Review - HIGH BEAM, sj brown

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

A debut novel, HIGH BEAM is set in Hobart, Tasmania featuring DI John Mahoney. Mahoney has recently returned to his hometown and is an unhappy man in his personal and professional lives. The death of high profile victim Brad Finch doesn't make him any happier what with time pressures from above, intense media interest and a lot of shady goings on in the world of the Tassie Devils Football Club and the business interests of its board and supporters.

Non-fans of football might find it hard to understand why it is that a football club can be the centre of such power and shenanigans, but in Australia, football is frequently equated with some form of religion. Which probably explains why this reader has an allergy to the game, and everything to do with it. Which made the idea that there was skullduggery afoot slightly more interesting than you'd think.

Mahoney would be a tricky customer to work with. He's taciturn but dedicated, disillusioned and just a bit bitter about the way that power is being corrupted in his hometown. And he's trying hard to work out how far he's prepared to stick his own neck out.

HIGH BEAM does suffer from overwordiness. As is the way with many debut novels, there is a tendency to tell the reader... everything. Which leads to great screeds of description, background, thoughts, opinions, observations and information, leaving little opportunity for the reader to draw their own conclusions. Whilst it can be argued that much of this description is elegantly done, in this genre and format it's not necessarily preferable. Especially when it often feels like it is taking forever to get anywhere in the plot. Too frequently the narrative simply becomes too dense and forced, which is a pity as some aspects of the plot are good, albeit not necessarily all that difficult to predict. On the upside, whilst there's nothing particularly new about the idea of an outsider central protagonist, Mahoney has potential to be interesting, as does the setting. He's got a good team around him and the use of Hobart as a location has much appeal as a small enclosed society.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Something is very rotten in the state of Tasmania. Brad Finch, the franchise player of the Tassie Devils Football Club, is the victim at the heart of a new murder mystery. Forensic analysis, dogged detective work and inspiration may prove insufficient in the search for the true perpetrators of the conspiracy. Intensive media interest, interfering superior officers, and corrupt business interests threaten to derail the homicide investigation conducted by the Serious Crimes Squad. The team must face unpalatable truths about the nature of professional sport and the exercise of power in modern Australian society. Detective Inspector John Mahoney, the chief protagonist of this police procedural, is an outsider in his hometown of Hobart. Disillusioned by his private life and shocked by the corruption he unearths, he queries his capacity to continue in the job. He must decide if he has the courage to ‘speak truth to power’. Introducing a distinctively fresh voice in Australian fiction, HIGH BEAM is the first in a crime series that delves beneath the surface of the ‘lucky country’ to investigate the flaws of modern society.  

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