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Shooting Star by Peter Temple
From the Dustjacket
Frank Calder - ex-soldier and sacked police hostage negotiator - is just eking out a living as a mediator when he's approached by Pat Carson, patriarch of the dynastic Carson family. Pat wants him to deliver ransom money to kidnappers who've abducted his great-granddaughter, Anne.
Frank urges Pat to call in the law, but he refuses, since police bungling nearly cost the life of another Carson child kidnapped years before. So a reluctant Frank begins to deal with the kidnappers, and quickly becomes convinced that both Carson kidnappings were motivated by something other than money.
Over several feverish days, Frank searches for suspects in the web of Carson family businesses and deals, marriages and indiscretions, rivalries and intrigues. And all the while he knows that if his instincts are wrong the girl will surely die...
With Shooting Starm Australia's premier crime-thriller writer, Peter Temple is launched into an even bigger league.
Publisher : Bantam
First published : 1999
ISBN : 1863252509
No. Pages : 259 pages
Peter Temple takes a break from his popular Jack Irish series with Shooting Star, a taut abduction thriller that maintains a consistent level of high tension throughout. This novel earned Temple his second Australian Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel, a fact that is reflective of the strong and complex character development, the terse, direct dialogue used and the unrelenting drama that unfolds.
The book's protagonist is Frank Calder who is up to job number 4 working as a dispute mediator. As a former soldier in Afghanistan and then as a cop he sometimes had a tendency to take risks, preferring to engage his enemies, both while interviewing and under fire. This leads to an almost unhealthy degree of unorthodoxy in his methods but makes for a particularly entertaining story.
"What sort of curse lay on this family, rich beyond greed, cradled in luxury, that their children were stolen from them, that those they touched they marked with crosses of ash?"
He is hired by the ludicrously rich Carson family, headed by patriarch Pat Carson. Carson wants Calder to make a delivery of ransom money to kidnappers who have taken his great-granddaughter Anne. After displaying considerable reluctance, preferring that the family turn to the police for help, Calder agrees to his role as bagman when they explain to him about another family who was abducted years ago. They ignored the kidnappers' threats not to involve the police that time and, except for an amazing stroke of good luck, the kidnappers would have killed her.
When it comes time to hand over the money, a seemingly low amount of $250,000, Calder is directed to go to the crowd-filled Melbourne Cricket Ground and then ordered to throw all the money from the top deck of the Great Southern Stand. Completely bewildered, Calder heads back to the Carson compound to be greeted by the following chilling message:
"I want you to suffer as you have made others suffer. I want you to feel pain as you have made others feel pain. I want you to bleed to death."
Suddenly, Calder finds his role has changed from bagman to the lead in a life or death hunt for young Anne Carson.
Peter Temple writes a compelling story that takes you beyond the simple facts surrounding the abduction of Anne Carson and directly into the lives of the family left behind. The multitude of secrets that each family member attempts to withhold and the unforseen effects that the investigation has on Calder as he becomes more closely involved with the case are laid bare.
There is a distinctively edgy feeling to the situation that Calder is placed in too. He is in the difficult position of being employed by this fabulously wealthy family who shut themselves off from the rest of the world, obviously greatly valuing their privacy, yet in order to work out why Anne was kidnapped, he has to insinuate himself into their lives, possibly unearthing facts that will anger or embarrass them. And he does his job well, some pretty embarrassing situations are revealed while checking out the Carson family, yes indeed.
I found Frank Calder to be a very interesting character, immediately likable yet displaying a personality that invites you to look more closely. He is a man who is very sure of himself when it comes to confronting people in the line of his job yet vulnerable when trying to deal with personal relationships. He has a solid working relationship with friend Mike Orlovsky, a fellow soldier whose knowledge of technical devices and gadgets nicely complements Calder's investigative skills. They both have complicated pasts that are revealed to us, explaining the bond they have with each other as well as the fears that make them vulnerable.
Throughout Shooting Star the fate of Anne Carson leaves us in a perpetual state of uncertainty. The question of whether she is still alive and Calder is in a desperate race against time to find her is replaced by the cold certainty that she has been killed and he is now hunting the kidnappers down to exact vengeance before that same doubt begins to creep is again and we are left back in that uncertain realm again.
In the end we are hurled into what I found to be a troubling conclusion, both very shocking and very moving and well worth the wait. But I also had the impression that there was more of the story to be told with the suggestion that Frank Calder will one day make another appearance.
Read more about Peter Temple here.
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