The most dangerous people are those with the most to lose. It is 1887. The young colony of New Zealand is in the grip of a deep depression. Insolvent speculators conspire with corrupt politicians while Maori land slips from the hands of its owners.
Into this landscape of barely suppressed conflict steps a young Anglo-French-Maori soprano, visiting New Zealand for the first time. Frederique Bonnell - known to her family as Riki - meets another performer, the italian tenor Francesco Bartellin. Unofficially, Bartellin has been persuaded to spy on lawyer Thomas Russell and his powerful associates, whose tentacles penetrate the political establishment. Riki is pitched into this treacherous underworld when she witnesses the attempted murder of Kaituhi, a young Maori man apprehended in Russell's shipboard cabin.
Kaituhi and Riki are thrown overboard yet manage to save each other's lives. Their plans to expose Russell are complicated by a growing attraction between Riki and Bartellin. There are three murders as a noose of suspicion closes around them. A breathless pursuit through the wilderness leads to further attempts on Riki's life and an unexpected intervention by Signor Bartellin.
Mingling timeless themes of misunderstanding and betrayal, A History of Crime interweaves real and fictional crimes in 19th century New Zealand. It explores the seamy side of Victorian society, with echoes that resonate into the present day.