I just love the Brad Chen series. I must do. RIP OFF actually took me into the world of high finance skull-duggery and I really didn't notice until I was well into the action. Quite an achievement.
Part of what really works with RIP OFF is the character of Brad himself. Maybe it's a girl thing but the idea of a bloke who does any housework at all, let alone the bathroom floor with a plastic scourer... but Brad's no big girls blouse. An ex-professional footballer, Brad's an Australian Federal Policemen with quite an interesting career. Part thinker, part energiser bunny he might like to keep a clean and tidy house, but he's perfectly willing to get his hands dirty when solving a case.
And that's the other thing that really works in RIP OFF, a good, twisty, but believable plot which sees Chen pulled back from the teetering edge of a desk job, to join a multi-agency group sent to liaise with police in Western and South Australia when assorted financial fraudsters start showing up with a very distinctive shot pattern in their recently deceased bodies.
This little group of Brad (token Asian), Rose (the pregnant woman), Barry (the aging cop with a taste for younger women) and Glenn (Aboriginal cop) have never met before, let alone worked together but they quickly form a cohesive front, based partially on a shared sense of the absurd, but fuelled mostly by the antagonism of the Police Taskforce that they are initially parachuted into. What they are actually there for is slightly less obvious, but the Australian financial system has it's own regulatory body (hence Rose), the Feds and the various State police have different areas of responsibility and jurisdiction (hence Brad and the other cops), and the whole system is tricky. Much like some of the action in this book. Things get tricky for everyone at points. It's complicated for the WA police - where the killing spree started, it's complicated for the Victorians when Southbank turns into a shooting gallery, it's complicated for the Tasmanians and it's particularly complicated in NSW where things seem to be heading for a tumultuous finale. It's particularly complicated for the South Australian head cop who gets a seriously daft idea in his head about who could be behind these clever, quick and clinical killings, and he's not all that impressed that Brad and his little team can not just see the wood for the trees, they've got the kindling for the bonfire sorted as well. Obviously whoever is doing these shootings is very well-resourced, the shooter is moving around Australia undetected, travelling vast distances, getting intelligence on his victims quickly - there's more to this than one rogue ripped off investor out to settle some scores.
Whilst there are aspects of RIP OFF that are just flat out funny, there's also seriousness in the plot and some of the messages that are subtly being sent in this book. There's something particularly nasty about the idea of hands-off, clinical, financial rip offs, these crooks haven't even got the guts to look their victim's in the eye as they mug them of their hard-earned. I've no doubt there are many people who would concur with the warped sense of justice behind a little retribution - given that most of the victims of these fraudsters were small-time, battler investors who lost a lot of money. There are some poignant moments in the book that give the reader a real insight into the collateral damage that can result.
I was really thrilled to be able to read RIP OFF, not just because it's a great book but also as it sorted out something I'd been suspecting for a while. I had a sneaking suspicion when Robertson did something very brave at the end of his first book, and I was pretty darn sure when the second book turned out to be just as good as the first, but RIP OFF has cemented the decision. Favourite series status from here on in.