Orphan Road, Andrew Nette

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The second Gary Chance novel, ORPHAN ROAD, sees Chance move his centre of activities to Victoria, all because of an old friend and former employer, the once notorious Melbourne social identity, Vera Leigh. Owner of a struggling S&M club being circled by property developers, knower of decidedly dodgy characters, it all starts with Chance and another contact of Leigh's in Byron, shaking down a peace and love cult front for a major drug smuggling ring. Which turns into another one of those jobs that could be described by the quote in the blurb:

The heist always goes wrong and the consequences, even half a century later, can be deadly.

Of course that particular line is referring primarily to the job that Chance finds himself embroiled in on his return to Melbourne, new woman in tow, to find Leigh and contacts of hers looking to share some previously unknown information about the notorious 1970s Great Bookie Robbery - a heist that has gone down in Melbourne folklore. It seems that there was something at the Melbourne bookmakers club that day that was never mentioned in dispatches. Sure the three million dollars stolen has never been recovered, no-one has ever been charged, and just about everybody believed to be connected to the crime has since died - natural causes or not. But it seems that the thing that wasn't particularly well known was the stash of uncut South African diamonds that went missing on the day. And Leigh's pretty sure she knows who had them. Only problem is, it turns out Leigh isn't the only one who had an inkling, and Chance turns out to not be the only one looking.

When the first Gary Chance novel GUNSHINE STATE was released in 2018, my review included:

When approaching such well sculpted and highly stylised ground as this, there can be a lack of fresh perspective. Not so in GUNSHINE STATE which uses many of the well-known elements of noir (the bad boy central character, dark settings, shabby dives, surrounded by a very dodgy group of potential back stabbers), lifting it somewhere different with the predominantly Queensland "Gunshine" setting, establishing a character like Gary Chance who is part hardman, part hair trigger, part lover, all of whatever it takes.

In this outing, so much of that still applies. Granted the location is less "shine" and more grey Melbourne and Western Victoria, and Chance is less lone wolf and more surrounded by people who share his affection for diamonds and, for want of a better description, regard for Leigh - not necessarily in that order. To that end, he finds himself on the trail of an old gangster, a family torn apart by the fallout from the Robbery and, what should come as a surprise to no-one, the disaster that was Catholic peodophilia in Western Victoria. 

All of which combined with Chance's affection for Leigh, and regard for his companions in the final pursuit - Eva and Loomis, serves as a hint of grey at the dark centre at the heart of Gary Chance's noir world. Not much mind you, but at one point it kind of looked like the lone wolf might have picked up a thorn in his paw. Which was quickly removed, problems were solved, lives were lost, others were saved, and the past was revealed. To a select few on a need to know basis. 

Whether or not the diamonds surfaced, the neo-Nazi's were dealt with, the crooked cops done for and the dodgy property developers buried in their own foundations, you'll have to read ORPHAN ROAD to find out. But fans of noir styled caper and heist novels, and anything that says a lot about humanity in a few well-placed words, should do exactly that. Read ORPHAN ROAD, and if you've not read GUNSHINE STATE then get to that as well.

This is a seriously good, noir-styled novel. Machine guns, Ford XB GS Falcon (mustard coloured), inner city Melbourne rabbit warren buildings, Byron Bay cults, protofacists and all.


Book Source Declaration
I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author.
Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Gary Chance is an ex-Australian army driver and nightclub bouncer turned professional thief and in need of a job. An offer comes from a former employer, once notorious Melbourne social identity, now aging owner of a failing S&M club, Vera Leigh.

A shadowy real estate developer is trying to squeeze Leigh out of a rapidly gentrifying city. But she has a rescue plan that involves one of Australia’s biggest heists, Melbourne’s Great Bookie Robbery. On April 21, 1976, a well organised gang stole as much as three million dollars, a fortune at the time, from a Melbourne bookmakers club. The money was never recovered. No one was ever charged. And everyone associated with the crime has since died, either by natural causes or violently.

Leigh maintains that money was not the only thing stolen that day. So was a stash of uncut South African diamonds. And she wants Chance’s help to retrieve them. Problem is, they are not the only ones looking. The heist always goes wrong and the consequences, even half a century later, can be deadly.


Submitted by Gavin (not verified) on Tue, 06/06/2023 - 06:29 pm


I loved Gunshine State and I’m looking forward to reading Orphan Road. Thanks to Karen for an excellent review.

Add new comment

This is a book review site, with no relationship whatsoever with any of the authors mentioned here.

We do not provide a method for you to contact authors for any reason and comments of this nature are automatically deleted.

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.