The Devil's Half-Acre

The story takes place during the Otago goldrush, when Dunedin was a boomtown, and when the powerhouse of New Zealand lay south of the Waitaki River rather than north of the Bombay Hills.

The narrative follows a pair of street con-artists from the slum known as the Devil’s Half-Acre. Commissioned to work for a powerful stranger, they are lead from familiar surroundings into the upper echelons of jockeying provincial powers. They are tasked with putting their underhand skills to the pursuit of undisclosed goals – an increasingly dangerous series of jobs that makes them question their morality, and understanding of the world. As they find themselves turning against one another, and as their sleight of hand comes up against what seems like real magic, they must uncover the true identity of their employer.

Their journey plays out against a backdrop of political manoeuvring in the new colony, and we follow the build up to a vote on South Island independence, as championed by Julius Vogel – newspaper editor, future prime minister and author of New Zealand’s first science fiction novel.

The Devil’s Half-Acre is a landscape of brothels, gaming houses and opium dens; a melting pot of immigrants from all over the world – prostitutes, prospectors, beggars, and con-men; ministers and ranters; newly rich and newly broke; gold barons, gangsters and perhaps even the devil himself...