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Crook As Rookwood by Chris Nyst

From the Dustjacket
Eddie Moran had been sticking grasshoppers down Slick's shirt since she was ten years old and as she looked at him now, with his bird's nest haircut and his stupid glasses, she couldn't think of a single reason why she should trust him.
Slick just wants her old mate, celebrity lawyer Eddie Moran, to get her some compensation for the death of her ex-husband. The police say it was a car accident, and that's enough to score a payout. But sometimes Eddie just doesn't have the sense to leave well enough alone.
Sharpey could see there was something dangerous about this man. He wasn't as stupid as he looked - which would have been a tall order in any event.
Politics, property deals, lies, corruption and murder...all through the inquest Eddie gets a sense that things are crook. There's a strong whiff of deals being done higher up and well offstage.
From Sydney's sleazy backstreets to the new money glamour of the Gold Coast, this is the world where politics and business meet, with deadly consequences.
Publisher : HarperCollins Publishers
First published : 2005
ISBN : 0732266378
No. Pages : 458 pages

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My Review
It's a corrupt world we live in and heaven help the men and women who try to do something about the underhanded deals of the filthy rich and deviously powerful. Crook As Rookwood is a deliciously colourful novel that is partly legal thriller, partly political satire and full of sharp dialogue that comes straight from the murky heart of Sydney.

Anyone who has spent any time in Sydney, Australia would recognise the significance of the title of Chris Nyst's novel Crook As Rookwood. For those not from the area, the explanation goes like this. If things weren't good you wouldn't say they were bad, you'd say they were 'crook', and if they were really crook then they were 'crook as Rookwood' because Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney's west was where you'd likely end up when things got as crook as you could get.

For Michael Wiltshire, things become as crook as Rookwood very quickly after he threatens to blow the whistle on a couple of his Labor Party mates. Not one to listen to advice warning him that it wouldn't be a good idea to go up against some pretty heavy hitters, Michael soon finds himself arrested for murder with a truckload of corroborating and independent evidence that could put him away for a long time.

That's what happens to whistle-blowers when men with power feel threatened.

Enter Edwin Moran, a defence lawyer from Queensland with an abrasive attitude but a brilliant delivery when in a courtroom. In fact, Eddie completely steals the show with his steel-trap mind, his abrupt casual manner, a shockingly poor dress sense and a fondness for the melodramatic delivery. Through a private investigator acquaintance, Wiltshire somehow manages to get Eddie to represent him. Both inside the courtroom and out, the case is set up to be completely engrossing thanks to some fancy lawyering and a succession of corrupt policemen and Labor Party head-kickers.

Showing great flair for telling a lively story that is both complicated in plot and populated with complex and interesting characters, Chris Nyst is able to keep thing flowing smoothly. There are two or three sub-plots developing simultaneously throughout the book but I never felt overwhelmed or lost when jumping from place to place.

Nyst has put a fair whack of wry humour into his prose, poking fun at many levels of Australian political and legal power, not to mention the police force. In all of this he works on the assumption that we are fully aware that no matter who Eddie and Michael come up against, there is a strong chance that they have been bought off in some way or another. It's definitely a case of David v Goliath, only Goliath is carrying a dirty great bazooka this time.

As mentioned earlier, the shining light by far is Eddie Moran. He is simply entertainment plus thanks to his unorthodox methods and his habit of annoying the pants off everyone he meets. I sincerely hope there are more cases for us to enjoy in the future allowing us to enjoy watching him strut his stuff again.

As for the other characters, they are adequately portrayed. Although not overwhelmed by detailed character descriptions and development, we are given enough to fully relate to the team working with Moran while despising the corrupt politicians and police they're up against. When it comes down to it, this is more a plot-driven story and any more than the background we're given would have detracted from the story.

Crook As Rookwood is filled with corrupt politicians, big time businessmen and colourful racing identities in a storyline that rings very true. It's very Australian both in the language and the attitude that will strike a familiar chord with Australian readers while possibly leaving overseas readers a little confused. But this is a thoroughly entertaining thriller that lays bare Australia's political heart. It's dangerous and amusing, entirely believable and very hard to put down.



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