Review: THE EASY SIN, Jon Cleary

  • book published in 2002
  • 19/20 in the Scobie Malone series
  • this edition published by Audible in 2009
  • narrator: Christian Rodska
  • Length 8 hours 53 mins

Synopsis (publisher)

The time has come for Officer Scobie Malone to leave the Homicide and Serial Offenders Unit of the Sydney police. His last investigation could be the most bizarre case ever to land upon a policeman’s desk.

Fantastic Fiction

From Australia’s ‘national literary institution’ (Sydney Morning Herald), the latest mystery featuring homicide detective and family man Scobie Malone

The time has come for Scobie Malone to leave the Homicide and Serial Offenders Unit of the Sydney police, and his last investigation could be the most bizarre case ever to cross his desk.
Called in when a housemaid is found dead in a dotcom millionaire’s penthouse, Scobie suspects he’s dealing with a kidnap that’s gone wrong.
In fact, it couldn’t have gone more wrong. The kidnappers thought they had grabbed the millionaire’s girlfriend — how were they supposed to know he liked slipping into her designer dresses when she wasn’t around?

The plot thickens further when it is revealed that the dotcom bubble has burst, leaving the erstwhile millionaire in debt to the Yakuza and Scobie on the trail of some old adversaries. Throw in the ex-wife, a mistress or two, and the mother of all outlaws, and you have a case that would confound the greatest detective and entertain the most discerning
of readers.

My Take

Christian Rodka’s brilliant narration added great pleasure to listening to this novel. There is quite a cast of characters and his voice portrayal made picking one from the other relatively easy.

I’ve been on a bit of a Jon Cleary kick in the last few months and have listened to

4.6, WINTER CHILL– set some time before THE EASY SIN and

4.7, DEGREES OF CONNECTION which was Jon Cleary’s last Scobie Malone novel, following on from THE EASY SIN.

There are passages in this novel which crack a smile, despite the seriousness of the story line: an abduction and a couple of murders thrown in for good measure; a gang that by any standards is incompetent, but at the same time amoral.  I thought some of the characters were overblown and parts of the plot definitely unrealistic. On the other hand the collapse of the dotcom bubble pointed to how ordinary Australians lost money in a world financial phenomenon.

And then for Scobie Malone fans, historically this was his last case at the head of Homicide and at the time they must have wondered what Jon Cleary was up to. With hindsight we know he was preparing to bow out of crime fiction.

My rating:  4.2

Review: DEGREES OF CONNECTION, Jon Cleary

  • book published in 2003 by Harper Collins
  • #20 in the Scobie Malone series (the last)
  • audio version narrated by Brian Hewlett, and published by Sundowner Productions in 2003
  • length: approx 8 hrs 30 mins
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Marilyn Hyx, loyal private secretary to Natalie Shipwood, the dynamo behind the Orlando Development Company, is found murdered in her home.
Is it simply coincidence that she had in her possession some very sensitive Orlando documents? This is a Scobie Malone mystery, set in the world of shady financial deals and desperate dreams.

My Take

A year or two has passed since the events covered in WINTER CHILL which I read last year.

It is now 2001 and Scobie Malone as been promoted from inspector to superintendent, while Russ Clements is now head of Homicide. Malone’s son, Tom, seems to have impregnated a girlfriend who is subsequently murdered and his daughter Maureen is an ABC journalist covering the Securities Commission investigation into Orlando. Both Scobie and Russ are having trouble in adjusting to their new roles and responsibilities.

If there is a focus in this novel it is greed and how Australia fared during the financial collapse of the early 21st century. There are references to the New York Twin Towers tragedy and the rise of terrorism as a global fear factor. There’s also a sub-theme of families, loyalties, and friendship.

We really enjoyed the Australian ambience and cricket lovers will enjoy the likening of interrogation techniques to changing the bowling.

Brian Hewlett does a brilliant job of the narration.

DEGREES OF CONNECTION demonstrates what a master writer Jon Cleary was. It won the 2004 Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel. It was not only Cleary’s last Scobie Malone title but also his last crime fiction.  He declared he was getting “stale” and that he nothing more to write about.

Jon Cleary, well known outside this genre as the writer of THE SUNDOWNERS, was the winner of the inaugural Lifetime Contribution Ned Kelly Award in 1996.

DEGREES OF CONNECTION was so enjoyable that I am very regretful that I have read only two in the series. They are very faithful to their Australian (New South Wales) setting, refer to contemporary events, and are characterised by their empathetic portrayal of Malone, Clements and their families.

My rating: 4.7

Review: WINTER CHILL, Jon Cleary

  • originally published 1995
  • audio book published by Chivers 2011
  • playing time 9 hours 40 mins
  • Narrator Christian Rodska
  • ISBN 978-1-4458-1306-6
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Audible.com)

It is 3.30 a.m. The Sydney monorail performs its endless circuit like a
pale metal caterpillar – all for the benefit of one dead passenger.

Elsewhere in the city’s bleak midwinter, Darling Harbour buzzes to the
sound of 1,000 American lawyers attending an international conference.
And that means 1,000 opinions as to who killed their president. Two
bodies later, and the more Scobie Malone fillets the heart of the city’s
legal profession, the more he cuts into an intrigue of international
proportions….

My Take

#12 in Jon Cleary’s Scobie Malone series, CID police procedurals set in Sydney, that reflect current events such as the building of the Sydney Opera House and the holding of the Sydney Olympics.

Against the background of  an international conference for lawyers being held in Sydney, an American lawyer who turns out to have been born in Australia is killed. His body is discovered on the monorail and then the security guard who discovered the body is murdered.

There’s quite a bit of human interest in the story too. Scobie Malone has two teenage children and his wife discovers she has breast cancer. Scobie Malone is a principled detective who believes in thorough investigative techniques.

A good story made even better by the excellent narration of Christian Rodska.Quite an intricate plot.

My rating: 4.6

In 2004 Cleary (1917-2010) won a Ned Kelly Award for best novel for the last of the Scobie Malone books DEGREES OF CONNECTION. He also won an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1975 for a non Malone novel PETER’S PENCE.

Jon Cleary was probably better known for the fact that he wrote THE SUNDOWNERS.

Wikipedia has a good listing of the Scobie Malone books with single sentence plot outlines.

    Cleary once stated that, “There’s more than a bit of me in Scobie. We both come from fighting Irish stock, we’re both from Erskineville, the wrong side of the tracks, and both of us slugged our way up.” Malone was a Catholic family man with rigid principles who mostly worked in Sydney, although his adventures occasionally took him overseas.
    Other regular characters in the series included:
  • Malone’s Dutch wife Lisa, who he first met working as Sir James Quentin’s secretary in The High Commissioner. She was based on Cleary’s wife Joy.
  • Malone’s partner Sergeant Russ Clements, who eventually became head of Homicide.
  • Inspector Leeds, Malone’s superior.
  • His father Con and mother Brigid (based on Cleary’s parents).
  • His children Tom and Maureen (based on Cleary’s grandchildren).

Scobie Malone (Fantastic Fiction)

1. The High Commissioner (1966)

2. Helga’s Web (1970)

3. Ransom (1973)

4. Dragons at the Party (1987)

5. Now and Then, Amen (1988)

6. Babylon South (1989)

7. Murder Song (1990)

8. Pride’s Harvest (1991)

9. Dark Summer (1991)

10. Bleak Spring (1993)

11. Autumn Maze (1994)

12. Winter Chill (1995)

13. A Different Turf (1996)

14. Endpeace (1997)

15. Five Ring Circus (1998)

16. Dilemma (1999)

17. The Bear Pit (2000)

18. Yesterday’s Shadow (2001)

19. The Easy Sin (2002)

20. Degrees of Connection (2005)

Sadly I have only one or two of this series, and that really is something I should correct.