Winner of the 2021 Michael Gifkins Prize.
Masterton isn’t a big town. The community’s tight, if not always harmonious. So when a child goes missing it’s a big deal for everyone. And when a second kid disappears, the whole town’s holding their own children that little bit tighter.
Lorraine doesn’t have kids, but she has a nephew. She’s holding him a bit tighter, too, because she works for the police, and she knows they don’t have any idea.
Lo’s not a cop, she’s a records clerk. She sits out back among the piles of paper, making connections, remembering things. Working things out that the actual cops don’t want to hear about.
Until the new investigator, Hayes, arrives from Wellington, and realises Lo’s the only person there with answers to any of his questions. Which is just as well—because the clock is running down for the children of the town.
Both a nail-biting thriller and a beautifully written, acutely observed portrait of a community, Paper Cage is the prize-winning debut from young New Zealand novelist Tom Baragwanath.
Tom Baragwanath is a writer originally from Masterton, New Zealand, currently living in Paris. His short fiction has been widely published. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at Kent University in 2020.
Baragwanath's deliciously tense debut paints an evocative portrait of a New Zealand community at risk. Lorraine Henry's quiet clerk job at the Masterton police station gets complicated when two Maori children from the economically depressed small town are kidnapped in quick succession. A short time later, Lorraine's own great-nephew, Bradley—the son of her half-Maori niece, Sheena—goes missing. Though investigators tap Lorraine for insights into the Maori community, they're put off by her sense of urgency. So, she sets out to find the kids on her own, utilizing her law enforcement ties and familiarity with Maori language to track them down. Baragwanath powerfully highlights the racist treatment of New Zealand's Indigenous people without sacrificing pace or intrigue, and the complicated bonds between Lorraine and the rest of her family add weight and dimension to the narrative. In weaving together a lived-in portrait of small-town New Zealand with a truly crackling mystery, Baragwanath proves himself a writer to watch.