ALL MY ENEMIES - Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin have re-released Barry Maitland's ALL MY ENEMIES, the third book in the Brock and Kolla series. Given that the book was originally published in around 1996 there were a few things intriguing me. Obviously, whether or not it would stand the test of time, but also, what would it be like going back to a book so early in a series that has since become a favourite.
Interestingly I could still remember this book from the first time I read it, mostly because of the way that it starts to build this ongoing team, partly because of the interesting setting in which Maitland places them but also because it's a good solid police procedural, albeit with a little bit of a leap and some heavy lifting towards the end. The book is really clearly establishing some personality traits in the main characters. Brock is a bit of a hands off manager in some ways, stepping into the action when required, otherwise a bit standoffish and slightly elusive. Kolla is dogged, determined and more than a bit obsessive when it comes to finding a scent and following it down all sorts of highways and byways. Lesser characters in the group - particularly fellow team member Bren have enough "on screen time" to give them depth and reality. Something else that dawned on me was the way that cameo performances for characters outside the team have been built into the narrative - in this case the obvious stand out being Kathy's Aunty Mary(anne) - her life-changing decisions at an age when most people are settling for their lot is wonderfully done, to say nothing of giving Kolla a way into a group of people that otherwise might have been too contrived.
What was particularly interesting was the way that the book does stand the test of time. In fact, the time-frame was somehow irrelevant, even if there were things that might have dated it (not that I particularly noticed - too invested in the story itself). Having the benefit of knowing where Maitland does take this series, it was particularly interesting to see the beginnings of the architectural elements - those special places, buildings and locations that Maitland weaves into the later books with such aplomb. Here it's present in the weird little bar that forms the central part of the team's briefing room, although in ALL MY ENEMIES it's understated, less part of the plot than these elements become in the future.
The Brock and Kolla series is written by an Englishman, who lives in Australia, set with what seems to be considerable authority in London and surrounds. I understand Maitland does a fair amount of research into his locations and certainly they come across as realistic, complete, really a major element of the books. The other thing that stands out in these books is the attention to detail in procedural elements, and in character behaviour and personality. There's something very careful and controlled about the way that these books, the stories and the characters evolve. Which shouldn't for a moment be taken as meaning that the books themselves are somehow subdued. They are fantastic stories, involving two terrific central characters, without a single hint of "romantic interest" that's so very overdone these days. They make this reader at least, see, experience and enjoy the particular locations they are set in.
ALL MY ENEMIES really is a terrific reminder of just how much I love this series.
The phone call comes on a Sunday, the day before homicide detective Kathy Kolla is to start her new job at New Scotland Yard, Serious Crimes Branch. But the grotesque murder that it heralds in a peaceful London suburb takes no account of the day of rest and promises a dramatic start to Kathy's new life. In fact, dramatic is the word when her only - improbable - lead draws her to an amateur drama group.
As Kathy investigates further she is lured into a piece of theatre over which, increasingly, she has little control. And as the show unfolds, a plot of brilliant complexity is revealed, escalating with gathering suspense to a climax in which Kathy's own painfully hidden past plays a shocking role.