Review - STRAIGHT JACKET, Adrian Deans

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Straight Jacket
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Book Synopsis

"If God is too indifferent, or too non-existent to take care of His creation, then clearly it's up to Me."

Morgen Tanjenz is a lawyer with an overactive sense of justice. His mission in life is to reward the virtuous, punish the ignorant and avenge those who won't avenge themselves. His favourite pastime is 'life sculpture' - anonymously intervening in the lives of strangers to change their destiny in ways he thinks they deserve. But Morgen isn't the only one changing lives in the city. A serial killer is on the prowl and taunting the police in letters to the local rag. But, as the body count rises, Detective Sergeant Blacksnake Fowler can hardly focus on the job with so many distractions: his boss hates him, his deputy is trying to undermine him and the woman he loves is having an affair.

In the cicada-throbbing heat of a Sydney summer, the threads of a strange story become entangled in a wild conclusion no one will see coming.

Book Review

Something about STRAIGHT JACKET could make some readers a little uncomfortable. Not the serial killing aspect in this case - although the idea that there is a killer lurking in the bush that inserts itself into the Sydney suburbs isn't a welcome one. Certainly not a killer that sends victims fingers in the mail. It's more disconcerting that Morgen Tanjenz's idea of 'life sculpture' makes sense, dare we suggest, appeals. The idea that you could, with enough money and resources, dispense your concept of justice for wrongs. Although you have to wonder if you'd draw the line at ruining someone's life on behalf of the cicadas of the world...

The story runs two concurrent character lines cleverly. Morgen Tanjenz's life is gloriously over-the-top. Professionally successful, wealthy, attractive, he's got a moral compass that's more than a bit north-west of nowhere. On the other hand Detective Sergeant Fowler (Blacksnake to his friends) means well. Tries hard. Slogs it out. Wondering why the woman he loves is okay with an extra-marital affair, just not with him. With a boss that hates him, and colleagues trying to shaft him, life for Blacksnake is all lows and not a lot of highs. The contrast between these two men is obviously on purpose and it works. You can barrack for Blacksnake without feeling guilty, but we all know we're going to be barracking for the bad guy as well.

There's a strong sense of humour, and distinct feeling of taking the wee wee in STRAIGHT JACKET which soothes the angst ridden soul. Just as the heat of a Sydney summer lulls the senses, the way this story evolves lulls the reader into accepting the seemingly unacceptable. Whilst there "should" be nothing whatsoever good or positive to be found in Tanjenz's behaviour and attitude, somehow it's not too much of an effort to "forgive" him, or understand him.

Of course STRAIGHT JACKET is ironic and trying to distort acceptable reality. And it does that with an enormous sense of fun, with a tongue firmly rammed in the cheek. Sure you might question your own sanity - but don't we run the risk of taking ourselves way too seriously too often?

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