Carter's first novel featuring Cato (obvious connection for the nickname) Kwong, PRIME CUT, had him exiled to the Stock Squad in the back blocks of regional WA, doing penance. GETTING WARMER has him back in Perth, just as things weather-wise and crime-wise start to heat up. Starting out with the rather bizarre search for the body of a teenage girl, the supposed perpetrator of that crime being one from the nastier end of the psycho range, it's hard to see how anyone's going to get all that fussed when he shows up dead on the floor of the jail kitchens.
Except the two motorcycle club members who were seen on CCT cameras beating him to a pulp. Their mates aren't best pleased that they've been accused of murder when all it was supposed to be was a kicking. Nothing about sharpened toothbrushes in the eye.
Meanwhile Kwong nemesis from the earlier novel Lara Sumich has her own "issues" when she's on hand to discover a body in a nightclub toilet. Not 'fessing up that she knows the identity of the dead man long before it's worked out, not 'fessing up that she has quite a bit of history with the dead man makes her role in the investigation just a little fraught. Mind you, the whole team is under a lot more pressure once it turns out that dead Santo Rosetti is actually an undercover cop, very in with one side of the rapidly escalating turf wars between crime gangs.
It's got to be nearly impossible to not like Cato Kwong. Built into a narrative that's assured and tense, without ever tipping over into lunacy, Kwong is as entertaining and funny as the storylines could possibly allow. The sense of gallows humour, or the bizarre and the flat out weird isn't cartoonish at all, but it is definitely witty, and clever and very real to read.
There's good balance here between the personal and the investigation, and the physical invincibility of our hero and his fallibilities. He takes the punches, they hurt like hell and he gets on with it. He's real as a cop, real as a friend and real as a father struggling to hold onto a close connection with his young son, despite a separation. He's also not playing a lone hand in the books, with his working relationship with Sumich as tricky as it's always been, just as she's as tricky as she's always been.
It's not just bikies that are causing problems as well, there's also a young African hitman and his unexpected controller, and a yapping dog that really deserves a mention in the credits.
Carter's quite the master at juggling Kwong juggling his own varied and slightly crazy balls in air. As good a debut as PRIME CUT was, GETTING WARMER is an even better second book - something that often doesn't seem to be easy to nail. Here it's not just nailed, it's been counter-sunk, sanded, lacquered and laid out for everyone to admire.