Electric Blue

Paul Verhoeven

Electric Blue
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Electric Blue

Paul Verhoeven

Paul Verhoeven’s ex-cop dad, John, spent years embroiled in some of the seediest, scariest intrigue and escapades imaginable. One day John offered Paul the chance of a lifetime- he’d spill his guts on tape. What unfolded in Loose Units was a goldmine of true-crime stories, showcasing John’s dramatic experience of policing in Sydney in the 1980s and brilliantly twisted sense of humour. But what happened next in John’s career was twice as weird.

Electric Blue spans the final years of John’s stint in the New South Wales Police Force, when he took up an offer to move into the grimy, analytical world of forensics. Paul unpicks his father’s most terrible cases. There was the case of a rapist hiding in the walls of a shower block, a body that was quite literally cooked, and the bizarre copycat suicides.

But what’s it actually like to have a heroic ex-cop as a dad? Paul and John delve into their unique father-son relationship and how they ended up so different to each other. They figure out how to deal with the choices they’ve made … or wish they’d made. And Paul’s mum, Christine, reveals what it was like to be a pioneering female cop in the eighties, when misogyny was rife in the force.

Thrilling, fascinating and unexpectedly laugh-out-loud funny, Electric Blue is another high-octane adventure in policing, integrity and learning what family is really all about.

Review

Sometimes it’s pretty easy to categorise a crime book. I’ll say ‘procedural’, or ‘psychological thriller’, and while every book is original, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. Then you get a book like Electric Blue, and the genre it slides into – true crime – doesn’t seem like enough to explain it. A follow-up to Verhoeven’s first true crime book, Loose Units, this is a continuation of the years of Paul’s dad John’s life in and around the police force.

While John always had aspirations of being a detective – plain-clothes, gun holster, suede shoes – he didn’t have the temperament for it. Instead, he moved into Scientific, something like forensics, which still had the plain-clothes and the gun and the suede shoes, but you didn’t have to be quite so amoral to join. And thus begins a series of gruesome, heartbreaking, eye-opening tales, as John learns the ropes of how to read the story a dead body’s telling. And, in hearing these stories, Paul learns to read his father’s story – and his own. Diagnosed with ADHD, but not back when he was a kid and life was pretty miserable, Paul can’t understand the straightforward decisions John makes in every case, while John can’t understand Paul’s way of seeing every choice branching out endlessly. Essentially, the two men solve the mystery of each other while dead bodies pile up around them.

This really, really isn’t for the faint of heart. I read a lot of crime, but this still shook me – life and death can be graphic and this doesn’t hold back, and remembering that these were all real, living people (probably with some details fudged slightly for legal reasons) is pretty devastating. There are threads of corruption and looking the other way that frustrate, knowing it’s probably the same all these years later. Despite the gore, though, it’s also incredible wholesome. Paul’s family shines with love. His mother – one of the first female cops in NSW – also gets some time in the spotlight, fighting for equality against a confused and vast majority. It’s lashed with gallows humour. And the final section – well, I don’t want to give too much away, but I haven’t seen anything like it in modern crime writing. Make the choice, and give it a go.


Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also the bestselling author of the acclaimed How To Make a Movie in 12 Days, and How To Write the Soundtrack To Your Life.

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