Friday, June 17, 2016


DEATH OF A FRIEND by Desmond L Kelly (Gumbark Books, 2015)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

In Sydney, when lawyer Richard Catlin lies dead of a stab wound, Karl Landry, a forensic accountant, blames himself for allowing the police to cause him to doubt the integrity of his best and closest friend. He strives to find the truth, learns to trust Detective Inspector Fiona Collins, and traces the paths of art and science fraud, involving paintings by Caravaggio and Mondrian, and the deaths of people ensnared. Those paths lead to the European Mafia and bring Karl Landry to the brink of his own death ...

Built around the worlds of art fraud, forensic accounting, law and the European Mafia, DEATH OF A FRIEND is the debut novel of Australian-born, New Zealand-raised author Desmond L Kelly.

There's an interesting concept at the centre of this book - two men, friends since their schooldays, different backgrounds, different career choices but stayed in touch. When one of them is killed, the friend left behind feels desperate guilt. The reason he is feeling guilty is his own doubts over his best friends integrity, and the opening chapter in particular, at the funeral of Catlin, is very evocative of the grief and pain that Landry is left to live with.

An unusual approach to storylines about male friendship there is considerable emphasis in this book on the platonic love and affection felt by one man for his old friend. The juxtaposition of that against elements from a who-dunnit styled crime book, featuring an amateur detective with professional support, is something likely to work for as many readers as it doesn't. Because of the depth into which relationships and the personal are explored, there is a tendency for this to overwhelm the more traditional crime elements at points though, and that may or may not work again for crime fans (from which viewpoint this review is being considered).

Slow to build, with a plot that has elements right out of left field, however you look at it unusual was the word that kept coming to mind when working through DEATH OF A FRIEND.

Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a Judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and the Ned Kelly Awards. She kindly shares her reviews of crime and thriller novels written by New Zealanders on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

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