21 January 2011

Review: PRIME CUT, Alan Carter

Publisher: Fremantle Press, 2011
Awards:  Shortlisted, Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, 2010 (as Chinese Whispers)
ISBN13: 9781921696503
HB/PB: Paperback
Pages: 320
Source: e-copy of the (Proof Read version) on my Kindle, supplied by the publisher for review purposes.
Sample Chapter: PRIME CUT extract.pdf
Book Club Notes:  View Book Club Notes
Publication date: February 2011
Publisher's blurb

Meet Cato Kwong — disgraced cop and ex-poster boy for the police force. Banished to the stock squad after the fallout from a police frame-up, Cato is brought in from the cold to solve the case of a torso washed up on the wild shores of the Great Southern Ocean. But Cato faces powerful opposition when his investigation lifts the lid on the exploitation of migrant workers and disturbs an even darker criminal mind.

My take:
This really is a remarkable novel. Two main stories are told in tandem. The first begins in the Prologue with the murder of a woman and her son in Sunderland, England in 1973, the day of the FA Cup. What Detective Sergeant Stuart Miller sees at the scene of the crime will stay with him for the rest of his working life and in fact contributes to him emigrating to Busselton in Western Australia. 35 years later he still has nightmares.

The second story begins in Western Australia in October 2008. Detective Senior Constable Cato Kwong and Detective Sergeant Jim Buckley are part of Western Australia's Stock Squad and are also at a crime scene. In Cato's view they are "washed-up has-beens recycled as detectives.... The Laughing Stock Squad." And then they are called to a murder scene, at HopeToun: a headless torso in the shallows on the beach. The local policewoman is Senior Sergeant Tess Maguire, recovering from sick leave after being beaten up. HopeToun is a laid-back holiday or retirement spot for wheatbelt farmers, not a place where you expect murders to happen. In recent times though HopeToun has become a mining town.

What makes this novel remarkable is the way the author forwards these plot strands in tandem. It took a bit of getting used to at first. There is little to tell the reader that you've changed from one plot to another, just a change of characters. Often, but not always, the plots are basically at the same point, like the interviewing of a suspect.

But there's much more than that to keep the reader involved. There are prior links between some of the characters which are gradually teased out for us. There are genuine murder mysteries with lots of attendant red herrings. There's a good feel for the climate in Western Australia, both physical and economic. And there is some excellent characterisation.

My rating: 4.7

I'm already looking forward to Alan Carter's second novel - I hope there is one!

PRIME CUT will be available from Fremantle Press

About the author:
Alan Carter was born in Sunderland, UK, in 1959. He holds a degree in Communications Studies from Sunderland Polytechnic and immigrated to Australia in 1991. Alan lives in Fremantle with his wife Kath and son Liam. He works as a television documentary director. In his spare time he follows a black line up and down the Fremantle pool. Prime Cut is Alan Carter’s first novel. He wrote it while he was living in Hopetoun as a kept man.

2011 Challenges:


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Sounds like a terrific read! I am not happy about what is happening to my TBR, though, even though it's still only January!!

Marg said...

This sounds like a really good read! Adding it to the TBR list!

Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Plan to read it to cover at least two reading challenges this year, the Global and the Australian ones.


Hi Kerrie, Thanks very much for the review, much appreciated! Some news updates. Prime Cut since won the 2011 Ned Kelly award for Best First Fiction. And book two, the further adventures of Cato and friends, is due out mid-2013. Alan Carter.


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