Dark Empire, John Horrocks
DARK EMPIRE is an historical mystery novel, with at it's core, characters created by Katherine Mansfield:
"Katherine Mansfield created some of literature’s most chilling characters, not least Harry Kember and his wife. They seemed out of place among the families enjoying summer holidays at Wellington’s Days Bay. Some of the women at the Bay thought that one day Harry would commit a murder."
I have to confess I had to look up Katherine Mansfield's character Harry Kember, and found amongst other entries THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES, which I'd totally and utterly forgotten about - in it Kember and his wife show many of the character traits that Horrocks has reflected in DARK EMPIRE.
Standing alone as a novel in its own right, DARK EMPIRE is the story of Kember's control of Wellington New Zealand's criminal underworld, told with some pertinent photographs from the time incorporated. An expose of fraud and criminality in high places, if nothing else this novel serves as a reminder that nothing much ever seems to change when it comes to corruption, influence and crime.
It's an interesting twist on crime novel stylings though, and obviously a lot of research has gone into this work. At times it did read a lot more like an essay than a crime novel, with elements that came across as a recitation of facts and therefore a little flat in this context, but overall a readable reminder of how little things change in so many ways.
Katherine Mansfield created some of literature’s most chilling characters, not least Harry Kember and his wife. They seemed out of place among the families enjoying summer holidays at Wellington’s Days Bay. Some of the women at the Bay thought that one day Harry would commit a murder.
Twenty years later, Harry controls Wellington’s criminal underworld. It is wartime, but business is brisk at his complex of sly grog shops and brothels. His financial dealings have also begun to ensnare more upright citizens such as Stanley Burnell.
When Detective Sergeant Tom Guthrie is asked to investigate the drowning of a prisoner from Somes Island, he learns that the man is Burnell’s brother-in-law, who worked for both him and Kember. Neither wants to talk about him, while Kate Benson, a journalist at Truth, finds it is dangerous to ask questions about the dead man.