By John Tognolini
Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide, 2010
The Mountain City Murders is a tale of crime, corruption and politics. Set in 2008 in the fictional New South Wales town of Mountain City (about 120km west of Sydney), the novel tells a story critical of criminal and capitalist greed.
Chief Inspector Jack Blake has just moved to Mountain City from Sydney, for a promotion and to leave the big city behind him. He doesn’t expect to find such criminality in the mountains, yet is hit with the discovery of three murders within the first couple of days of residence in Mountain City.
When local history teacher, George Carboni, witnesses the killing of a local drug addict, he is embroiled in an investigation that uncovers police corruption and intimidation, gangland thuggery and greed.
The setting in the aftermath of the 2007 APEC protests allows Tognolini to illustrate the outrageous powers given to police in the lead-up to the massive demonstration that took place, as well as the dangerous precedent it set in allowing the intimidation of protesters exercising their rights to freedom of association, assembly and speech.
The character of police district commander Morant is clearly reminiscent of NSW’s own Commissioner Scipione, who was appointed just before APEC. Like Morant in the novel, Scipione is contemptuous of protesters and their democratic rights.
In spite of the idiocy of Morant’s abuse of power of Morant, Carboni teams up with Chief Inspector Blake, a more sympathetic, old school copper with a strong moral sensibility and respect for democratic rights, to solve the case of the Mountain City Murders, with excursions into NSW union history (Carboni was with the Builders Labourers Federation in the 1980s), Shakespeare, ancient history and pub trivia along the way.