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Friday, May 02, 2014

The Old School by P.M Newton. Camberwell: Penguin, 2011

The year: 1992. The historic ICAC investigation into police corruption is in full swing. The place: Sydney, Australia, Bankstown police station. Nhu, "Ned" Kelly, a young half-Vietnamese police detective, is tracking the murderer of two women, one an Aboriginal activist, one an Asian woman, whose bodies have recently been found in an excavation for a new car park. But there's more to it than this - a lot more. Ned's own parents were murdered when she was a small child, the case still unsolved - and her father was a partner in the construction firm that originally put up the building which was torn down for the car park. He was also a career soldier in Vietnam before returning to Australia with his Vietnamese wife, Ned's mother - and things happened there which are best not dug up...

I am not generally a great fan of police procedurals(apart from Dalziel and Pascoe),  mostly preferring "cosies" and historical crime fiction. In some ways, this is historical crime fiction, with references to things happening in Sydney at the time, with Paul Keating as Prime Minister and the end of the Vietnam War less than twenty years in the past. It couldn't have happened in the present. 

Anyway, as a Sister In Crime, I couldn't resist asking for a review copy of this book by an Australian woman writer who was herself a police detective and knows what she's talking about, when one was offered and I am glad I did. The book is exciting and fast-moving, but doesn't neglect the human element, with Ned and her sister afraid of what they might discover about their father's past. Family plays a substantial part in the novel and not only Ned's family. 

The history is fascinating, whether or not you can remember the 90s - and ICAC is in the news again. Sydney is almost a character in its own right, as a city should be.

I hear that a sequel has come out recently, which might just be worth following up.

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