Review - MARBLE BAR, Robert Schofield
The sequel to Robert Schofield's debut, HEIST, is here at last. MARBLE BAR picks up the life, and trials of mining engineer and extremely reluctant hero Gareth Ford a year or so after he was framed for the multi-million dollar Gwardar Gold Mine heist. Then he narrowly escaped the murderous intent of an international gang of thieves, the close attention of dodgy Gold Squad officers, pursuit by some very determined bikies and the betrayal of his wife Dianne. Now life has almost stablised. Ford and his young daughter are in Newman, Ford working in the iron ore mine, trying to be a good single parent, balancing all the competing priorities. Until his past, that international gang of thieves and their enemies, his wife, and DC Rose Kavanagh all come crashing back into view.
Heist incorporated a lot of vaguely lunatic action, turning Ford into a bit of a reluctant super-hero along the way, but in MARBLE BAR that's been pared back. Perhaps because Ford is somehow more measured, possibly more risk adverse. Which fits with a man who has suddenly come face to face with his wife's betrayal, and his responsibility to their daughter. He's also conflicted for a fair part of this book - on the one hand trying to be fair to Dianne and his daughter, and on the other unsure about his increasing attraction to Kavanagh. To say nothing of this tendency for lunatic baddies to show up on his doorstep with monotonous regularity.
It's not all business as usual however, and the setting of Marble Bar adds to a general feeling of craziness - right down to the stand-off at High Moon, Marble Bar style - a scene which just has to raise a smile. Some of the lesser characters bought into this story are really strong, and very apt. The threat imposed by a very large Maori gentleman, with an aversion to guns and his umbrella toting Chinese offsider has just enough of the unlikely about it to make it all too feasible. The setting also gives Schofield a chance to draw some beautiful word pictures about the heat, the dryness, the oddity of the place, the people and the situation he and Kavanagh find themselves in. Kavanagh is also a strong character in this book, showing a bit of the human side, still a dab hand with a gun when required.
Despite some back story, and enough context to give readers an idea of the background, MARBLE BAR does step right back into the action and the fallout from the Gwardar Gold robbery. Because that's a complicated scenario in its own right, and things get even more complicated in this follow-up, it's does feel like it would be better if you read both books in sequence. Given what a ripper of a debut Heist was, that's a real opportunity.
MARBLE BAR is a slightly different kettle of fish from the first book, but in it's own way, that bodes well. There's only so much you can wring from one robbery after all, and Ford and Kavanagh have a lot of living left to do. What they do in a follow up book - well that's something we're keenly waiting for now.
Gareth Ford, with a cloud still hanging over him because of his involvement in the Gwardar Gold Heist, has decided to make a new beginning in the iron mines of Newman. But when he returns home from the night shift and finds his flatmate has been murdered, suspicion quickly falls upon him. He, however, fears he himself was the real target and soon discovers he is being tailed. He summons his old ally from the Gold Squad, DC Rose Kavanagh, and soon they find themselves in Marble Bar, searching for the Gwardar Gold and being pursued by a variety of desperadoes, each with their own agendas.