1 September 2008

Review: BOMBPROOF, Michael Robotham

2008, Sphere, ISBN 978-0-7515-4204-2, 275 pages.

BOMBPROOF may not be available outside Australia for a few months, and it won't be on sale here for at least the rest of this year. It was commissioned from Michael Robotham as part of Australia's Books Alive promotion for which Robotham is the "ambassador". This is a unique literacy, get-back-to reading, promotion largely funded by the Australian Federal government.

In BOMBPROOF Robotham unashamedly aimed to write a crime fiction page-turner of broad appeal. It is a thriller with much less of the psychological "whydunnit" focus than his other books. He was commissioned to write a shorter book, and this comes in at 275 pages, although still apparently longer than the promoters expected.

It also features retired London DI Vincent Ruiz, a central figure in earlier books: in this one in the role of saviour and good Samaritan.

The gist of the story: Sami Macbeth has just finished a 3 year stretch for a crime he didn't commit. He was the victim of circumstances: a man found in the wrong place at the wrong time "in possession" of goods he shouldn't have had. His reputation precedes him to gaol, of skills as a safecracker (that he doesn't have), found in possession of stolen jewellery (that he didn't steal). It is a reputation that keeps him from harm in gaol. His last night in gaol is shared with the ne'er do well son of a self made man. All Sami wants to do when he gets out is to look for his sister and resume his life. Outside the gaol a carload of men he doesn't know are waiting to collect him and he evades them by pretending to be someone else.

Two things have kept Sami going in gaol - his sister and his correspondence with his girlfriend. When he can't find his sister, he finds sanctuary with his girl friend. Then his search for his sister leads to his involvement in a robbery of the evidence strong room of the Old Bailey, and eventually to the detonation of a bomb in the London underground. And now Sami Macbeth is a man on the run, again in the wrong place at the wrong time. What should have been a gentle resumption of life outside prison becomes a nightmare, and Sami needs help.

Vincent Ruiz has connections with the self-made man whose son was Sami's last cell mate. Ruiz's ex-wife Miranda is Sami Macbeth's parole officer. And so to a degree this story is also about degrees of separation and connection. In a small place like Adelaide, where I live, where everyone seems connected to everyone else, we say there are about 3 degrees of separation. It seems that in a large city like London the cobweb is just as connected. Ruiz becomes involved in Sami's plight partly because his ex-wife gives Sami his number, but also because of his connections with the self-made man, whom Ruiz hates and on whom he wants to wreak revenge.

BOMBPROOF really is a page turner. A slightly different Robotham shows his face, and this book will gain him readers, pulling them to his other books. BOMBPROOF won't hit the shelves in its own right for a few months at least, but yesterday I saw it on a second hand book stall, and there has already been one exchange of it on BookMooch. Thousands of free copies have been distributed in Australia.

Want to read the blurb? Go to Michael Robotham's site.

My rating: 4.6

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