THE BROTHERHOOD - Y.A. Erskine
I remember reading the first book in what is now one of my favourite series quite a few years ago, I really really hoped that the author felt better about life once they'd finished. I think the same sort of reaction to THE BROTHERHOOD bodes well for what I hope is going to be an ongoing series.
Mind you, you can't help but wonder if Yvette Erskine's going to be able to get back into Tasmania for research purposes if a few of the upper echelon characters in THE BROTHERHOOD are recognisable real people!
THE BROTHERHOOD is a debut book which promises quite a bit. The front cover even telegraphs some expectations with the lines "one dead cop", "one small island" "an impact that will last a lifetime...". Kind of makes you sit up and pay attention. But to be honest, at the beginning, I was feeling a little leery. There's a prologue which is obviously telegraphing something that is coming up in the book, and prologues of this nature are a device that's been done to death. We've got our dead cop pretty quickly, then we're into the action and slowly the investigation into the cop's murder starts to build some momentum. Then we start wandering down some byways and lane-ways with some nicely expressive, but distracting rants and what felt a bit like point scoring. On their own sort of interesting - or perhaps telling is a better description, but this reader was getting impatient to get back to the main thread. Which isn't a bad sign really - there was something interesting going on here. Something that kind of snuck up on me. There was a plot building, slowly worming it's way into a fascinating story.
There are some issues touched on here that are uncomfortable. The main suspect in the cop's murder is a boy with an Aboriginal background, and there's some quite confrontational writing about the politics and tensions between the Law and Aboriginal identity. It's almost a given that this aspect of the book is going to be a "talking point". But this is not the only searing and uncomfortable portrayal, there's more than a big swipe at Police Culture and the hierarchy to say nothing of the politics and corruption within the Police Force itself.
THE BROTHERHOOD is a debut novel, and as anyone who has ever noticed any of my reviews before will know, I'm inclined more towards a bit of leeway for a debut that seems, on the face of it, to be tackling a lot of stuff up front. The book I alluded to in the opening of this review had the distinct feeling of part getting everything off the author's chest, part this could be my only run at this so I'm going to give it a red-hot go. THE BROTHERHOOD did engender many of the same feelings. And that's got to be a good thing. If a book can make me want it to become part of a much loved new series, then all power to it.
Compared to other countries, it's always seemed that there's a shortage of contemporary, informed, realistic, dark and confrontational Australian Police Procedural crime fiction being written. At the very least there's room for a lot more and THE BROTHERHOOD is an uncomfortable, interesting, enlightening and clever debut entry in that classification.
Set in Tasmania, Australia, The Brotherhood begins as a respected cop, Sergeant John White, is murdered during a routine callout. As the investigation unfolds through the eyes of the sergeant's colleagues, friends, family, enemies and the murder suspect himself, it becomes clear that there was a great deal more to John White than meets the eye.