All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Dead Cat Bounce – Peter Cotton

Dead Cat BounceDead Cat Bounce
Peter Cotton
Scribe Publishing
2013, 313p
Read from my local library

The capital of Australia is abuzz as the country is just weeks out from a federal election. The campaign is thrown into chaos when a cabinet minister goes missing. When her body is found on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, several things strike the investigative team as unusual. It has the trademarks of a certain type of suicide but the location does not work. This was clearly a murder – but why? And how do you dig up a motive when it’s rooted in federal politics and pretty much everyone hates everybody else and stands to profit from a death?

Detective Darren Glass is part of the team investigating the death of the minister but the further he gets, the more confusing it becomes. Interviewing people of interest becomes all the more difficult when one of them disappears. A man from the Prime Minister’s Office disappears in the same circumstances as the first minister and their body turns up in almost the same place. The cause of death is clearly the same. Darren has some leads but looking into them without creating a fuss and earning himself the ire of the Prime Minster of the country is going to be extraordinarily difficult.

The country wants answers fast and at the moment, Darren and his colleagues don’t have much to give them. Darren is also concerned about a female journalist – she’s been contacted by a person who is in all probability, the killer. They gave her some information which she broke as a huge political story and now Darren fears for her safety as well. He wants to get her some protection but his superiors don’t agree and so he takes it upon himself to keep an eye on her, just in case anything happens. And it’s a good thing too because when it comes to getting out of the perfect murder, two people are going to desperately need his help if they are to survive.

No one is safe from this killer, not even the man who holds the highest office in the country. And if Darren thought things were bad when it was his life on the line….it’s even worse now.

Dead Cat Bounce is the first novel from a former media adviser to three federal cabinet ministers, Peter Cotton. He picks the tricky time of several weeks out from a federal election to begin his story, with the kidnapping and subsequent murder of popular Environment Minister Susan Wright. Detective Darren Glass (who shares a name with the captain of one of my least favourite AFL teams, the West Coast Eagles) is one of the investigators although he doesn’t exactly begin in a good way when he puts the Prime Minister offside in a telephone call and almost gets himself pulled off the case. He escapes just barely and becomes a crucial part of the investigation – and almost a victim more than once.

I have to admit, I chose this book to read because of the name – dead cat bounce is a stockbroking term that crudely describes a pattern of catastrophic fall/loss and then a small rebound, ie like dropping a dead cat off a building. It falls a long way and it’ll bounce…just a little. And then when it hits the ground again, it’ll be even more devastating. It was also the name of a racehorse that raced in Queensland for some time and I used to hear it go around every week although at the time I didn’t actually know where the name came from. When I saw this book on my library shelves I had to snatch it up.

My degree is in politics and I still take a pretty strong interest in what’s happening so I found that the setting of Canberra in and around the politicians really worked for me. I think there’s a strong fascination with political figures at times, even more so when they’ve been tinged with drama. I’m picturing Tony Abbott being kidnapped and I suspect my first reaction to that scenario is probably not what it should be. I think a lot of the time they come off as untouchable to to read this book and observe people in power being taken so effortlessly and murdered in such a way, it does create a sense of panic – if the people who run the country aren’t safe with all their protection, who is? What could they possibly have done that would drive someone -or someones- to this sort of thing? There has to be something there and the more people that go missing, the more it looks like being something big.

I really enjoyed the fledgling romance between Darren and the political reporter Jean although it’s probably not explored quite as deeply as it could’ve been – a lot of the moral dilemmas on a political reporter dating a detective in charge of an investigation centered around politics is glossed over and mostly left up to the reader. Both of them do conduct themselves well and when something does go wrong it’s not Darren’s fault but more his superior’s and although Jean is understandably upset and angry she really doesn’t take it out on Darren for any more than about five minutes which was refreshing. You might look at Darren’s looking after Jean as stalking and I suppose on some level it is – it’s like friendly stalking. He doesn’t mean her any harm and he doesn’t watch her all the time, he just wants to make sure she doesn’t become a victim when she’s no longer of use to the killer. The fact that Jean likes him softens it a little. Darren is still youngish and not totally jaded yet. I think he thinks he’s trying to do the best he can and look after her. The dramas surrounding several things could’ve been spun out into some big conflict but this isn’t a long book and so nobody has time for that. It’s all information and progression in the case, there are no tangents here.

I’m not sure if this is a series or not – I haven’t found anything to suggest that it is and the end is pretty neat with nothing really left unsolved but I certainly wouldn’t mind reading about Darren investigating something else in the future.


Book #56 of 2014


Dead Cat Bounce is book #9 of my pledge to read more Australian male authors