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Dark Angel by John Dale

From the Dustjacket
Jack Buturov is a bounce in a Sydney casino. He's in hiding from life, his ex-wife and his chronically ill son. Damian was a rent boy hustler, who got in over his head in some bad political business. Despite himself, Jack loved Damian, and when someone guns the boy down, he has to investigate. Along the way he runs into the Vietnamese mafia, corrupt cops, psychotic bikers and, best and worst of all, Damian's sister Angela - a woman as burnt out as Jack Buturov.
An outstanding debut, Dark Angel is an Australian thriller that crackles with the same white lightning as a James Ellroy or a James Crumley.
Publisher : Serpent's Tail
First published : 1996
ISBN : 1852423919
No. Pages : 247 pages
My Review


Enter the dark criminal underworld of Australia that lurks just in the background of the bright city lights, ready to prey on the unsuspecting. Dark Angel is a grim Australian thriller that crawls from the violent streets of Sydney's Kings Cross and takes us down to the sinister alleys of Chinatown. It's a sexually provocative story that reeks of hopelessness with a forlorn desperation that puts you on the absolute edge throughout. This is John Dale's debut novel and it hurls you into an unreal underworld leaving you uncertain as to the direction you'll be taken from one page to the next.

Jack Buturov is a bouncer at a Kings Cross casino making sure that everything is above board among the poker machines. One night after leaving work he passes by a young man who is being savagely beaten up by a pack of youths. As is his nature, he starts to pass on by, ignoring the cries for help but something makes him stop and intervene.

Damian Frick is a rent boy with high profile friends and is indebted to Jack for saving him. In no time flat Jack and Damian become close with Damian moving in to Jack's Coogee flat and winning a certain amount of trust. That trust runs to the point where he puts an unusual proposition to Jack. He asks Jack to rob him.

Something doesn't add up in Jack's mind, and really the alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear at this point, but the prospect of an easy payday prompts him to agree. At this stage we get a very clear idea about what makes Jack Buturov tick, if there's a buck in it for him, then he'll do just about anything.

As Jack is making his way to the agreed rendezvous point where the arranged robbery will take place, he hears a gunshot. Damian has been shot on a crowded Sydney street in broad daylight! By the time Jack reaches him he is already dead and mutterings from the crowd suggest his killers were Asian. Having developed feelings for Damian, Jack decides that he has no option but to track down his killers.

His decision process is aided by two sets of visitors to his apartment. The first is Angela Frick, Damian's sister and an intriguing woman with whom Jack finds himself falling for, although they get off to a less than friendly start. The second are even less friendly and they trash his apartment, obviously looking for something and not being too careful with his things while searching.

Jack and Angel a pair up to make a couple of determined, but pretty inadequate investigators as they try to find out who killed Damian and why. They cross paths and become dangerously entangled with corrupt cops, murderous Chinese Triad members and a devious political figure who will stop at nothing to protect the flow of cash that has been pouring into his bank account.

We get a limited peek into the persona of Jack Buturov in the course of the story, learning that he has already tried to escape from a complicated past. But the overwhelming impression is that he is a man who is motivated by money. Angela, too, remains largely a mystery, mainly providing a sparring and sleeping partner for Jack.

John Dale writes with a raw edginess that wades into uncomfortable situations without hesitation. The violence is real and extreme and the story moves along at a solid pace without feeling as though we are being rushed. For all of that, though, I found that the plot was a little difficult to follow at times, particularly at the start of each chapter as we jump from scene to scene leaving you to catch up as best you can. But once you become accustomed to his choppy style it's easy to see the pieces falling into place to bring us to an outlandish conclusion.

Fans of hardboiled crime novels will enjoy this uncompromising story as a fast moving plot-based thriller. It earned John Dale the 1996 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Australian Crime novel.



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