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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Review : Sucked In by Shane Maloney

Title : Sucked In

Author : Shane Maloney
Publisher : Text Publishing
Date Published : May 2007
ISBN-13 : 9781921145445
Sub-Genre : Mystery / Political Satire
Principal Protagonist : Murray Whelan
Setting : Melbourne, Australia
6th book in series.

I think it's safe to say that political satire has been the overwhelming driving force behind the success of Shane Maloney's Murray Whelan series. The irreverent humour used to subtly point out the likely shonky goings-on within the hallowed walls of our nation's government offices makes for very entertaining reading. Sucked In is the 6th book in the series, the year is 1997 and Murray is a state MP in the Labor Party and sits as a member of a vastly outnumbered opposition.

Sucked In begins with mention of two dead bodies. The first is discovered in the dried up bed of Lake Nillahcootie where it had laid for around 20 years. The second is that of Charlie Talbot, the Labor Party MP and federal member for Coolaroo, who suffered a coronary occlusion while breakfasting with Murray at Mildura's Grand Hotel.

The - until recently - underwater stiff is very likely a former union heavy who drowned in unusual circumstances while out fishing. Coincidentally, also present on that fishing trip was the now-deceased Charlie Talbot. Now that he's not around to defend any possible accusations of involvement in the death and as a good mate, Murray feels that it's his responsibility to protect Charlie's name.

But Murray has a political interest to go with his personal one because his own seat in the state electorate of Melbourne Upper overlaps that of Coolaroo. Like it or not, Murray's going to hold some sway in the fight over the vacant seat and, sure enough, his bum has barely hit his office chair after attending Charlie's funeral when the first hopeful candidate sidles through his door. That's when the fun begins.

He unofficially does the rounds of the men involved in the fishing trip in question hoping he might get some sort of assurance that the death was in fact an accident and not something more sinister. Never really expecting to come up with anything approaching concrete evidence, it's amazing what one little politician, who may or may not hold some influence over a now vacant federal electorate can find out.

So starts the mad scramble within the Labor Party, accompanied by assurances of support (better known as bald-faced lies) becomes highly amusing reading, not to mention vaguely disturbing because you know how closely it resembles real life party factioning. Through all of the party politicking Murray maintains a pragmatic, if not completely resigned facade cracking a steady stream of biting barbs at the state of the ALP and the underhanded deals that are so common they're expected, nay, demanded of pollies hoping to advance to a portfolio position.

How bad is the predicament that Murray and his party colleagues find themselves in? Murray Whelan sums it up for us in short order:

They outnumbered us two to one in the lower house, five to one in the upper house. We weren't just a minority. We were an endangered species, a puny splinter with little option but to keep our heads down and our powder dry. Not that we had any powder. We lost the formula two elections ago.

There is an engaging quality to the story generated from the tone which ranges from the dryly acerbic to the laugh-out-loud funny with the voice of Murray Whelan asserting itself with a resigned tolerance over every dirty deal and potential scandal that falls across his bow. The easy banter with which Murray enjoys with his son Red demonstrates the settled home-life of a dependable easy-going man, yet he's still a bit of a devil, evidenced by the lusty interludes with journo Kelly Cusack.

Sucked-In is typical Shane Maloney which is to say, endlessly entertaining, wryly amusing and totally original. Murray Whelan remains one of the good guys, untainted by corruption, unscarred by cabinet brawls and ready to fight the good fight for mates and constituents alike.

For more reviews of Australian crime and mystery novels, visit the Australian Crime Fiction Database.

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