PUNTER'S TURF - Peter Klein

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

Peter Klein has spent a lifetime in the horse racing industry, working for some of Australia's top trainers such as TJ Smith and Bart Cummings.  He was once a strapper of champion galloper Kingston Town.  It's therefore not all that surprising that he has set PUNTER'S TURF firmly in the horse racing world, with a good balance between the horse racing and mystery elements.  There is enough atmosphere to give the events a real sense of place, there's enough sprinkling of horse racing terminology to provide a sense of reality, but it's not overplayed or impossible for the average reader to follow.  A reader with absolutely no interest in betting and horse racing in general isn't going to be bored witless by the details.

John Punter comes from a horse racing dynasty in his own right, but he has left his father's stables and set up as a professional punter - somebody who makes their living betting on horse races.  So he knows a lot about the people and the workings of the industry - he spends most of his days studying horse form - and therefore the stables, the trainers and the people who work in the industry.  He knows a lot of the personalities around the tracks - the bookies, track detectives, petty criminals, other punters, the Salvos.  It's a perfect cover for somebody who needs to poke around in an industry that is the connection for the kidnappings and the murders. 

It is a kidnapping that first gets Punter involved in this case.  Luckily the second victim is returned to her family alive, but the case seems to just keep getting more and more complicated as a trainer starts to have an inexplicable run of bad luck and a young jockey is killed by a horse.

Quintessentially Australian, John Punter lives in a world that revolves around horse racing, whilst also delving into some of the finer points of Melbourne life - the food and the social life.  He's a nicely balanced character - somewhat rumpled, unlucky in love but still in there batting below average, he's pretty content with his lot.  He's surrounded by some larger than life characters including bookmakers, trainers and jockeys who are exactly what you'd hope to find at a racecourse.  Obligatory warning - there is animal cruelty which in one case provides an impetus for Punter to continue his involvement at one point, in another is part of the nature of the people that he's dealing with.  Neither instance is particularly pleasant - but then neither are the people that Punter's searching for.  Both instances however are not going to be pleasant for readers who really object to the use of that in their crime fiction, even though there does appear to be a reason (and consequences) for it.  There are also some convenient happenings designed to keep the hero in the game (so to speak).  These could have been slightly annoying events, but Punter's the sort of bloke that seems perfectly capable of the occasional brain freeze that can lead to some very messy consequences.

PUNTER'S TURF really is a very enjoyable read overall.  It's part thriller and part amateur investigation, set in a world that's vaguely familiar, whilst sufficiently different from the normal humdrum to generate interest in its own right.  John Punter's a good character - not foolhardy, but not timid, he seems like your normal average sort of a bloke.  He will help a mate if called upon, he'll even risk life and limb, he'll have a go at doing the right thing and thinking through the consequences but when push comes to shove - he's not above the occasional daft moment. 

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

John Punter, professional gambler and amateur private investigator, has seen his fair share of crime and shady dealings, both on the horse track and off it.  So when the daughter of a bookmaker friend is abducted, following hot on the heels of a gruesome murder after an abduction-gone-wrong, Punter's offer of help is gladly accepted.

But then, just when everything seems to be going right, a local trainer hits a run of unusual bad luck and a young jockey dies under suspicious circumstances.  With the help of a journalist friend, Kate, Punter begins to put the pieces together, and finds himself drawn into a tangled web of underworld crimes that are much more sinister than he had anticipated.

Review PUNTER'S TURF - Peter Klein
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Blog Currently Reading - Punter's Turf, Peter Klein
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