This is the first in the Jack Irish series. Set mainly in Melbourne, once a criminal lawyer, John (Jack) Irish is now making his way out of a dark period of life that he drifted into after the death of his second wife who died at the hands of an unhappy client. Trying to deal with his pain, Jack drowned his sorrows in alcohol and became a collector of “serious debts,” as well as a gambler betting on the ponies. He does some odd work for a couple of men in the horse racing business. (I lifted that plot description in its entirety from a review on Goodreads. I have no shame.)
I am becoming fascinated with the current trend for damaged yet lovable protagonist detective types. Ain’t nobody mentally healthy anymore? If you read enough crime fiction, you will be convinced that everyone in the murder-solving business is flawed, impaired and just generally messed up. Well, OK, this isn’t exactly a recent book, it was written in 1996, but you know what I mean.
It is a wonderfully crafted typical crime fiction piece. The protagonist, said ex-criminal lawyer who is now learning cabinet making, is drawn into an investigation involving high-level corruption, dark sexual secrets, hinky property deals and murder. We have hit men after him, shady ex-policemen at every turn, and a rising body count. And a possible romantic relationship. What’s not to like?
The bad debt of the title refers to a former client who was convicted for a hit and run death, nothing Irish could do to keep him out of jail as he confessed to it, served time in prison, and when he got out, tried to contact Irish and when our boy finally got back to him, he was found murdered. That made Irish start to poke into the old investigation of the matter to find that his now deceased client may have been set up for the hit, and he feels he owes his client a full investigation to exonerate him.
Good start. I plan on reading the next in the series very soon.