BLOOD SUNSET is the second book from Jarad Henry, HEAD SHOT having already introduced us to Detective Rubens McCauley, his work partner Cassie, his ex-wife Ella and Prince the cat. Don't for one moment get the wrong idea though - the presence of the majestic Prince in these books doesn't indicate anything on the fluffy or lighter side. BLOOD SUNSET takes us further into the darkness of street life and into the truly nasty side of prostitution, paedophilia, influence and corruption.
McCauley is back at work after being shot. The physical damage is visible, the psychological damage slightly less obvious. He's also trying to repair the damage to his relationship with his ex-wife. They split up because of his obsession with "the job" and McCauley has finally realised how much he was to blame in that. He also has immediate family problems. His beloved mother has suffered a massive stroke; and his brother Anthony is carrying the burden of looking out for their elderly parents, whilst he has his own worries about drugs and his young adult children.
When the body of Dallas Boyd is first discovered something doesn't quite sit right with McCauley but he allows a uniformed colleague to talk him into the conclusion of accidental death. As he takes time to think about the circumstances he slowly comes to believe that this is not correct, but he doesn't expect the reaction he gets from his boss, Eckles and the level of the fallout that is to come. As Melbourne swelters in the heat and chokes in the smoke from massive bushfires, McCauley finds that desperation has an affect on him and everyone around him.
This is one of those classic police procedurals, with a central cop prepared to go it alone with everyone against him, although there's no cliche here. Whilst McCauley's going out on a limb, he's prepared to admit that he's not always right and then again, he's not always wrong either. Sure his boss is an idiot and actively trying to sabotage him, but that is balanced well by the way his motivations are slowly revealed - to say nothing of the jealousy and tension between uniformed and plain clothes cops. The plot of BLOOD SUNSET is twisting and turning, and nicely complicated, touching on the most appalling elements of human society, without dwelling, avoiding any sense of voyeurism. The police procedural elements are deftly handled and totally realistic. Melbourne is a character in its own right, with St Kilda being the central focus and the weather and bushfires serving as a great way of recalling the feeling of those long, hot, smoky Melbourne summer days. There is also a good supporting cast of characters and the balance between family and job nicely maintained.
It's more than about time that another really good police procedural series muscled it's way onto the Australian landscape and you've got to think that the first two Rubens McCauley books are announcing an arrival to remember.