Alternative history delivers

13:03, Jan 23 2012
The Spanish Helmet
The Spanish Helmet by Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet by Greg Scowen (available from Whare Rama Books or Greg Scowen's website)

New Zealand author Greg Scowen has come up with an interesting concept for his conspiracy thriller The Spanish Helmet: what if the officially accepted history of New Zealand is wrong?

A mysterious Spanish helmet sitting in our national museum, a large pohutukawa tree in La Coruna, Spain, and a 16th-century Spanish expedition are the basis of a conspiracy thriller and an alternative history of New Zealand.

Dr Matthew Cameron comes to New Zealand to investigate an archaeological discovery: findings that point to a New Zealand history where the Spanish were here before the Dutch and the Celts made it here before the Maori.

Dr Cameron follows a trail of clues scattered throughout the country and is thrust into something of a treasure hunt that challenges our country's history. Five centuries earlier, Francisco de Hoces was lost in the Pacific Ocean and ended up shipwrecked in New Zealand. The story of modern-day Dr Cameron is interspersed with that of Captain de Hoces.

This book is written to appeal to an international audience, so at times it can read a little like a travelogue but despite that, it's still quite an interesting read.

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While I'm always a fan of thrillers, I am not always so enamoured of the conspiracy thriller genre but this one is quite readable.

There are plenty of twists and turns and it will certainly get you thinking. At times the dialogue felt a little one-dimensional but this is a debut novel and it felt easier and more natural by the end of the book.

Author Greg Scowen lives in Switzerland with his family, where he works as a web developer for Switzerland's largest library, the ETH-Bibliothek. He also has a Southland connection, having lived in Otatara and Otapiri Gorge in the past.

Southland