Paul Thomas's Death on Demand is a perfectly paced thriller, full of gangsters and gigolos and people with secrets to hide. Maori detective Tito Ihaka--"unkempt, overweight, intemperate, unruly, unorthodox and profane"--has been in disgrace for the last five years. His refusal to give up on a hit-and-run case, and his hassling of the victim's husband, Christopher Lilywhite, led to his exile from Auckland to the boonies of New Zealand.
Now Lilywhite is dying of cancer, and he wants to talk to Ihaka. Lilywhite confesses he hired a hitman to kill his wife. The only catch? The hitman approached him, and Lilywhite has no idea who he was. He gives Ihaka a list of potential suspects, including several bigwigs in New Zealand business and government.
Ihaka's about to go back to the country, leaving Lilywhite's case to a former colleague, when two bodies turn up--a man and a woman, each brutally beaten, each wearing only underwear. The overworked Auckland detectives are forced to accept Ihaka's help as the bodies keep piling up. Ihaka discovers a lot can change in five years: some of his former enemies are now suspiciously helpful, and some of his former pals now seem to have agendas of their own.
Thomas brings the New Zealand underworld vividly to life, and has created an irreverent, sympathetic protagonist in Ihaka. The detective's stubborn tenacity makes the reader root for him to put the pieces together and solve the case, before even more people die. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm