Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
0. Asterix and the Missing Scroll
10. Comfort ZoneComfort Zone
1. The Whisperer
2. The Vanished Ones
3. Quarterly Essay: Political Amnesia
4. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
5. The Lost Girls of Rome
6. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
7. Never Mind
8. The Vegetarian
9. Man on Fire
by Lindsay Tanner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Jack van Duyn is a single, middle-aged white taxi driver working Melbourne's inner suburbs. One day he picks up an investment banker, Matt, who notices some Somali boys being beaten up. Jack and Matt go to the rescue, but get more than they bargained for before the fight is finally broken up.
Despite his casual racism, Jack is immediately smitten by the boys' mother, Fahria. He finds a book with Somali writing at the scene and decides to use it as a means of getting to know her better, despite feeling that starting a relationship with a young Somali woman is taking him outside his comfort zone. Meantime Matt starts to involve Jack in some less than savoury activities, and an ASIO agent hassles Jack about the book; very much outside his comfort zone.
The novel is essentially a caper story using the Somali book as a maguffin to propel the plot. There are very few if any surprise twists and turns as Tanner walks Jack through the increasingly uncomfortable consequences of his intervention in the fight.
The problem is that this plot is scarcely believable. Even the author's narration describes at as absurd, and it is. There are just way too many unlikely events happening to this inoffensive Aussie bloke, and far too many unlikely developments. As a Melbournian, I got a kick from reading a story set in streets and buildings that I'm familiar with, but I'm afraid that was not enough.
Before turning his hand to writing, Lindsay Tanner was a politician, a Federal Minister for Finance, and a man with decades of experience as a factional warrior. When such a man turns his hand to crime writing, I think we're entitled to anticipate something deeper, darker and more challenging than this routine vapidity. A great opportunity missed.View all my reviews