11 May 2010

Review: SMOKE & MIRRORS, Kel Robertson

Pan Macmillan Australia 2010, 326 pages
first published by Ginninderra Press 2008
ISBN 978-0-330-42619-0
Joint winner Ned Kelly Award winner 2009
#2 in the Brad Chen series.

Why would anyone want to murder an aging Australian ex-politician and his editor? And where was the manuscript they had been working on?

Alec Dennett had been a minister in the Whitlam government in the 1970s, and his autobiography had promised to reveal secrets that some people would rather see remain hidden. But surely no one would think they were important enough to kill for?

Detective Inspector Brad Chen of the Australian Federal Police has been on compassionate leave, hiding away at the university in Canberra doing a doctorate in politics. But its time to return to work, and really this sort of investigation, laced with political overtones, is just his sort of work. And there's definitely somebody who doesn't want the truth to come out. Before the end of the first day he has been beaten and threatened, so he's obviously on the right track.

This political crime fiction won't be everybody's cup of tea. It isn't that you need to know much about the Whitlam era, Robertson fills you in on all the details, but there's more to the story than just a whodunnit, so an interest in politics helps. I suspect too the fact that it is Australian politics we are focussed on will also limit its audience appeal.
The blurb on the back of the novel refers to intricate plotting, witty dialogue and eccentric character, and it is right on all three counts.

Sites that might interest:
Kel Roberton's web site
Sunnie's review
Wikipedia: Australia's 1975 constitutional crisis: the Whitlam dismissal

I liked SMOKE & MIRRORS a little more than I did #1 in the series DEAD SET (see below).
I don't think you have to worry about reading DEAD SET before SMOKE & MIRRORS although perhaps it might help to read them in quick succession, rather than 3 years apart like I have.

My rating: 4.3

Mini-review of DEAD SET, #1 in the Brad Chen series,  published in 2006. My rating 4.0
The Hon. Tracey Dale, Australia's Minister for Immigration (ALP) has been murdered in her Canberra apartment. She was the author of Australia's current immigration policy: the Compassionate Australia Program, which has recently resulted in significant increase in Australia's refugee intake. Some believe her death is the work of terrorists, or at the very least racists. Federal Australian Police Detective Inspector Brad Chen is returning from sick leave of 3 months, and this is his first case back. Some would see him as a man with many handicaps: still on crutches after being knocked down by a car,  an Australian-Chinese with Chinese appearance but unmistakeable Australian accent, addicted to pain killers of the worst sort, and named after a cricketer. DEAD SET is almost a political thriller as much as a murder mystery. Set in Canberra and Melbourne. As Chen's investigation proceeds, the list of suspects grows, and others die. Tracey Dale ignored a time bomb, something that spelled political ruin for her. A debut novel for Kel Robertson.


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - This one really does sound interesting; of course, politics interests me. I may just have to try this one...

Bernadette said...

Yes but I have OCD - can't start such a short series at #2. But you have made me take Dead Set out of the TBR shelves and put on the much smaller TBRRN (To Be Read Right Now) pile


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