Review - BAD SEED, Alan Carter
From the first book featuring Cato Kwong this has been a series to follow closely. A police procedural that's moved him from Coventry (aka the Stock Squad in remote WA) back to Perth and right into the middle of a shocking murder scene. Made worse by his old friendship with the dead family.
Not that it was a current friendship. Kwong and the Tan family had drifted apart many years ago, but the reason for that separation is part of the problem for this investigation:
"Another strong gust shook the walls. Cato couldn't disagree. He knew the boy, and if anybody was capable of this, he was."
The best thing about this series is the balance between strong, believable and really companionable characters, and the little details of police and forensic procedure that are dotted throughout (as well as the dry and gallows humour):
"Cato left Duncan Goldflam and his mob to continue shifting through the forensic broth in the Tan home and headed back to the office. A team of detectives and uniforms was doorknocking the area. That was expected to take most of the day. The boffins had taken away the array of family PCs, Macs, iPads, smartphones and such, and were picking the bones out of them. The telcos were also doing their bit: logging calls received and made, durations and locations in the preceding week, timeline to be expanded as required. DC Thornton hovered by Cato's desk."
Needless to say the state of the investigation is summed up in a succinct paragraph and we're away. There is much to be said for this clear, to the point style. The reader knows where we are, the procedural aspects aren't brushed under the carpet, and they don't bog the action down into the bargain. Which leaves Carter free to play with his characters, their attitudes and interactions.
"He flicked a finger at the newspaper. 'This race to the bottom. Competing to see how badly we can treat asylum seekers. Tents on Castaway Island for fuck's sake. They'll be promising to spit in their food next. Pathetic.' A Perth gangster with more humanity and political insight than a Federal political leader; it gave you pause for thought."
Yes indeed it does. As does much of this investigation as it digs into the Tan family themselves, their boyfriends and girlfriends, and Francis Tan's business associates. It's a good balance of plot, action and characters, with some standouts in all categories.
"There was a certain inevitability about what happened next. The Red Mist had descended on Deb Hassan but she was horribly calm as she unclipped her taser, marched up and stuck it into Mrs Harvey's shoulder. 'Mind your manners, bitch.'"
Not politically correct, flamboyant and definitely a tad on the grumpy side, Deb Hassan works really well with the calmer, more prosaic Kwong even though there are times when you can visualise them with hands around each others throats.
Kwong doesn't play a lone hand though, there are other things happening in his world. His boss in trouble with a judicial inquiry, and a bad dose of angina, as well as characters from the earlier books with happy events and woes of their own. Carter does not shy away from some dramatic outcomes in the case of his characters. All isn't automatically happy and right in this world. This aspect alone means that the chance to read the books in order is going to make everything work much better for you, but it's not necessary. These are such good books there's enough context here to keep you from being confused, without bogging you down.
It's hard to explain sometimes why cracking, tight, and realistic dialogue is so necessary for this genre. People that work together daily, under pressure and in the most confrontational of circumstances talk in jargon, in short-hand, in pointed and often poignant style. Instead of explaining why it's so important from here on, I'm seriously considering referring questioners to books like BAD SEED.
Combine all of these excellent elements with a great sense of place, time and social context and BAD SEED clearly indicates that this is a series that just keeps getting better.
When wealthy property developer Francis Tan and his family are found slain in their mansion, Cato Kwong is forced to recall a personal history that makes his investigation doubly painful. The killer is elusive and brutal, and the investigation takes Cato to Shanghai. In a world of spoilt rich kids and cyber dragons, Cato is about to discover a whole lot more about the Chinese acquisition of Australian land – about those who play the game and those who die trying.