NEW ZEALAND MYSTERIES, by Robyn Gosset; Bush Press, 1996; 208 pages; $29.95

There are a great many books on mysteries of the breathless “believe it or not” variety — this is not one of them. Gosset takes a sensible, considered view of the surprisingly varied stories that have become a part of our national folklore over the years, from the Lake Tarawera phantom canoe to the Bealey moa sighting of a few years ago.

Along the way, she is not averse to discussing the equally varied hoaxes and mistakes that have often accompanied such stories, a useful and often-avoided aspect of the mystery “trade”. Gosset does not come down on either side of the truly mysterious, preferring instead to present what is (and, in some cases, is not) known about the events, leaving it up to the reader to decide. Her careful approach and generally thorough research means this does not feel like fence-sitting.

It’s been 25 years since the first edition and, with the ever-increasing number of badly researched mystery documentaries and articles available, this book provides a refreshingly solid look at some of the things which have contributed to our cultural mythology.

This review was first published in the New Zealand Science Monthly.

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