Trust by Chris Hammer

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

Like a fine wine, Chris Hammer’s writing of thrillers seems to improve with age.  His first two novels, ‘Scrublands’ and ‘Silver’ were very good and he was welcomed as a talented and significant crime writer.

‘Trust’, his most recent novel, is an excellent addition to his work.

Once more, Martin Scarsden, a clever investigative journalist with a renowned ability to expose criminals and then write about the process, appears as the main character. He has Mandy, his beautiful partner, whom he met in the first novel, and their relationship continues to develop.

‘Trust’ is lengthy at almost 500 pages, but initially there are TWO different streams to the plot, and Martin and Mandy separately pursue these.

Mandy, who previously worked for a prominent merchant bank, Mollisons, is connected by a fraud to a massive theft and possible money laundering. She now assists the police in solving the crime and tracking down the perpetrators. Excitement and tension build. There is violence from two psychopaths, kidnapping and a body found in the wall of a building being razed. It is revealed that it belongs to a charismatic and brilliant man who Mandy confesses was once, ‘the love of my life’.

Martin’s connections lead him to the world of the highly successful lawyer – exclusive clubs and fine wine and dining. In ‘Trust’, this also draws more than one murder. After his respected and admired editor, Max, is a victim, Martin is caught in the murky world of what the Sydney establishment would regard as its finest.

The descriptions of this world are graphic and so good that the book is close to being that rare form – a literary crime novel.

Settings are so vivid that a reader feels present. Aldo’s cosy, unpretentious little coffee shop is like so many that dot our cities. Invariably, they serve great coffee and offer a sense of community.

Characters enhance the already vibrant plot. There is the sinister Turtle, slightly mysterious; the enigma that is Tarquin Molloy who is clever, charming, reckless and duplicitous; and the tech wizard Yev to mention a few. Adding to the cast of characters are such memorable names as Darcy Defoe, Sweetwater, Montefore, Zelda Forshaw and of course, Mandalay Blonde (Mandy).

Sydney’s weather features as a backdrop throughout which is a deft way to bring a sense of reality to the lives of the main characters as the pace quickens and action becomes more confronting and menacing.

There are smoke filled skies, Antarctic winds and, often, drenching showers.

Characters have their flaws. Mandy is naive and is battling a deep distrust of men, even Martin.

Martin himself is sometimes unprepared to deal with the events unfolding and is prey to jealousy particularly of Defoe, another journalist.

It becomes evident that both the investigations by Martin and Mandy are indeed linked. With increasing drama and horrific episodes, all is explained. Such is the danger encountered more than once, it is obvious the role of the investigative journalist can be life-threatening even on home soil!

The title perfectly sums up the underlying theme here.  There is betrayal of love, friends, family, and colleagues at various stages, indicating a loss of trust. In a broader sense, who can be trusted in the higher ranks of our society?  The members of the aptly named ‘Mess’ in the book, the exclusive Sydney club, belong to the church, the judiciary and government.  Some of them prove to be criminals capable of serious criminal activity, including murder.

It is without reservation that I trust that Chris Hammer’s latest novel will be admired and thoroughly enjoyed.

Trust

[2020]

by Chris Hammer

Allen and Unwin

ISBN 9781760 877415

$32.99; 463pp

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