On the inside, Detective Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly is a mess. Stitched up after being shot, her brain’s taking even longer to heal than her body. On the outside, though, she’s perfect, at least as far as the top brass are concerned. Cabramatta is riding high on the new ‘Asian crime wave’, a nightmare of heroin, home invasions, and hits of all kinds, and the cops need a way into the world of teenaged dealers and assassins.
They think Ned’s Vietnamese heritage is the right fit but nothing in Cabra can be taken at face value. Ned doesn’t speak the language and the ra choi - the lawless kids who have ‘gone out to play’ - are just running rings around her. The next blow could come from anywhere, or anyone. And beyond the headlines and hysteria, Ned is itching to make a play for the kingpin, the person behind it all with the money and the plan and the power.
Beams Falling is the brilliantly compelling and gritty second novel by the rising star of Australian crime writing. A portrait of our recent past, it’s also a compulsive and utterly authentic insight into the way both cops and criminals work.
If you’ve ever entertained the thought that years of reading crime fiction have given you enough insider knowledge to become a blisteringly incredible police officer, this is the book to make you say, ‘You know what, I am going to stick to being an architect/gardener/session musician/stay-at-home parent/crane operator,’ and just be glad that crime books exist. With Beams Falling, P.M. Newton has crafted a book so compelling, and so real, that I could feel the sweat of the book’s Sydney summer and literally covered my mouth with my hand in tension. It made me glad I am a bookseller and not a cop.
Detective Nhu Kelly – Ned to her fellow officers – is not recovering well from a shooting that left her suffering damage to her body, her reputation and, worse still, her ability to work, as the trauma of her attack flashes into her thoughts. She’s punted from her station into a poisonous task force in Cabramatta, a suburb that, in the 90s, has enough history and violence coursing through its streets that it’s not too long before a routine enquiry turns bloody, and the effect on Ned leads her to be stripped of her weapon and told to get help. Following Ned through her investigation into the deaths of two young Vietnamese men and her efforts to get better is so compelling that it feels as real as a documentary: Newton’s writing is punchy, sharp, immediate and beautiful, and includes Ned’s psychological journey in a way that is real – not hackneyed – making this stand-out literature.
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