A random act of kindness from a Whangarei couple brought 92-year-old Pearl Sanger close to tears after she received a personally signed book from her favourite crime writer, Lee Child.
The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, read in the Northern Advocate how Pearl's Tikipunga home had been broken into, her television stolen, along with $140 cash, and the home torched on July 15.
Pearl was unable to return home and her collection of treasured books, including volumes written by US-based author Lee Child, were damaged in the blaze.
Enter the kind couple with a link to the famous writer.
Yesterday the Northern Advocate was able to pass on the latest Lee Child book containing a hand-written message.
Propped up in a lounge chair at the Radius Rimu Park where she has been staying, she gently held the book before opening the cover.
"Oh I shall enjoy reading that," she said.
Turning the first few pages of the book Never Go Back she stopped then began to read aloud.
"Pearl, Jack Reacher wishes he'd been there to help. Much love, Lee Child."
Closing the cover and running her hand over it, in a show of emotion she exclaimed: "Oh that's lovely. I shall treasure that ... I'm overwhelmed really."
She was quick to tuck it under her arm for safe keeping and was determined to finish her current book before getting stuck into her latest Lee Child edition.
Jack Reacher is the central character in all of the British-born writer's 18 books.
He's a former major in the United States Army Military Police Corps turned drifter. Reacher always manages to find his way out of trouble and has a way with women.
The couple who arranged the presentation say they were touched by Pearl's story.
"I'm really stoked we can make a difference for her. She has had such a crap time of things," the husband said.
His relationship with the multi award-winning author goes back about 14 years when he reviewed Child's first novel Killing Floor.
As a new author, Child responded to the comments and so began their regular contact. When Child came to New Zealand to promote a book in 2000 he asked to meet the couple.
"He's such a decent, down-to-earth bloke," he said.
After hearing of Pearl's plight and her love of books he immediately sent an email to Child asking for a signed copy.
Without hesitation, the author sent a copy of his latest work which has not been released in New Zealand yet.
"It's just something we could do for Pearl to make her feel a bit better."
Police interviewed a 15-year-old on Tuesday in relation to the burglary and arson of Pearl's home. He was referred to the Police Youth Aid section and police said it was likely they would also be looking for a second youth.
Builders have estimated it will take six weeks to renovate Pearl's home so she can return.