Review - Old Scores, David Whish-Wilson

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

It would seem that there is a rich vein of corruption, vice and criminality to be mined in 1970's and 80's Perth, if the ongoing involvements of Frank Swann, disgraced cop, now private eye from the pen of local author David Whish-Wilson, are anything to go by.

OLD SCORES is the third book in this excellent series, after LINE OF SIGHT released in 2010 and ZERO AT THE BONE in 2013. You won't need to have read them all to get a handle on this latest offering, but this really is one of those series that it would be an enormous pity to miss out on.

Surrounded by the beginnings of the rampant developer culture that ended up being a blight on that city and much of the country, Swann occupies a very narrow piece of turf, teetering cautiously between legal and extremely dodgy. It's apt that Swann would find himself beholden to Political Masters as a security advisor, counter surveillance expert, fixer and dogsbody for a Premier who is compromised and an advisor with very flexible scruples. 

There's absolutely no suspension of disbelief required when the plot expands to include financial scandals, heroin dealers, and a looming war between local bikies and an overseas gang intent on wresting territorial control. Nor is there any need to wonder about the complexity of connections between a very disparate constituency and a modernising, pro-business Labor government. There's also the stories of young Aboriginal boy Blake Tracker, recently escaped from jail and his father, along with Des Foley, fugitive armed robber returned to Perth to settle some scores for his dear old mum.

All of these interwoven narratives are crystal clear to follow, and they all follow the trail of corruption, money and influence peddling right to the doorstep of State Parliament. It's a natural projection for this series, starting out with police and vice in the first book, the boardrooms in the second and now straight to the centre of State Power.

There's something elegant about the way that Whish-Wilson combines a fast moving, high tension plot with engaging characters. Central character Swann is one of those wonderfully ambiguous characters - slightly dodgy but well meaning, with a love of his wife and family, he's also surrounded by a believable, not always needing to be likeable, but understandable, supporting cast. Set in the 1980's there's plenty to remind the reader that the past was a slightly different world, even for those of us who remember car phones that needed a trailer to lug them about.

OLD SCORES is a great entry in what, overall, is a tremendous series that reminds us again how keen the eye and how sharp the observation of really good crime writers like David Whish-Wilson is.

Year of Publication

It’s the early 1980s: the heady days of excess, dirty secrets and personal favours. Former detective Frank Swann is still in disgrace, working as a low-rent PI. But when he’s offered a security job by the premier’s fixer, it soon becomes clear that someone is bugging the premier’s phone – and it may cost Swann more than his job to find out why.

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Karen Chisholm
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