THE ROBBERS - Paul Anderson
Award winning police reporter Paul Anderson obviously spent a lot of time around the Victorian Armed Robbery Squad during some pivotal investigations in this state as there's much of the plot in THE ROBBERS which rings loud, persistent and very musical bells.
There is therefore a parallel when journalist Ian Malone is assigned as a police reporter, his first involvement with the "the Robbers" as he wants to write a feature about the feared, and not always admired Squad. Malone is along for the ride as "the Robbers" slowly fall from favour with the more controlled, corporate, considered style of policing overtaking the Victorian Service.
There is also the parallels that can be drawn between the villains in this book and many of the "names" from some of the worst of the Melbourne Underworld wars and associated cases, some of which have been the most high-profile crimes in recent Victorian history. These aspects are the most chilling parts of this book taking the opportunity to look behind the headlines and court cases at the sorts of people that many of this criminals could be / maybe actually are.
Along the way Anderson takes the opportunity to cast a light into some very dark corners of all sides of the equation. There's not a lot of aspects that miss out, from the criminals that front-line police have to find a way of dealing with, past policing behaviour including physical violence, and the posturing that goes on at the top.
Given Anderson's background you would be well within your rights to expect that this is well written, and extremely realistic. Warts and all storytelling without the niceties of not offending readership or the individuals so easily recognisable for that matter. This is, after all fiction, even though it's obviously based very firmly in true life events and a part of the great strength of the book is the searing, unapologetic realism of the whole thing.
It's interesting to see the proliferation of books based on true life events recently appearing, although it's probably not so surprising. There was something so over the top, so seemingly fictional about the cases they are casting a light on, in very real examples of truth definitely being stranger than fiction. The great thing about THE ROBBERS is that it's actually making a fictionalised version that's actually publishable.
The Victoria Police Armed Robbery Squad has long been considered the hardest and most feared group of Victorian detectives. They operate without fear or favour.
Newspaper journalist Ian Malone, new to the city crime beat, has assigned himself a story: uncover the truth about the enigmatic squad. Have the men from "The Robbers" been demonised or is their hard-arm reputation deserved? It is a time of disruption and change. Force command and a new police ethics commission want the Armed Robbery Squad disbanded. Apart from political enemies, the squad has a new nemesis on the street: a vicious bandit prepared to shoot robbery victims - and detectives. The Armed Robbery Squad men, for so long the hunters, have become the hunted.
As Malone builds a unique and unexpected bond with the squad he is enticed into a sometimes dark, seedy and seductive world where right can be wrong and wrong can often be right: a grey world of honour versus politics. "Heat" meets "Animal Kingdom" in this gritty and dirty crime saga. The Robbers takes the reader into a world where cops and bandits fight a silent war; a world where the most dangerous enemies might just be the bureaucrats and the political powerbrokers. Honour versus politics in a grey world where nothing is as black and white as the media makes it appear.