Dark Edges by Catherine Lee

‘Jimmy Dallas was good at following instructions.’

Jimmy Dallas, an Australian Rugby League football player, is found dead from an apparent drug overdose.  The needle is still in his arm.  Is it an accidental overdose, murder or suicide?  Detective Sergeant Charlie Cooper and his partner Detective Senior Constable Joe Quinn are called in to investigate. Jimmy Dallas was the fullback for the Sydney Rangers team, a star performer in their last match, a win which guaranteed them a place in the finals. No one close to Jimmy thinks he’d use heroin, but everything points to a self-administered overdose.  Jimmy’s best friend is fellow Rangers player Joel Maquire.  Joel is devastated by Jimmy’s death.   Joel’s brother Nate is the team captain.  Can the Maguire brothers shed any light on events?

As part of their investigation, Cooper and Quinn look at drug use within the Rangers Club. The officials try to assure them that all is fair and above board.  ASADA has no adverse results from testing team members, and the team sports scientist Dean Rycroft assures them that the only supplements given to players are vitamins.  But Cooper and Quinn are not convinced, and when they find a connection between the heroin used by Jimmy and that supplied by the Chiefs outlaw motorcycle gang, things start to get complicated.

‘He had a bad feeling about this case.’

This is the fifth novel in Ms Lee’s Dark Series, and it is every bit as gripping as the first four. There are some interesting developments in Charlie Cooper’s personal life which add to the tension as Cooper and Quinn try to work out what happened to Jimmy Dallas.  There’s also some friction between different police officers involved in the case.  And the ending?  There are aspects that I didn’t anticipate, disquieting aspects that have served to keep aspects of this novel in my mind.

Note: my thanks to Ms Lee for providing me with a free advance reading copy of this novel for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2017

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In Sunshine or in Shadow by Martin Flanagan

A few days ago I read ‘A Crying in the Wind’, a novel set in Tasmania written by Elizabeth Fleetwood.  I started thinking about other books I have read in which Tasmania features, and was reminded of Martin Flanagan’s memoir ‘In Sunshine or in Shadow’, which I read back in 2015.  Here’s my review of that book.  And yes, I am still homesick for the island I’ve not lived on for over 40 years.
‘All my conscious life, I’ve been looking for those who were here before me.’

Tasmania has a long history.  While the European component is comparatively short, it is full of paradox and puzzle.  While this is Martin Flanagan’s memoir of his relationship with Tasmania, I can relate to a lot of it.  For much of the nineteenth and twentieth century, there were frequently gaps in personal histories, silences about ancestry and revisions of events.  How could so few of us have convict ancestry?  Was it true, as so many of us were taught during the 1960s and earlier, that there were no remaining indigenous Tasmanians?  Why did so many – who had never even seen England – refer to it as home?

Martin Flanagan is the fourth of six children, a Tasmanian of Irish descent.  His father was a teacher in rural Tasmania: in Longford in the northern midlands, and then at Rosebery, a mining town in Tasmania’s west.  These are very different parts of Tasmania, with very different stories.  Or are they?

‘Walking to school one morning behind the silent figure of my father, surrounded by dark mountains of thought, I first experienced the sense of absence that would mark me as surely as any belief in God. Years later, when I read towards the end of her life Truganini was accompanied by a feeling she called ‘big lonely one’, I wondered if the two absences, hers and mine, were somehow related.’

As Martin Flanagan explores his own family history, the history of European settlement in Tasmania and the impacts of that settlement on native species and on Indigenous Tasmanians, it becomes clear that this sense of absence is central.  Where is the truth about the Irish convicts, about Truganini ‘the so-called Last of Her Race’, about the thylacine (the Tasmanian tiger)?  A world and a history has been constructed where silence marks past existence with echoes (at least) in the present.

This is a book which combines biography and history, memoir, opinion and political issues in an exploration of the past and what going home means to Martin Flanagan.  And for others?  If you know nothing about Tasmania, this book will invite you to explore and consider Tasmania’s history.  For me, as an expatriate Tasmanian, it increased my longing to return, to learn more about my own family and about those we displaced.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

The Burden of Lies by Richard Beasley

I really love it when I find a new (to me) Australian author.  This is the second novel in Richard Beasley’s Peter Tanner series, and I’ve now bought the first.  My only problem now is finding the time to read it.

‘I’m looking for all the truth I can get.  When I have the pieces, I’ll start on the puzzle.’

Sydney defence lawyer Peter Tanner has been hired to represent Tina Leonard, a self-made property mogul, charged with arranging the murder of Oliver Randall.  Oliver Randall, a senior banking executive, had just been released from prison where he had spent more than five years because of a drug conviction.  It’s clear who murdered him, but was the murder really arranged by Tina Leonard?

Peter Tanner has some problems of his own to deal with, but he immerses himself in Tina’s case.  It’s easy to establish a motive for Oliver Randall’s murder: the bank he worked for had called in loans made to Tina’s company which caused her to lose the business.  Tina lost her home as well as her marriage, and the children are with her ex-husband.

So, did Tina pay for Oliver Randall to be killed, or is she being set up?  What is the truth behind the business venture which collapsed when the bank called in Tina’s loan?  Why did the bank sell the development so cheaply?  And, if Tina isn’t guilty, then who else might be?

The more Peter Tanner looks, the more questions he has.  Welcome to a world of opportunism and sleaze: questionable property deals, crooked police, corrupt corporate bankers, powerful business people and drug dealers.  A world in which some are prepared to do anything at all to avoid the spotlight. Including threats against Peter and his family.

And the truth?  Is Tina Leonard innocent?

I enjoyed this novel.  While Peter Tanner’s methods are not always orthodox, they are certainly interesting and kept me turning the pages.  While the story held my attention, it was Peter Tanner that has me intrigued.  I’ve bought a copy of the first novel in the series (‘Cyanide Games’) to find out more about him.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster (Australia) for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith