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Coorparoo Blues & The Irish Fandango
Jack Munro
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Book Synopsis

Brisbane, 1943. A provincial Australian city has turned almost overnight into the main Allied staging post for the war in the Pacific. The social, sexual, and racial tensions stirred up by the arrival of tens of thousands of US troops provoke all kinds of mayhem, and Brisbane’s once quiet streets are suddenly looking pretty mean. Enter P.I. Jack Munro, a World War I veteran and ex-cop with a nose for trouble and a stubborn dedication to exposing the truth, however inconvenient it might be for those in charge. He’s not always an especially good man, but he’s the one you want on your side when things look bad. When Jack's hired by a knockout blonde to find her no-good missing husband, he turns over a few rocks he isn't supposed to, and the questions start to pile up, along with the bodies. Not inclined to take no for an answer, he forges on through the dockside bars, black-market warehouses, and segregated brothels of his roiling city, uncovering more than a few surprises in this murky tale based on actual events in a little-known corner of the WW2 theatre.

Book Review

Two novellas, connected by PI Jack Munro, COORPAROO BLUES and THE IRISH FANDANGO are an interesting historical hard-boiled combination of PI, mean streets, fallen women, drinking and the whole nine yards.

The first story, COORPAROO BLUES, introduces Jack, war veteran, ex-cop, nose for trouble, attractor of a simply staggering number of women, PI that you turn to when things are going to get nasty.

The second story, set a few months later, sees the US troop angle switched for political refugees and Communists around every corner, and a suicide that isn't.

So we're not exactly talking scenarios and a counter-hero of a type that we've not seen before. Albeit that Munro comes with a hefty dose of Australian colloquial language (so much so that they've included a glossary at the back of the book for those less used to the way that the common language can divide). He's also walking the seamier side of Brisbane at a period in history that not a lot of dark and noir current day fiction addresses. And it's done very well - the setting feels authentic, right down to the sense of heat and grime that comes with a Brisbane summer. We're also talking, mercifully a couple of intricate plots that were clever and well formed and resolved in two such short novellas.

The thing with this sort of crime fiction is always that there's a sense that attitudes of the time must be clear cut, all women are either whores or saints, all men gangsters or heroes. Even though Munro is a fair bit more nuanced than like hero's of the type, he is, a good bloke to have on your side in a tight spot and a man seemingly irresistible to any female within range. Definitely one for fans of noir, particularly as it's been a long time since Australia's mean streets have been explored in this way.

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