Wednesday 2 November 2016
ANDREW NETTE - GUNSHINE STATE (2016)
A heist thriller set in Queensland, Melbourne and Thailand. Think Richard Stark’s Parker, Garry Disher’s Wyatt, and Wallace Stroby's Crissa Stone. Add a touch of Surfers Paradise sleaze and a very dangerous stopover in Asia.
Gary Chance is a former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief. His latest job takes him to Surfers Paradise, Queensland, working for aging standover man, Dennis Curry. Curry runs off-site, non-casino poker games, and wants to rob one of his best customers, a high roller called Freddie Gao.
The job seems straightforward but Curry's crew is anything but. Frank Dormer is a secretive ex-soldier turned private security contractor. Sophia Lekakis is a highly-strung receptionist at the hotel where Gao stays when he visits Surfers Paradise. Amber, Curry's female housemate, is part of the lure for Gao. Chance knows he can't trust anyone, but nothing prepares him for what unfolds when Curry's plan goes wrong.
My second time around the block with Andrew Nette after reading Ghost Money a couple of years ago. See here for a few thoughts on that one.
Gunshine State provides us with a heist novel, starting out in Oz, with a sojourn to Thailand before climaxing back in Australia, in the company of Gary Chance, our main man.
We open with Chance in on a robbery at a miner's union clubhouse which goes pear-shaped. One dead, one wounded and a take hardly worth the bother.
Next stop Brisbane and another job set up through Chance's contact, The Chinaman.
Chance is part of a seemingly more professional set-up, targeting a visiting high-roller. On the night of the take-down Chance gets crossed by some of the gang and is left in the frame for a couple of homicides. Instead of a cash only heist, Chance has been duped. The real target is a suitcase full of heroin worth $3 million. The only plus side is Chance escaping from the hotel room, over the balcony into the pool below with a bullet wound in his shoulder.
Re-grouping back at their base, Chance discovers the job's planner dead and re-unites with gang member Amber who fled from the double-crossing Dormer when things turned hinky. Despite a wariness about each other, circumstance has contrived to throw them together - particularly with Chance in a weakened state from his getting shot.
Factor in a bent but busy and efficient police force - step forward Sergeant Blake - looking to wrap up a couple of cases of murder and recover the drugs stolen on their patch and the property of the retired ex-police chief, the extremely bent and vengeful Costello, and Gary and his female companion Amber are deep in the mire.
Nette has crammed a helluva lot in this busy little book. All the above and we aren't even a quarter done!
More hiding out, reluctant assistance from the Chinaman and his feisty daughter, another come-on-board fugitive - an intriguing American with some useful skills and contacts, a close encounter with the police, frantic flight from Oz, a temporary respite in Thailand, fleetingly temporary as our band of fugitives have fled the frying pan straight into a sizzling wok in the form of a powerful Thai gangster. More twists, turns, subterfuge, a bit of facial plastic surgery (Nette paying homage to Westlake/Stark - Parker?), the passage of time and a return to Australia for some settling of outstanding debts.
Busy, compelling, never less than totally absorbing, with pace, characters, action, dialogue and several fascinating settings. Our resolution, nothing less than totally satisfying.
One minor minor gripe, I would have loved to have seen the intriguing Detective Sergeant Elyssa Blake figure more heavily. Capable and competent with a steely streak, I'm hoping Andrew Nette features her again as more than a sideshow. She's interesting enough to merit a book on her own.
Ditto, the main hombre, Gary Chance. He is definitely a series character worth following; with Andrew Nette, a serious crime author worthy of a wide audience.
Catch Andrew Nette at his website Pulp Curry here.
He's on Twitter - @Pulpcurry
4.5 from 5
Read in October, 2016
My reading copy came courtesy of publisher 280 Steps, via reviewing website Edeleweiss.