When Craig Walters discovers his widowed-Mother is dying, he puts his dreams on hold and accepts a position at a small private bank in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. For Craig, the steady income offers a chance to regroup. However, his indoctrination into the banking world quickly deteriorates when believing he’s stumbled upon an elaborate fraud scheme. His covert digging into the bank’s files for confirmation promptly sets off alarm bells that reverberate around the globe and unwittingly lays bare a more in-depth, sinister plot.
It must be quite an experience for an author to start out on the long cycle of writing a book about crime and corruption in the financial system, and then, just as you complete the manuscript, have real life intercede in apropos fashion. As Neil A. White puts it on his website:
"Set in Australia – with a few stopovers in Dublin and Rome – I completed the manuscript just as the Panama Papers exploded across the internet. Their release shone a harsh light on the nefarious world of offshore banking, tax evasion and money laundering which dovetailed perfectly with my manuscript. Naturally, a few small revisions ensued."
Mind you, after the Panama Papers and now, in Australia, the revelations of the 2017 Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, you'd be excused for wondering why a lot more crime fiction isn't set in the patently dodgy world of banking and "wealth management" (whose wealth I've always wondered, but I digress).
Neil A White's second novel TURN A BLIND EYE is a standalone, set in Melbourne mostly, with connections drawn via the world of banking, money and cover-ups to Dublin and Rome, the Catholic Church and the IRA. All of that comes across as not just believable, but absolutely acceptable, as a local, very ordinary sort of a bloke - Craig Walters - potential tennis champion, turned apprentice banker because of family tragedy, stumbles upon some odd goings on with the finances of residents of the hospice in which is dying Mum is being cared for. A Catholic home, it normally only cares for people with no family, so the idea that a shifty lawyer and a dodgy banker have been up to no good unfortunately makes perfect sense. As does the idea that what Walters stumbles on is really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financial malfeasance and outright theft.
TURN A BLIND EYE delivers a multi-threaded plot constantly returning back to the central theme of money and corruption. The IRA / Catholic connections are done via interspersed chapters, whilst the action in Melbourne moves from the personal to the professional, every day life to life-threatening danger. With a love interest, old mates, a bit of hanging about in a local pub, and some believable hacking activities on the side. The final act, where everything is wrapped up nicely in conversation between Walters and a convenient high up cop relative might not be to everyone's taste, but the return of a Beast of a car in the final scenes is a nice touch.
As with legal thrillers, sometimes the motivations for the "accidental investigator" can be a little ropey, but in TURN A BLIND EYE, the idea that Craig Walters, loving son, learning banker, would notice something a little bit odd, and then be prepared to stick his neck out, with the help of his mate, makes enormous sense. It's a novel well worth reading, more so because of the timeliness of the subject matter.