7 March 2014

Review: DRIVE BY, Michael Duffy

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 657 KB
  • Print Length: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (July 24, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E4A839M
Synopsis (Amazon)

'If The Godfather was set in Sydney today, it would be about the Lebs. But brothers, lots of brothers. Fathers don't matter anymore.' Detective Inspector Brian Harris

John Habib is the mechanic son of a Muslim Lebanese-Australian crime family in Sydney's Western suburbs. His oldest brother is in a maximum security prison, his middle brother is becoming increasingly fundamentalist, and his younger brother Rafi is on trial for a murder he swears he didn't commit. John has no reason to disbelieve Rafi but there are things going on in the family that he just doesn't understand. Why has his brother taken control of the family away from their father? Are the police really trying to set up Rafi? And what is the compelling evidence they say will put him away? John sets out to prove Rafi's innocence in the face of his predatory older brothers and some Lebanese-hating cops.

Bec Ralston is a good detective who doesn't know why she's been ordered to attend Rafi's trial. She was previously thrown off the investigation for voicing the opinion that Rafi might be innocent. As the court case goes badly wrong, she finds herself torn between her loyalty to the senior police she respects and the truth.

My Take

To be honest, this was not an easy read for me. It is a little outside the fringes of the genre that I usually read, and felt alarmingly close to the style of true crime, which is not surprising considering the author's background (see the note about the author below).

I struggled first of all with the three time frames that the action bounced between. The more I read though, the better this got, and I was more easily able to identify the time frame and location. The narrative voice was a little easier to handle, although there are mainly three narrators: Bec Ralston, the part Aboriginal detective constable; John (Jabber) Habib who seems to be the only "honest" person in the Habib family; and Karen Mabey the Crown Prosecutor.

I did struggle with back story and with trying to piece together what had preceded Rafiq Habib's trial. Working out why Bec Ralston has been attached to this trial after initially being removed from the investigative team was another challenge. And then about three quarters of the way through, a bombshell drops which challenges all you think you have learnt to that point. Looking back on the novel now though, it seems that almost nothing can be taken at face value, and almost nobody is what they purport to be. And the problem is that almost everybody takes on the role of unreliable narrator. The problem is compounded by the huge amount of detailed information that the reader must try to absorb.

But I am mindful that if you are a reader of true crime or enjoy Australian noir crime fiction, then you will probably like DRIVE BY.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Michael Duffy is a former court and crime reporter for several newspapers in Sydney Australia whose work led to the true crime books Call Me Cruel and Bad, the story behind the television series Underbelly: Badness.
He now writes crime novels, the first two being THE TOWER and THE SIMPLE DEATH. Drawing on his work as a journalist and radio presenter, his novels embrace contemporary themes such as globalisation and voluntary euthanasia.
DRIVE BY, about the war on drugs, was published in 2013. It introduced part-Aboriginal detective Bec Ralston.

See also the author's website.

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - It does sound like an interesting perspective on this community in Australia. Still, not sure it's my sort of crime fiction. May try it though - thanks.

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