Martin Scarsden is the central character but in “Trust” he shared the limelight. His girlfriend Mandalay Blonde’s story was just as valid as Martin’s but I found events lacked drama when it came to poor-girl-makes-good-gets-stuck. She did get her act together when a group discussion propelled her into action. Unbeknown to Mandy she would soon face major problems from an old-boy network, creepy co-worker, money laundering and large scale corruption. Two major questions swirled around Mandy regarding her former fiancé and her place of employment, viz, “What was Tarquin Molloy playing at?” and “Where are Mollisons missing millions?”
Backstory is not the story and I started to lose interest in author Chris Hammer’s exposé on Mandalay and her stressful life. She arrived in Sydney and quote “She wants to flee, to get back to her son, to protect him. And yet the past is coming, it’s here, she can’t carry it back to Port Silver; she can’t risk it getting a trace of her boy…” The ship had sailed on that one. In previous books, she and Martin were in the media, the talk of the town, easily found by adversary Zelda Forshaw.
Halfway in, I wanted to shake up the action and indirectly Mandy obliged even though she was on an emotional rollercoaster. She met a dodgy cop in a dingy café in a tunnel under Central Railway station without a companion, without telling anyone where she was going. I said “Organised crime, Mandy, people were being murdered!” Thus the script-writing elements showed with Chris Hammer’s talking heads and scene-setting rather than people who moved through their surroundings. Ancillary characters were great, from the homeless to corporate high-flyers, a computer geek to a retro assassin and, of course, ruthless newspaper men.
Anomalies were Australian judge Elizabeth Torbett with Tory politics; Martin, a seasoned journo who relied on technology and a laptop but made novice mistakes; Mandy did not regularly check on son Liam in Port Silver; Martin had coffee with Montifore in Chapter 33 but “Goffing returns with the drinks…” Oops.
“Trust” the perfect title, and Chapter 28 and Chapter 29 alone were worth the price of the book. Martin visited Justice Clarence O’Toole of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court and asked him a few questions. The old judge was very ill but talked at length about his membership with The Mess, a private club, and the sudden death of Martin’s mentor and friend. Afterwards Martin thought about his journalistic career and the slow agonising demise of print newspapers. I went straight out and bought an edition of The Courier Mail.
Chris Hammer future-proofed his crime novel with coronavirus, and mentioned the pandemic several times, but it flopped for me. Covid-19 was not over when I read the book. At this point in time, Sydney still has coronavirus outbreaks and restrictions. “Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance”.
Martin and Mandy’s ordeal took place over seven days and I would not have enjoyed being in their shoes, but I enjoyed the Australian setting and frontispiece map of Sydney. There was a wonderful iffy, dicey feel to the plot which at times stretched tropes and credibility, like the ASIO meet-up, or the dance of death, however a clever twist enhanced the story and the ending was unexpected. On the whole, I liked this third instalment, quote “some huge story, some grand conspiracy” so cheers to more books and great reading in 2021 New Year.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward