Colonial New Zealand is vividly brought to life in Mike Burr's second novel, An End of Honour, in which people, real and imaginary, are brought together illuminating an important and turbulent period in this nation's history.
The main character, John Selby Hunter, an American Civil War veteran, is transplanted from the tensions of his own country to face similar frictions created by the interactions of Maori and Pakeha in the middle of the 19th century. In a remarkable journey, he will spend time with notable figures such as Titokowaru, the warrior priest, Von Tempsky, the soldier-artist, and Governor George Grey amongst many others.
The author is a lifetime historian and teacher of history (he taught at Rotorua Boys' High School for some time) and this experience, his rigorous academic mind and extensive research have combined to create a story that is informative, evocative and entertaining. Whether he is describing a piano concerto in Auckland's high society or the menacing whirr of an expertly wielded taiaha in hand to hand combat, Burr's characters, his settings and his plot-lines keep the reader gripped in a complex, dangerous and thought-provoking world.
It is not for the squeamish and, at times, heart-wrenchingly sad given the innocence of some of those who are on the receiving end of the war's violence.