Saturday, December 31, 2011


LETHAL REFUGE, my paperback just out from The Wild Rose Press
I was born in New Zealand and spent most of my life there, although our family now lives in Australia. The two main differences between Australia and New Zealand are the weather (warmer over most of Australia if you discount Tasmania which is very blue/green like New Zealand because it’s wet and often cold), and the fact that NZ has 4 million people and B-I-G Australia has 21 million residents. Yup. Australia is vast. It is the sixth largest country in the world and has a whole continent to itself. It’s not the sort of place where you get in your car and zip over to Auntie Flo’s. If you hear an Australian say, "It’s just down the road," you know they lie. Sure, it’s just down the road, but the road is a 2,000 kilometer dust-encrusted two-lane bitumen highway straddling two states, millions of curious kangaroos, hundreds of racing emus trying to beat your car, some wild camels, a million gumtrees, several townships and a couple of rivers if you’re lucky. Nor is it the place to get lost in the bush, since much of the bushland looks the same. You can go around in circles forever.

When they say, "It’s just down the road" in New Zealand, they mean it’s down a one-lane bitumen highway that goes for ten kilometers then switches to a gravel road that finishes at Jessop’s farm with 1,000 sheep dotting the peaceful hillsides. And at the back of that farm is bushland, tight, green and impenetrable. In the winter it drips with damp and in the summer the cacophony of cicadas screams in your ears.

But I digress. They say ‘write what you know’ and because I know more about the NZ Police than I do the Australian system, I based LETHAL REFUGE on the NZ system. But I took liberties with the truth. Of course I did. It’s fiction, for heaven’s sake. But think of the British Police and you’ve got a handle on the NZ Police Service which was originally based on the British system.

In LETHAL REFUGE, Célie Francis, a prickly young woman, self-reliant to the point of being irritating, witnesses the aftermath of a murder and is stalked by the murderer. When she is placed in the witness protection program, she can no longer be self-sufficient. She is at the mercy of a bunch of people who want to help her, for God’s sake. And then there’s Brand Turner, the police psychologist with a vulnerable intellect as high as the sky who has an annoying habit of demanding trust from the relocatees. When the murderer seems to track their every move, Célie finally realizes she can’t do stuff on her own any more.

Here’s a link to my Amazon page where you can find it:


Sydney Bristow clashes with Atticus Finch Downunder. Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. "I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live." And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.
I have attached two pictures to show just how impenetrable the New Zealand bushland can be. The house is Brand’s next door neighbor’s place. Steve and his wife don’t miss much and Brand’s low profile gets shot to hell by Célie’s behavior. The other picture shows the type of area that Célie stumbled around in, right on nightfall. Creepy, huh?
If you have any more questions or would just like to say hi, email me on
In the meantime, have a great day!


  1. Sounds intriguing Vonnie. Great premise! I love those prickly heroines. lol Nice (read "eerie") photos!

  2. Hello Vonnie. What a unique setting for your new suspense and what an interesting sounding story! I like it. Congrats.

  3. I learned more about the difference between Australia and New Zealand than I've ever read and I never knew any of the facts you shared about New Zealand. I've always been intrigued by both countries because although they're modern, the land appears rugged and difficult. And now I see that NZ is full of greenery. I thought both countries were too hot to visit. Now I've changed my mind. Your photos are gorgeous and make me want to read your novel because I'm hooked on story venues.
    Thank you.

  4. Hi Vonnie

    I'm off to NZ at the end of this month and while there not only got a commissioned article but also intending to do research for a book based on my first family settlers - dairy farmers - who were based in the Wairarapa. Enjoying the research so far and have a really well researched family records book to base all my research on. Sheila J

  5. One of my earliest memories is being lost in the bush...and yes it's just as creepy as Vonnie's photos. What Vonnie's photos don't tell you is all the rest about the bush. There's the smell, a peculiar sharp smell that hits the back of the nostrils in acidic bursts...a smell even as small children we learned to associate with feral pigs.
    We don't have as many wild animals as some countries but believe me feral pigs are something else again. And at dusk there are the moreporks...a small owl so named because it calls out more..pork...they are so creepy and they fly so close...and when i was lost a morepork's wing brushed against my face and then out of nowhere came the bats...and one landed on my arm. My father said my screams led the searchers to me. I'm in a cold sweat writing this...so the NZ bush at dusk is a place I avoid...my one experience has lasted me a lifetime.
    In the back country of the Wairarapa and the Gisborne-Opotiki areas cattle have gone feral and there are now firms running hunting safaris hunting these wild bulls. I certainly wouldn't want to run into one of these huge monsters in the dark in the bush.
    The other big difference between Australia and New Zealand is that of distance. You can drive 4 days in Aussie and cover perhaps and inch of their map....four days in New Zealand will take you from North Cape to Bluff...and no there is no bridge between the two countries...another popular misconception. New Zealand has some of the most spectacular scenery on earth and being such a small country everything is so compact. You can travel from mountain to lake to the sea within hours.

  6. I enjoyed reading your back-story blurb. Sounds like your new novel gives us murder, mayhem and mystery, with a generous dollop of sexual tension to spice up the action---just the way I like it.

  7. Your blurb has me salivating for the book, Vonnie and great pics. I read Shirley's comment about being lost in NZ bush...I was lost in Australian bush - scrubby, gum-treed and dry. Not alone, though, my 7 year old son was with me and every rustling sound was a snake or a goanna and we wandered for hours, stamping our feet to scare the snakes. We kept crossing the same stream and realised we were going around in circles. Finally I gave up being the strong, adult, sat down in the dirt and burst into tears..my son pulled me up from the ground and led us out in about half an hour. Moral of the story....always take a kid with you into the bush!!

    Jo Duncan

  8. I'll look out for your book, Vonnie. Like Shirley, my husband and I got lost in the bush. We strayed from a path by accident as we missed the markers. We thought how easy it would be to find our way back but it wasn't. Pretty scary. Our dogs discovered the way out. New Zealand is a lovely place to live in and I look forward to reading your book.

    Ginny Suckling

  9. Nothing better than settling down and reading a thriller book with the drama, suspense, intrigue and of most importantly ROMANCE.
    Just to add some more spice to this fascinating story is having it based and setting in New Zealand..............ROB

    1. Thanks Rob. The opening sequence actually happened to me early one morning when I was out jogging in the fog. Not the discovery of a body though. I found a little drug haul. Not much. Nothing to get excited about, but it gave me the idea for the book.

  10. I think we should just annex New Zealand as extra Australian states. That way we could really "own" Sam Neill, Russell Crowe and the rest, not to mention the Haka. Most of them live in Bondi already. :)
    Love your bush photo. Love New Zealand - the adventure capital of the world.