There was a point in the Melbourne Underworld Wars that things just got too complicated for anybody but the most assiduous follower to keep up with. The connections between the crooks, the cops, and all the permutations thereof were enough to make you hope somebody was keeping some sort of map. Fortunately it seems that Liam Houlihan was, and he's used it to weave some threads through the entire mess that are both surprising and decidedly sobering.
Using a clever metaphor for the reader to engage with, you are pulled instantly into a story that would be quite a thriller ride. If it wasn't true. As it is true the layers of connection are startling; and the level of game playing and the sheer number of fingers in pies is troubling to say the least. The amount of back room deals, obfuscation, setups and sheer silly buggers being played is amazing - even for a time in the State that you already knew had been littered with some seriously dodgy goings on.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MELBOURNE is written in a lively, engaging style. It is true crime that tells a tale, readable and very easy to follow, yet detailed enough to give you a real feel for the players, and the games being played. This doesn't, however, lessen the loss of life, or the carnage left in the wake. It draws the connections between things that this reader had previously never considered, from the street, to the Underworld, through the police force and right into Spring Street. Frankly the games that were played at that level left the Underworld players looking like amateurs.
Whilst there's been a lot of books written about the various players from the Underworld side of the equation, this is the first that this reader can remember that takes that further. ONCE UPON A TIME IN MELBOURNE gives the reader a map of the connections, it lays out a sequence of events that seem to clarify much, and in the process it takes a good hard look at many a lot higher up in the food chain than you'd hope.