DRY DOCK - Cathy Cole

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Dry Dock
Nicola Sharpe
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Book Synopsis

Balmain, once the industrial, blue-collar engine room of Sydney, is being transformed.  The older locals are being squeezed out by the cashed-up developers and hungry young professionals keen for a town house near the city.  Water views add value ... but are they worth killing for?

Book Review

There are books stacked up in the corners of this house that I look at fondly and think I must read that.. I've got to read that... and next thing you know it's a few years down the track and I'm still mumbling must to myself.  DRY DOCK is one of those books that wants me to take myself outside and beat myself around the head and shoulders for taking so long to get to it.
It's really a story about the pressures that come to bear when the old, industrial and worker inner-suburbs of big cities start to get squeezed.  On one side you've got the original residents, the combination of industrial and workers living close by; and the property values - the closeness to the city; the younger people trying to move in.  This brings with it the developers, the squeeze of more housing in less and less places; the competing priorities of original, old residents (and the sorts of people that they are) and the monied new residents (and the sorts of people they can be).
DRY DOCK introduces Nicola Sharp, who has lived in Balmain all her life, recently turned to a job as a private investigator after years in the public service.  There are two main threads in this book - the first is the woman that Nicola is hired to protect - she's being threatened and it would seem that this is because of an application with the Council to build a garage on her property - none of her neighbours are happy.  The other side of the story is the friend of Nicola's father - both shipworkers on nearby Cockatoo Island, Kevin's been a unionist all his life - and a militant one at that.  He's also opposed to the yuppification of his suburb and he's very vocal about it.  When Kevin goes missing, Nicola is balancing between protecting her threatened client, and finding out what happened to Kevin.
DRY DOCK really works mostly because Nicola's interesting.  She's a good entrant in the female PI group - not too "conflicted", not too much personal baggage, able to take a bit of a personal beating and actually have to take to her bed - so she's very real and feels like somebody you'd run across.  She's got good friends, she's close to her dad.  She's got enough that has gone wrong in her past life to make her not perfect, but she's also not that so edgy, difficult, cartoonish character that can show up these days.
The investigations themselves are interesting - the stalking of the wealthy property owner ticks on with some interesting twists and turns; what happened to Kevin is resolved but there's a nice bit of ambiguity about what really happens to Balmain.

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