In an interesting twist THE TOWER is the first crime novel from former publisher, journalist turned author Michael Duffy. Set in Sydney, the book will introduce readers to two Sydney police characters, the young Detective Senior Constable Nicholas Troy and the older Detective Sergeant Jon McIver.
Falling from high up on the construction site for the world's tallest skyscraper in Sydney isn't going to end well, landing on the roof of a police car just makes it seem all that more cruel. It takes quite a while for the police to identify the woman who died on that dark Sydney night, although thinking it is unlikely to be a suicide is made easier by events high up in the tower as the investigation commences.
Young Nicholas Troy is one of the earliest detectives on the scene, and it's very easy to imagine that without him this tale of greed, money, power, corruption and influence would never be fully uncovered. Life for Nicholas isn't particularly straight-forward though. At home, he and his wife Anna have a young son, but the pleasure in becoming parents has been shattered by Anna's ongoing battle with debilitating post-natal depression. At work he's closely connected with Jon McIver who has a bit of a reputation. As the investigation into who this woman is and why she fell from this particular building rolls on, the truth of this massive building project is slowly revealed, despite the best efforts of some really incompetent policemen and some blatant police politics.
THE TOWER is an interesting book for a number of reasons. Firstly there is this spectre of this massive Tower Building being constructed in the city of Sydney, imposing itself in such a grand manner over the city and its inhabitants. As the story unfolds the tower is hiding secrets within the construction, in its background and how it came to be, and in the history of its builders and their own motivations. The tower and it's original builder and their connection with the victim are revealed in the midst of a mix of corruption, money and screwed up family relationships. Along the way there are a range of characters deeply involved in the mystery - the engineer come security chief for the tower, his Chinese master, the victim's own family and, of course, Troy's family and friends.
The book does have a few minor problems - there's a little too much repetition, particularly of some of the circumstances surrounding Troy's personal life which tends to drag out the length of the book without necessarily adding much new to the overall story. The tensions between the upper-echelons of the police force and McIver and Troy are a little predictable and Troy commits one of the basic no-nos in a police investigation by getting too close to a possible suspect. But there are some very interesting characters here. Everybody is human - not perfect - not completely bad. As the story of Troy, McIver and the death of this woman begins to unfold, there's something refreshing about the matter of fact way in which the characters are presented. The supposed good guys - the upholders of the law, skate across a minefield of temptation, expediency and convenience. They are capable of losing control and objectivity, of making bad decisions. The bad aren't all bad, but certainly aren't particularly good either and their decisions are as compromised by the circumstances of their own lives. There's no glossing over the victim herself, she's a spoilt little rich girl with very limited street-smarts. Yet in a strange way there's a glimmer of possible sympathy sometimes just as there is a desire to line them all up for a serious dressing down.
Supporting those characters is a very complicated plot that doesn't suffer from being overly busy. There are elements that really ring true, there are others that take their lead more from the traditional thriller than perhaps a police procedural, but they work together very well. There's also an interesting interweaving of the very domestic and the very international.
It looks like THE TOWER is the start of a new series - police procedural, character based, set in Sydney. Where Duffy takes Troy and Anna, McIver and the rest of the investigation team is something to look forward to.
Don't forget to check out the song that goes with the book at: http://www.cityofsharks.com/
You can also read Michael's responses to some questions from AustCrime at: http://www.austcrimefiction.org/node/5291