Review copy provided by publisher
Hardie Grant (Random House AU), September 2012
Synopsis- The Victoria Police Armed Robbery Squad has long been considered the hardest and most feared group of Victorian detectives. They operate without fear or favour.
Newspaper journalist Ian Malone, new to the city crime beat, has assigned himself a story: uncover the truth about the enigmatic squad. Have the men from “The Robbers” been demonised or is their hard-arm reputation deserved? It is a time of disruption and change. Force command and a new police ethics commission want the Armed Robbery Squad disbanded. Apart from political enemies, the squad has a new nemesis on the street: a vicious bandit prepared to shoot robbery victims – and detectives. The Armed Robbery Squad men, for so long the hunters, have become the hunted.
As Malone builds a unique and unexpected bond with the squad he is enticed into a sometimes dark, seedy and seductive world where right can be wrong and wrong can often be right: a grey world of honour versus politics. “Heat” meets “Animal Kingdom” in this gritty and dirty crime saga. The Robbers takes the reader into a world where cops and bandits fight a silent war; a world where the most dangerous enemies might just be the bureaucrats and the political powerbrokers. Honour versus politics in a grey world where nothing is as black and white as the media makes it appear
Review- Paul Anderson presents a meticulously researched and vivid personification of the Victorian Armed Robbery Squad in his fictional portrayal, The Robbers. It’s clear from the very first page that Anderson knows what he’s talking about, drawing from his own knowledge and experience in working as a police and court reporter for the Herald Sun.
The Armed Robbery Squad, known as “the Robbers” is a real man’s world. The detectives are tough, loyal to their team and devoted to their job- just as you would expect a police officer to be. But they are also crude, dismissive, violent and at times downright scary. They put their lives on the line every single day and have a ferocious attitude of taking down the criminals with whatever means at their disposal. Then there’s Kelso, the detective that leads the squad who frequents strip clubs (sorry ‘gentleman’ clubs) and prostitutes, beats up criminals on the street and at times I questioned whether he had some serious sociopathic tendencies not unlike the criminals he hunted.
What Anderson does so well is create an understanding of these very flawed characters and even though I didn’t particularly like them, I wanted to see the best in them. There were times I was completely appalled, disgusted even by their behaviour…but there were also times when I did sympathise with them in those rare moments when their guard was down.
Even though the stats are in their favour for cleaning up the city of armed bandits, the higher powers want to dismantle the team due to the number of complaints against the squad and their out-dated procedures. Here enters newspaper journalist, Malone who intends to uncover the truth about the squad. Malone is a complicated character with past regrets and an underlying motive for infiltrating the Robbers. He forms a (slightly dysfunctional) bond with Kelso who takes Malone under his wing and accepts him as one of the team. Initially he is presented as the protagonist of the novel, but he takes on a secondary role as the story progresses though he does remain a pivotal character in the book. I liked him instantly; he’s assertive and confidently holds his place among the bravado in the squad. But as he becomes immersed in the lifestyle of alcohol, women and ad hoc criminal acts with his newfound friends he becomes almost indistinguishable from the Robbers- which poses a problem for him in objectively portraying the squad.
Anderson also provides an insight into the mind of the criminals which was fascinating and also disturbing because at times they weren’t much different to the cops!
The Robbers provides a captivating and confronting insight into the nature of the frontline police dealing with Australia’s most dangerous criminals. It’s a story where the line between good and evil becomes blurry and you’re likely to face many ethical quandaries while reading this novel. The Robbers will be enjoyed by crime fiction and true crime fans who can stomach vulgar scenes and offensive characters. A highly recommended Australian read!
The Robbers can be purchased from the publisher and other leading book retailers
About the author: Paul Anderson spent fourteen years as a police reporter with the Herald Sun before becoming the newspaper’s chief court reporter in 2009. He has won team Walkley and Quill awards for crime coverage and most recently won a joint Quill for the Best Feature in Print. Paul is the author of five true crime books. This is his first novel.