Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 25, 2010

The Death of Bunny Munro (2009), by Nick Cave, Guest Review by Helen Rutten

 Here’s another review of crime fiction by ANZ LitLovers Guest Blogger Helen Rutten.  Again it’s an outstanding book – The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave has been shortlisted for the 2010 ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year and longlisted in the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Here’s Helen’s review – we’ve had to be a bit coy about some of the allusions to Bunny’s behaviour because Cave’s style is explicit and ANZ LitLovers has a family-friendly ‘house style’:

This seems to be my month for meeting and reading a group of fictional anti-heroes. First cab/or book off the rank was Garry Disher’s Wyatt, the unloveable villain you can’t help loving. Now Wyatt did have a conscience of sorts. Admittedly, it was difficult to find it at times but rest assured, he was nice to ladies.

Next on the list came Henning Mankell’s Frederick Welin who had to search deep and hard to find out if he had a conscience. He wasn’t so nice to ladies although he did try, far too late in the picture, to change his attitude.

And, then, along came Bunny Munro. Bunny, with his uber-ego, is about as nasty an anti-hero as you could wish for. Bunny loves women, doesn’t he?   Well, no.   What this character loves is sex.   With or without women.   Bunny is not fussy.   After all,  he is  a well and truly  ‘do it yourself’ kind of guy.

He feels that somewhere down the line he has made a grave mistake, but this realisation passes in a dreadful heartbeat, and is gone – leaving him in a room at the Grenville Hotel, in his underwear, with nothing but his appetites. He closes his eyes and pictures a random v – , then sits on the edge of the hotel bed, and. In slow motion. Leans back against the quilted headboard.(p.3)

You don’t need me to tell you to guess where Bunny is going.   Or, to put it another way, Where Nick Cave is taking his protagonist!   Straight to the gutter. When Bunny thinks of random female ‘bits-and-pieces’, they invariably belong to Kylie Minogue or Avril Lavigne.  Especially to Avril Lavigne.   Bunny is one of those gifted men who can picture female ‘bits-and-pieces’ in everyday things. He also has the fastest recovery rate of any man alive!

Bunny Munro is a salesman and what he sells is a dream – beauty in a bottle – bottles of lotion, face cleansers and hand cream. And, of course, himself.

After his wife dies, Bunny decided to hit the road with his beauty products, his ‘enthusiasm’ and his nine-year-old son Bunny Junior.

While Bunny Junior sits in the yellow Fiat Pinto reading his encyclopedia, Bunny services his customers and drifts from one disaster to another.   Cracks are beginning to show in Bunny’s insouciance and sex-filled world.

He miscalculates his charms with Charlotte who breaks his nose for him. He misreads the situation with Georgia only to have her boyfriend come after him with a baseball bat.   Bunny sadly overestimates his attractions.   His smoking, cocaine snorting and carnal appetites are finally catching up with him.

But, and this is a large but, none of it is his fault. All the world is against Bunny – at least, all the male section of the world who ban him from McDonald’s and KFC for eyeing up, and feeling up, the little waitresses in the ladies loos. Not to forget his mother-in-law who refuses to look after Bunny Junior because he reminds her of Bunny. And when we meet Bunny Senior, Bunny’s father, we get a solid glimpse of why Bunny is the way he is and a certain inevitability that little Bunny Junior will follow in the footsteps of father and grandfather.

Nick Cave has created a set of characters who will linger with you long after you close this book and put it back on the shelf.   His constant references to Kylie Minogue made me wonder if Cave was, given their previous relationship, ‘having a stab at Kylie’ but he redeems himself with ‘I would also like to thank Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavigne with love, respect and apologies‘. I don’t know if this apology justifies his using both ladies as some poor guy’s sexual fantasies.   I can only assume the ladies in question answered that question for themselves.

Although the subject matter of this book, with its constant references to female anatomy and sex took this lady a little while to like, there is a much deeper subject beneath it all. That is, death, the death of a wife and a how a man who knows deep down he has done the wrong thing comes to terms with it. There is also a deep sadness in that Bunny seems to be a man who, for all his blustering uber ego, is actually a man with little self-confidence. It is,  in many respects, all an act.

And then, just when you think you have captured the essence of this book, you begin to wonder just what you are reading. Is Bunny all that he seems? Or is it all a fantasy?

© Helen Rutten

Thanks, Helen!

PS And as promised (see comments below) here’s another review of the same book at His Futile Preoccupations.

Author: Nick Cave
Title: The Death of Bunny Munro
Publisher: Text Publishing, 2010
ISBN: 9781921656781
Source: Review copy courtesy of Text Publishing.

PS 6.12.10 I have just discovered Crime Watch, a blog devoted to New Zealand authors of  Kiwi Crime.  It’s worth a visit if you are a fan of this genre.

 Update 11.1.11

This guest-blog is now cross-posted at Helen from Oz because Helen now has her own blog too!


  1. Thanks, I have this one on my shelf and it’s one of the many I haven’t got to yet. This sounds like the sort of book I’d love.


  2. A very amusing review – your subtlety is admirable – and was no doubt rather difficult to achieve. I’ve seen this book in the shops and assumed it was by the rock singer Nick Cave and so passed over it (although many reviewers suggest that Keith Richards’ book is well worth reading). Despite your excellent review, I’m probably not going to read this one!


    • AH, there you are ahead of me Tom…I’ve never heard of a rock singer called Nick Cave. I stopped paying any attention to rock music in the 1980s!


  3. Likewise me. Nick Cave lives in the next town to me though – he’s apparently quite a big deal, at least in the UK


    • Well, I bet celebs like him probably really like people like us because we don’t recognise who they are – and give them a bit of peace!


  4. Nick Cave was huge in the 70s and the 80s: The Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds.


    • Are these songs/albums or books, WHH?


  5. Nick Cave is a remarkable song-writer and performer and I think he has had a couple of novels under his belt before this one. He has done some acting and I believe he has written a number of scripts, one based on the Matt Bondurant novel “The Wettest County in the World”.
    In the 2005 “Leonard Cohen: I’m your man” ensemble homage, Nick tells the interviewer something of the difficulty of a young man so different to most of his contemporaries growing up in country Victoria and the positive effect that Cohen’s lyrics had on him then.
    I guess I’ve never really thought of him as a rock star, more a deep thinker and an honest performer. But there you go; I guess he is a rock star, after all.
    Interesting review. Thanks.


    • Hi Karen – thanks for setting me straight:)
      How’s the book coming along?


  6. Oh thanks for asking Lisa. Release to trade is end of Feb but I am expecting advance copies by mid January for pre-launch celebration in Hobart on January 27th. Getting nervous and excited.


  7. […] For another take on the novel, see Lisa’s blog. […]


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