INFILTRATION - Colin McLaren
INFILTRATION doesn't seem to be served particularly well by the blurb on the book. It's considerably more than just the story of an undercover sting against the Mafia, in fact it's part personal memoir, part story of the Mafia operation, but sprinkled throughout with snippets of other parts of Colin McLaren's astounding police career.
Many of us lead lives pretty sheltered from the advent or consequences of violent crime in particular. "Big" criminal events are still pretty few and far between in Victoria Australia, so it's particularly sobering to realise that those big events can be attended by such a small core of police. The Queen Street shootings, the Walsh Street shootings, the NCA bombings, Mr Cruel, the Griffith Mafia are all connected in a chilling way by Colin McLaren's life story. Along the way you get glimpses of a man who is also a son to a mother he loves very much, a dedicated single father to a daughter of whom he is immensely proud and a boyfriend, lover, husband (and ex a few times over it has to be said). Alongside the lifelong relationships with his mother and daughter, you're reminded again and again of how hard it must be for policemen and women to maintain personal relationships - of how odd the life of an undercover or task force cop must be.
INFILTRATION does definitely outline much of Colin's involvement in the breaking of the Mafia in and around Griffith in NSW, and it touches on a range of earlier cases and experience - including his time in Richmond at the time of the notorious Pettingell/Allen family heights (or lows if you prefer that analogy). Whilst that's definitely interesting, what was more rewarding, touching in some places, highly illuminating in others was the story of Colin's life, and the way that the demands of the job dictate how the rest of your life is going to be lived. If you're not much of a fan of true crime, then INFILTRATION is worth reading - particularly for that personal viewpoint. This is a book which is less about the crimes, certainly less about the criminals. It's a very personal story from a policeman who has seen and done a lot of things that the rest of us wouldn't even contemplate.
For two years police detective Colin McLaren disappears off the face of the earth, surfacing in Griffith as a dodgy art dealer with a pretty girlfriend and talks his way into the Mafia. For days, weeks, then months and years, Colin eats with them, sits in their homes and cuddles their kids, all the while climbing the N'Drangheta, finally befriending the Griffith Godfather, Antonio Romeo.
This is the world of listening devices, wire taps, and of trying to stay sane while doing deals to buy pure cocaine and tonnes of cannabis. In the meantime, the Mafiosi know they have a snitch and are leaving no stone unturned in their search for the traitor...