17 April 2017


  • a detective's story in ten cases
  • published by Text Publishing 2012
  • ISBN 9781921922930
  • 283 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Publisher)

A brilliant Melbourne crime novel, told in ten hardboiled stories.John Dorn is a private investigator. Just like his father used to be. It says ‘private inquiry agent’ in John’s Yellow Pages ad because that’s what his old man called himself, back before his business folded, his wife left him and he drank himself to death. 

But John’s not going to end up like his father. He doesn’t have a wife, or much business. He doesn’t really drink, either. Not yet. 

In each of these ten delicious stories Zane Lovitt presents an intriguing investigation filled with humour and complex, beautifully observed characters. At their centre is John Dorn, solving not so much crimes as funny human puzzles; but the crimes, and the criminals, are forever lurking nearby, taunting him from the city’s cold underworld.

It’s his job to unravel the mystery, or right the wrong, or just do what the client has hired him to do. Somehow, though, there is a misstep at every turn, and John takes another small stumble towards his moment of personal truth. His midnight promise. Perhaps even his redemption.

My take

I remember some discussion when this book was first published about whether it is a novel, as the publisher claims, or a collection of short stories.

The setting is an underbelly of life in Melbourne. While the stories do appear to be in sequential order, the actual timing is not very clear. In addition there are characters and incidents that connect some of the stories. Sometimes John Dorn takes on some seriously unsavoury tasks, at other times he appears to be following a thread that he thinks will earn him some money. He is constantly in need of money. Many of the jobs he  carries out do not yield any income at all. Over the period covered by the stories John Dorn's own life goes into a downward spiral. Mostly the stories are very dark, with an underlying black humour.

So in a sense there is a underlying narrative through which we see Dorn's character fleshed out, the overall story progresses, and various issues are resolved. So does that make it a novel?

This is the second time I have read this novel. See my earlier review here
I suspect that I haven't warmed to the novel any more second time around than I did on first reading, although I recognise that it is cleverly constructed. Probably it just isn't my cup of tea.

My rating:  4.3

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin