All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Stiff – Shane Maloney

on January 19, 2014

Murray Whelan TrilogyStiff (Murray Whelan #1)
Shane Maloney
Text Publishing
2001 (originally 1994), 217p
Read from my husband’s collection

When a worker is found frozen stiff in the large freezer of a meat plant, it gets passed to Murray Whelan to investigate. Whelan is the general dogsbody for local Labor MP and Minister for Industry Charlene Wills. No one wants this to stir up anything untoward for Charlene and Murray thinks it’s liable to be pretty straight forward. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Before he knows it, someone is trying to kill him and he doesn’t know why. And they’re pretty determined about it too, even if they’re failing miserably. He finds himself being stalked by a Ford Falcon that’s hell bent on dispatching him to the next realm as he seeks to uncover just what was going on at the meat plant, which is more than anyone bargained for. Whilst battling this Whelan is also the struggling single father to his son Red with his estranged wife off in Canberra writing public policy. It’s only a matter of time before Wendy arrives on his doorstep with the intentions of whisking Red off to Canberra with her and that’s something Whelan doesn’t want to see happen. However if Wendy is going to show up, maybe he can hit her up for half the cost of the new roof that his house seems to require….. If he’s still alive to ask for it.

Last year my last session at the Melbourne Writers Festival included Shane Maloney as one of three crime authors on a panel. I wasn’t particularly there to see him, I was more there to see Annie Hauxwell whose books I had recently read however I found him extremely funny both about himself and his books and given that my husband owns the two Murray Whelan trilogies, I had made a vow to read them at some stage. I decided to give one a go when I was scanning the shelves for Australian male authors to include for my Aussie Author Challenge this year and so I found the first collection and settled in to read Stiff. I know that a couple of these novels have been adapted for television and the lead is played by David Wenham.

Murray WhelanBecause I knew this already, I pictured him in my head and delivering all of the lines. I think that Wenham is an excellent choice and it really seemed to work for the character. I’d love to see the adaptations now, I need to get my hands on them at some stage. Or wait for them to be shown on television again, which probably won’t take all that long.

Murray Whelan works for the Australian Labor Party as an assistant and general dogsbody to local Melbourne MP and Minister for Industry Charlene Wills. Murray mostly mans the office while Charlene is in Parliament and off doing things that MP’s do which means that he deals with the day to day issues, particularly the general public that wander in off the street all wanting to make a local complaint to their MP about something or other. When someone is found dead in a freezer at a meat plant it has the potential to (apparently) be an industrial relations nightmare and something that Charlene’s opponent could use against her at the upcoming election which is rumoured to be very soon. Charlene’s ministerial adviser at Industry needs a report on what really happened and any potential landmines that need to be negotiated, presumably to avoid any nasty surprises during an election campaign. Why this is Murray’s job I’m not entirely sure, but he has the probable nonthreatening demeanor and just enough blokiness to get away with poking around the plant which employs mostly unskilled immigrant workers and has a high turnover. Someone tries to kill him after it becomes clear that Whelan is onto something happening which doesn’t quite add up and Whelan takes that rather personally. He becomes determined to find out exactly what is happening.

I liked Murray although he’s clearly the kind of character that has a lot of room to grow. As the author said in the MWF session, he’s unskilled in this particular area. He’s not a cop or former cop, he’s not an investigator. He’s a political pen pusher who spends most of the time in his office that looks like a cupboard. He has to fumble his way through it himself and learn as he goes and mostly he has tenacity and a little bit of luck. His knowledge of Melbourne helps, particularly when he’s about to get run down or off the road by the mysterious Falcon. He’s a good dad, bumbling along in single parent life perhaps in a bit of an unorthodox manner but he’s getting the job done in the best way that he can whilst also working and dealing with his long-distance and seemingly disdainful estranged wife Wendy. Murray tends to have a lot of things go wrong for him and he doesn’t get the hot girl or glamorous promotions. But I do look forward to seeing where the series takes him and what further scrapes he gets himself involved in.


Book #12 of 2014


Stiff is the second book read for the Aussie Author Challenge 2014.



One response to “Review: Stiff – Shane Maloney

  1. So glad to see someone else talking about Shane Maloney’s writing. So far I’ve read The Brush-Off and The Big Ask and found them both very entertaining. I think it’s the appealing dose of Aussie cynicism and the fact that there is intellect lurking behind Whelan’s screw-up persona that appeals to me.

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