STIFF - Shane Maloney
If this book can't raise a few snorts and belly-laughs from you, dear reader, there is something seriously wrong. With you. Truly. The adventures of Murray Whelan, proud member of the Australian Labor party, office worker, single parent and all around smart-arse all began here with STIFF. Reading this book thirteen years after it was written hasn't taken the edge off a work etched out with vinegar-dipped razor blades. Murray Whelan's wry observations can still be applied to how we Australians operate, politically, socially and any other "ly" we may hope to conquer. Smart and funny doesn't even begin to describe STIFF, but startlingly, monstrously accurate and ferociously funny would be approaching the right kind of fawning adoration that you can't imagine the author ever tolerating.
Perhaps we won't go as far as saying that STIFF could be your reading sorbet (totally stripping away all memories of other recent reads and freshening you up for newer challenges) so let's say instead it will be a welcome slap. As always, the first novel in a series has the tough job of establishing a character, making him dear enough to our fickle hearts so that we will seek him out in other works while also placing him at novel's conclusion at fascinating roads yet to be taken. Murray Whelan, master of the smart comeback and champion of the depressed (or as long as they remains interesting), on reflection, actually hasn't had that much time spent on his description. His character would seem to allow nothing less than a tardy remark on such things, and with a galloping narrative regularly taking on plot tangents made fascinating by their familiarity (political manoeuvres, rip-off merchants, bureaucratic tangles), it will take some concentration to
keep it all straight.
Perhaps thankfully, for some readers, the world of Murray Whelan isn't all sunshine. The tangled mess that was, and still is, the Australian political system on a small scale may prove a little frustrating at times and threaten to take the edge of pace but let's not be picky - this is a still just a short novel that manages to pack just so much in.
The fiddle at the Pacific Pastoral meat-packing works was a nice little earner for all concerned until Herb Gardiner reported finding a body in Number 3 chiller. An accident of course, but just the excuse a devious political operator might grab to stir up trouble with the unions.
Enter Murray Whelan, minder, fixer and general dogsbody for the Minister for Industry. Between playing off party factions and pursuing the kohl-eyed Ayisha, it's all in a days' work for Murray to hose down the situation at Pacific Pastoral.
Then the aqua Falcon turns up. And after that, it gets personal.
Because don't you just hate it when somebody tries to kill you and you don't know who or why?