Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Review: BOOM AND BUST
Reviewed by Karen Chisholm
Boom and Bust is a violent hard-boiled crime novel about a man forced into acts of desperation and depravity by debt. He is over-committed in the property market and is changing careers to have a crack as a real estate agent just as the Global Financial Crisis is about to hit. His timing couldn't be worse and the bodies are piling up around him as he tries to shoot his way out of trouble.
In the process of researching the background to BOOM AND BUST I found some information on a trilogy of books Angus Gillies has written about the 1985 to 1990 terror campaign of a Maori sect calling themselves the Rastafarians - in Ruatoria on the East Coast of New Zealand's North Island. Needless to say I got slightly distracted, this review has taken longer to appear than it should have. I've now got the first of those 3 lined up to be read.
But back to BOOM AND BUST which is fictional crime, set on the cusp of the GFC in New Zealand. One man, hit by debt, struggling to get out from under a flagging property market opts for a rather violent way of extracting himself from his desperate situation. Aside from the financial questions, there's a change of career underway as well - this bloke has walked himself into a heap of self-inflicted pain.
Flagged as hard-boiled crime, BOOM AND BUST does come with a bit of violence, but to my mind, hard-boiled is possibly a bit of a stretch. For this reader, it came across as a bit more of a violent caper scenario with a sense of humour. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that - but if you're expecting hard-boiled, bitter, twisted, pared down and traditional, that wasn't my experience.
It's certainly interesting to see something set in a country like New Zealand, reflecting the stresses and strains of the GFC from a location that wasn't a big player in most of the press and conversation around at the time. It's always fascinating to see how violent fiction fits into the structure of a society not necessarily known for that type of behaviour. Even though BOOM AND BUST is not as hard-boiled as could be expected from the blurb, it was entertaining reading.
Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, 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 and republishes her reviews of crime and thriller novels written by New Zealanders on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction.