Review - THORNYDEVILS, T.W. Lawless

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

Melbourne in the late 1980s, and journalist Peter Clancy is working for The Truth. Which, for those of us who were around in those days, in that place, conjures up a very clear vision. Booze, coffee, dodgy goings on and journalism from the... well extreme-tabloid end of the scale.

After being "promoted" to the Crime Beat and provided with the mandatory police scanner, Clancy is launched into Melbourne's seedy side, way back before mobile phones and the internet made keeping track of everyone and everything part of everybody's daily routine. THORNYDEVILS builds a strong sense of the time and place without bashing the reader over the head with the details. That's helped by the nice touches of dry, wry humour - it's very Australian - and a bit of whinging about the weather - it's very Melbourne.

The plot is complex without being complicated. It feels right that an investigative journalist would stumble into this scenario. It feels right that he'd be hanging around with drag-queens and barking mad cameramen. It feels right that he'd be drinking in The Tote. It even feels right that two mates from Queensland have to get out of that state and hide out at Clancy's - just in time to leap into the action.

There is a fair bit of action built into THORNYDEVILS as well. Nicely punctuated by a Triumph Stag that may, or may not cooperate, a bit of organised crime shenanigans and some nice lurking presences that never tip into caricature.

Mostly though, for this reader, the characters in this book appealed. Clancy feels like a good old fashioned journo - nothing flash, sadly alone, looking for love in some rather odd places. THORNYDEVILS is the second book in the Peter Clancy series - following on from HOMECOUNTRY. Worth a look, if for no other reason, than to remember the days of The Truth, pre-mobile phones, pre-Internet, when a drink in the pub on the way home every night was how you kept up with the gossip.

Year of Publication
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Melbourne, Australia. Once deemed Marvellous Melbourne in the late nineteenth century. The Victorian Goldrush makes Melbourne one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

In 1901 Melbourne will become Australia’s first capital. But by the twentieth century, Melbourne has been overtaken by its arch rival, Sydney.  Canberra is now the nation's capital. Melbourne is known as boring and puritanical. On the weekends, the streets are deserted. The only highlights is in 1956 when Melbourne hosts the Olympic Games and the Beatles tour in 1964.

In the nineteen-eighties, Melbourne is a city of three million and thanks to emigration largely from Italy and Greece, Melbourne is dusting off its drabness. In time Melbourne will be called the sporting and cultural capital of Australia.

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Karen Chisholm
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