THE RICHMOND CONSPIRACY - Andrew Grimes
Some things remain in this nation's psyche for a very long time. The Bodyline series was something my grandfather was still hot under the collar about when I was a girl (gives you a feeling for how the New Zealanders feel when you mention underarm bowling...). THE RICHMOND CONSPIRACY sits within it's timeframe beautifully, giving the reader a real feel for the way that Melbourne and it's inhabitants worked in 1933. The references to Bodyline (and the way that news about the state of the match being played out in a whole different part of the country had to be sought out), the way that returned soldiers were struggling to fit back into a society that didn't quite understand them, the way that some were working and some weren't. The way that loyalties from the days in the trenches continued into civilian life.
At the centre of the story, aside from the search for a murderer, DI James Maclaine is an extremely good new entrant in the police lines of Australian Crime Fiction. A returned serviceman himself, he has a steady job with the police, but an unsteady home life. Caused partially by his long working hours as a policeman, but also because of mistakes at home, and his ongoing nightmares from the war, his homelife is obviously destined for change from the start of the novel. His obvious love for his son shines through, as does his increasing bafflement on the subject of his wife. His loyalty, however, to his sidekick and fellow returned soldier, Devlin is touching and very human.
THE RICHMOND CONSPIRACY is a good balancing act between character development and plot advancement. The death of Victor Radcliffe remains the focus of the book, whilst the reader is given a subtle history and social studies lesson along the way. If you'd have asked me a while ago whether I liked historical crime fiction I'd have said not so much, but with the increasing number of these books set here, I'm finding I'm developing quite a taste for them. Hopefully THE RICHMOND CONSPIRACY is the start of another new series to follow.
Victor Radcliffe, prominent Melbourne businessman, on the committee of the Carlton Football Club, lies murdered in a deserted warehouse—the bayonet wound suggests a trained killer, but Police Inspector James Maclaine, and his smart-taking sidekick Harry Devlin, are having trouble tracking down the killer.
Why do the members of Radcliffe's household seem strangely offhand about his murder? Was there a woman on the scene of the crime? As for the woman in Maclaine's life, his marriage is on the skids and he can't keep his nightmares away. The Praetorian Guard, a shadowy group of WW1 army veterans, keep showing up, as does the charming step-daughter of the deceased.
Set in the summer of the Bodyline cricket series The Richmond Conspiracy is a crime mystery about men who have returned after war and are refugees in their own land—old certainties have vanished, betrayal is in the air, and Maclaine has to determine exactly where justice lies.