3 October 2008

Review: SUCKED IN, Shane Maloney

Text Publishing, ISBN 978-1-921145-44-5, 2007, 276 Pages

At approximately the same time that two fishing friends discover a skull in the muddy bottom of Victoria's Lake Nillahcootie, Victorian politician Murray Whelan is attending the funeral of Australian Federal Member of Parliament Charlie Talbot. Charlie has died before his time. In fact he dropped dead at the age of 64 over breakfast in Murray's company in a Mildura hotel. Charlie's death means his Federal seat is up for grabs, and this is a trophy Murray would very much like.

The discovery that the skull found in Lake Nillahcootie appears to sport a bullet hole sparks a police investigation that rakes up old memories. Twenty years ago, a union official called Merv Cutlett disappeared, presumed drowned, from a boat on Lake Nillahcootie. One of his fishing companions was Charlie Talbot, the other a university lecturer. As the police begin to contact those who accompanied Merv to Lake Nillahcootie, Murray attempts to uncover the truth about Merv's disappearance himself.

SUCKED IN is one of those rare crime fiction novels that combines a murder mystery with an Australian sense of humour. Maloney achieves this through frequent use of authentic Australian idiom without detracting from the sense of an ongoing investigation. Murray Whelan's humour is dry, laconic, and always present. His first person narrative holds nothing back, whether he is talking about fellow Australian Labor Party officials, his relationship with his son, his description of the various farewells the death of Charlie Talbot occasions, his attempts to learn Greek, or his own sexual adventures. There is no mistaking the Australian setting of this novel, and I could almost hear the gravelly voice of Murray Whelan reading it into my ear.

SUCKED IN is #6 in Shane Maloney's Murray Whelan series. I haven't read them all but that didn't affect my enjoyment of this latest. #2, THE BRUSH-OFF, was the winner of the Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel in 1997, and SUCKED IN was shortlisted for the same award in 2008.

My rating: 4.7

Shane Maloney's website: http://www.shanemaloney.com/

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