All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Brotherhood – Y.A. Erskine

on May 13, 2012

The Brotherhood
Y.A. Erskine
Random House AU
2011, 379p
Read from my local library

It’s a routine call out for a rookie probationary constable and a sergeant – a reported break and enter in progress. But that routine call out turns tragic when Sergeant John White, all-round good guy and respected copper is murdered, fatally stabbed. One of the suspects is apprehended at the scene but the other escapes. And it proves to be a political hotpot when the suspects are revealed as a pair of brothers who identify as Aboriginal.

Although well known to police and having been in and out of trouble for most of their young lives, the two teenagers embraced heritage means that everything has to be done by the book, even more so than usual. And the local media looks set to do their part too, stirring up a controversy by painting the youthful offender as the victim, betrayed and spat out by a useless system and a cycle of abuse.

The Brotherhood is told from a myriad of perspectives: the probationary constable on the call out, the state Commissioner, the detective in charge of investigating the case, the journalist looking for the perfect angle that will get him out of here and off to the big smoke, the victim’s ex-lover, the suspect’s lawyer, the victim’s wife, a constable working the same shift as the victim, the suspect himself and a friend of the victim who is also a cop. It paints a grim picture of the policing system, the legal system and the so-called justice system where criminals get off on technicalities and crying racist or foul treatment, anyone has the potential to be corrupt and everyone has something to hide.

When I constructed a rough list of books I wanted to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge this year, I realised that although I had intended to read as widely as possible, I lacked in crime fiction. Fortunately Bernadette, a fellow Australian blogger who focuses on just that, pitched in with several recommendations, one of which was this novel. She had highly enjoyed it and wrote a very positive review of it that had me immediately keen to read it, for many different reasons. Firstly, it helped add to a genre that I do enjoy but perhaps don’t own a lot of, secondly it was set in Tasmania which made a lovely refreshing change from procedurals set in either Sydney or Melbourne and lastly, because it touched on a very sensitive topic, that of Aboriginal offenders and the law. It took my library some time to have it available and I requested it as soon as it was added to the catalogue.

As mentioned above, the narrative takes turns and I thought that was a perfect way in which to construct this novel. There’s a large cast of characters and by giving them their own chapter/section where the focus is on them it perfectly establishes relationships for the reader without the confusing of characters wandering in and out and viewpoints changing. Each of the characters are starkly believable, incredibly well written from the young, green probationary constable that opens the book right through to the end. They are secretive, they have faults -glaring ones- and mostly, they’re all not very nice people. There are some exceptions but mostly this little cast of characters are not people you’d want to befriend. And with the power some of them wield in society, it’s a little alarming with the things some of them are up to.

There’s no denying that this book is gritty, harsh and raw. The author, Yvette Erskine spent 11 years in the Tasmanian police force according to her bio, in both front line and detective policing so there’s no doubt a lot of what occurs in this novel is grounded in realism. There’s a surety in the writing, an authenticity. It’s rough – if you’re offended by language or prefer it not to pepper your novels, don’t pick up this one. I read widely but I do think this one might just take the cake for language… I certainly can’t recall any other book I’ve read which is so free with ‘the worst’ word in society today! It did prove a little distracting at times as it littered every page repeatedly, but I could overlook it in the terms of reality because I do think that the sort of people populating this novel talk quite similarly to this. If I thought it was gratuitous for simply shock’s sake, it would have really bothered me.

This book does address a very hot issue, that of an Aboriginal offender playing the race card. Whilst the book plays on emotions vying against each other by portraying Sergeant White as an extremely good, kind and generous police officer, it also seeks to assert the fact that some people just don’t have much of a chance in life and that there are some flaws in the systems that should protect and encourage. But it doesn’t preach, or choose a side at all, it simply…is. And I really liked that. I felt it gave the freedom to form my own opinion and beliefs without feeling manipulated into it.

The Betrayal is a fantastic novel from a debut author, rich and complex with amazingly believable characters. I have to admit to finishing the book and feeling a bit “What? Is that it?!” but then I realised that Erskine’s second novel, entitled The Betrayal, published less than two weeks ago, seems to deal with the same characters, which pleased me a lot. Even though I didn’t like a lot of them, there’s a little unfinished business with several and I’m very much looking forward to revisiting this world and seeing what comes about next.


Book #81 of 2012

The Brotherhood is the 29th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

6 responses to “The Brotherhood – Y.A. Erskine

  1. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I’ve just started The Betrayal and so far it has the same feel and style as The Brotherhood, and yes characters do reappear 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you liked this one – it’s awful when you recommend a book and the person doesn’t like it at all. Like you i thought it tackled difficult issues realistically – reality isn’t all that pleasant sometimes either and the book really had that feel to it – unpleasant reality.

    I’ve got the second one here somewhere and want to read it – but am in the midst of packing to move house in a few weeks and so I think it’ll be a while before I find it again (it’s in a box somewhere)

    • I definitely agree, it had a very firm sense of realism for me, both with the behaviour of the authorities and the accused as well. Good luck with your move, I know the idea of packing up all my books and shuffling them around would be a nightmare!

  3. […] A Erskine, The Brotherhood (Bantam/Random House): reviewed for AWW by 1girl2manybooks, Brenda, Crime Pieces, Bookdout, […]

  4. […] no two people read the same book as it garnered this disappointed review as well as this satisfied one and a range of thoughts in between these extremes. I guess you can’t ask for more than that […]

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