinks Bligh is innocent – or does he? And if he loves Rebecca so much, why is he prepared to cast her off?

 

Meanwhile Bligh languishes in jail, convicted of three brutal murders and continuing to protest his innocence. He's clearly not a saint – but did he do it? Rebecca refuses to let the matter lie.

 

Paddy Richardson's fourth novel is psychological crime fiction at its best.

TV journalist Rebecca Thorne feels as if she is losing her edge. The ratings for Saturday Night have been dropping for some time and she feels that it needs to focus on stories with more bite. Her producer on the other hand believes the opposite - people already have enough doom and gloom in daily life, and the last thing they need is to be made to think on Saturday nights. They want entertainment and "nice" stories. So the answer is to ditch Rebecca's program and to try something else.

 

Rebecca successfully persuades a rival station to run with a documentary about convicted triple murderer Connor Bligh. She secures a three month contract and throws herself into the production. Connor agrees to meet her and she becomes convinced he is innocent, that he is the victim of injustice, and so she visits him in jail often.

 

Right from the beginning this is a story about whether Rebecca is able to maintain her objectivity, can she present both sides of the story, is she getting too close to Connor Bligh. But is also about how reliable he is, can she trust him? As she meets people who have known Connor so she realises that others who have talked about him at his trial have often had their own agendas, but does that make their versions of events any less true?

 

The structure of the novel is interesting. It begins with the discovery of the murders by the daughter of the family who has spent the weekend at a friend's house. The remainder of the book is divided between Rebecca's narration, and letters that Connor writes to her from jail. Rebecca's family of lawyers warn her that she is getting too close to Connor.

 

By the time this book wound to its end, I was hardly daring to breath. Paddy Richardson is obviously an author I should have tried before, if TRACES OF RED is any indication.

 

Review by Kerrie Smith, MYSTERIES IN PARADISE

About Paddy Richardson:

Paddy Richardson has written two collections of short stories, Choices and If I Were Lebanese, many of which have been broadcast on Radio New Zealand National. Her work has also been highly commended in the Katherine Mansfield and Sunday Star-Times awards. Her first novel, The Company of a Daughter, was written during her year as the Burns Fellow at Otago University, Dunedin, 1997. Penguin has published her second, third and fourth novels: A Year to Learn a Woman in 2008; Hunting Blind in 2010; Traces of Red in 2011.

Paddy Richardson lives in Dunedin, where she writes and teaches courses in creative writing.