Enjoyable book with strong central characters – something of a psychological thriller mixed with Greek-style tragedy reflecting on flawed greatness and what it is to be human and live well. Will be enjoyed more by those with at least some interest in the sport of cricket and who’ve lived in the Australian city of Melbourne, the setting for much of the book.
I say Greek-style tragedy above because without adding spoilers we’re told very early on that central character Darren (Daz) Keefe is a man in his 40s-early 50s, in a very sticky situation in the boot of a car. So each chapter begins with a brief update on his current predicament, and then his retrospective retelling in his mind of earlier parts of his life. So we wonder what twists of fate, mistakes and flaws of character led up to his current predicament. We see the arc of his life story from childhood in the (then tough and down at heel, since much-gentrified) inner Western suburbs of Melbourne and intense family relationships, flaring of success as a gifted cricketer along with his older brother, and then personal battles, relationships, excesses and stuff-ups on and off the pitch.
As a humanistic book about a man’s trying to live well, deal with their flaws and find meaning in a strange world it’s a really good book – Daz is an engaging anti-hero and the relationships with his brother, mother, and other family who come & go along the way are strong and produce a lot of poignant moments. The structure lends tension too because in sections where Daz seems to have it all going for him at last, we know there is trobule looming that will undo him.
But as a crime fiction, and also one on the cover described as ‘timely’ because it presumably is making points about the problems of celebrity and corruption in sport … I feel the book didn’t quite hit the mark. The transition from the well-told sections set in the 1970s-80s to the modern world of Twitter, the web, online gaming etc felt rushed to me, almost a bit tacked on. The ending didn’t quite shine for me also, not because it was a cliched ‘Hollywood Ending’ but because for me it left unexplored too many threads and wider issues hinted at as surrounding Darren’s life.