DEAD SET is the first novel for barman, labourer, industrial advocate, policy advisor and now author Kel Robertson and it's a very promising debut.
Brad (Bradman, but don't mention that in front of his colleagues) Chen is an ex-football star, Australian Federal Police Detective, hit and run victim. He's on crutches with a badly broken leg and nursing an Amaretto and pain-killer addiction. He's back on duty and involved in the big, high profile murder of of the Honourable Tracey Dale, Minister for Immigration which is causing a lot of political ructions in Canberra.
Chen, and his rookie offsider - come chauffeur, Kate Malone are checking out Dale's staff, friends and family, taking them across three states and into some rather murky areas of the Minister's life. Dale's refugee policy seems to have caused all sorts of disquiet and there are no shortage of suspect contenders - neo-Nazis, ambitious colleagues, vengeful wives, lovers and ex-husbands. As the body count grows and Chen gets more and more dishevelled and beaten up, the connections between Dale's death and the increasing range of suspects are slowly revealed.
There's an irresistible line of good, strong Australian tongue in cheek humour and observation in DEAD SET. Chen, as a Chinese-Australian, rugby playing, hard drinking, procedure ignoring, maverick Federal Cop is a great new addition to Australian crime fighters and there is some well pitched biting social commentary about underlying racism in Australia. There's a great build up of interaction between Chen and Malone - starting off as exactly what you'd expect from a hard-bitten, long term Detective finding himself partnered with a novice Rookie probationary constable.
The plot moves along really rapidly, and as the pace of the investigation and the body count rapidly increases, the book slides seamlessly from wise-cracking comedy into a more serious tone, ultimately concluding with a brave and extremely interesting conclusion.
This is definitely a good solid debut, sure Chen is very over-active for somebody in a full leg cast on crutches, but it just didn't ever stand out as in anyway odd. There's a great cast of characters, all of whom are fleshed out well, and some hilarious and very clever dialogue. Chen is a great central character and this book shows enormous promise for an ongoing series.