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10 August 2014

Karen M Davis: Sinister Intent

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Great début crime novel
This is a great début crime/police novel by former detective Karen M Davis which kept my attention from beginning to end. The story is set in Sydney where bikie  (motor-cycle) gangs are at the centre of organised crime.

After six years as a uniformed cop, Lexie Rogers has reached her career objective - to be a detective. Getting there has not been easy and she has been exposed to the worst things that can happen while policing the dregs of society. A few months ago she was stabbed and left for dead by a member of a bikie gang  in the red-light Kings Cross area of Sydney. While she has recovered physically she still relives the horror of the attack, especially at night. On top of all of this she has been through a divorce and lost her brother, also a policeman, who was killed when he was on duty.

Her new long-time detective partner accidentally broke his leg and her temporary partner is DS Josh Harrington, handsome, single and unattached. Josh takes the lead role in a big murder hunt for a drive-by killer of a 'Bluey' a member of the Devil's Guardians motor cycle gang. The investigations focuses on the animosity between the Guardians and the Assassins bikie gangs recently elevated by a pub brawl over a girl-friend. Both tough guy leaders of the gangs, Rex Donaldson and Max Croft, and their leading members are checked out and interviewed by the police, a difficult task given the intense distrust of the police by both gangs. Their is also a long-term intense personal hatred between Donaldson and Croft.

Davis uses her actual experience of policing of bikie gangs to give us a realistic insight into the organisation of the gangs, the kind of people who are members and the range of outlandish nicknames - Bluey, Rowdy, Keg and Maggot. What is especially fascinating is that while most of them are from the dregs of society, Davis is never judgmental about the gangs or  their members, and much of the story focuses on the personal feelings, psychologicial outlook and relationships between the members.

Davis also uses her actual experience of working for many years with the police force to describe the dynamic of the force and the different types of officers - the young, the aggressive, the old and weary, the predators etc. - who  have to work together on a difficult case. They also have their range of unusual nicknames - Batman, Lurch Grumpy and Sleazeman. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the force that only someone who worked there could write.

This is a story that looks into the hearts, minds and politics of the bikie gangs and the police who try to keep them under control. There are twists and turns in the plot, a love story, intense personal feelings between the major bikie gang characters and great and sometimes emotional twists towards the end. We meet a number of unforgettable characters who I am sure will feature in future books in this series.

This is crime fiction at its best written by someone who has had a close personal relationship with the police force. In her author postscript Karen Davis tells us about her 20 year career with the force ending with PTSD after years of witnessing distressing events and dealing with the seedier side of life. To her surprise she found that writing about it was psychologically beneficial as it helped to release some suppressed emotions. With this excellent début novel she has established herself as a talented novelist and I hope that she continues to share her real-life experiences in further novels.

I started reading and enjoying the next book in the series, DEADLY OBSESSION first and quickly realised that, although it can be read as a standalone, there were some personal dynamics from the first book that I would miss. So I put it aside and read this book first. I'm glad I did and I really look forward to going back to reading DEADLY OBSESSION very soon.

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