Review: THE BANK INSPECTOR by Roger Monk

TheBankInspectorMonkRoge23538_fIf you live in London or New York or Paris you are spoiled for choice of home-town crime novels. Heck even the Reykjavikians have multiple authors setting crime-laden books in their isolated and and somewhat unlikely locale. But even though it was once named murder capital of the world by a UK documentary my home town is, almost, bereft of fictional crimes. And even when one does come along it only stretches to a string of non-violent robberies and an attempted murder. Though set in 1950 (a decade and half or so before I was born) Roger Monk’s Adelaide is entirely recognisable to me, perhaps helped by the fact that one of the principle players lives in the same street where I live now! The physical spaces, the big-country town feel, the juxtaposition of old-fashioned conservatism with a sometimes surprising welcoming nature towards immigrant populations all let me know I was, for once, reading a book about my town.

The book opens with the first of several bank robberies. No guns are drawn, no voices are raised but a city-based branch of a major bank is robbed by someone posing as a bank inspector. The detective assigned to the case is keen but quickly baffled. Clearly the daring crime was carried out by someone familiar with the bank’s procedures but no potential suspects are immediately apparent. While still working his way through the painstaking evidence gathering and suspect identification, Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw is soon assigned another case related to the robbery investigation only by virtue of proximity. One of the members of the Lebanese community who live and work near the bank branch is savagely attacked in her home and left for dead.

THE BANK INSPECTOR drips with realistic period details of life in general and the banking and business communities in particular. The author worked in banking before becoming a lecturer in organisational psychology at one of our universities and his knowledge of this world is evident in the many small details that bring the story to life. When a second branch of the bank, this time in a nearby country town, is robbed the way of life for a small town bank manager during this period is richly drawn.

Although for the most part the characters here take second place to the plot there are some real gems. The Lebanese family who run a clothing business and do their banking at the branch where the first robbery took place add some necessary relief from the cast of what is otherwise basically white, Aussie blokes. The family’s dramas play out largely in parallel to the police investigations although the threads do become intertwined when one of them falls head-over-heels for a banker (and he for her).

THE BANK INSPECTOR has few of a modern marketer’s checklist of crime novel must-haves. There’s really no central hero and the two who could vie for the role are completely devoid of alcoholism, ex-spouses and the other accoutrements of the standard crime novel hero (though one of them is a bit too fond of meat pies). All but one of its crimes are completely non-violent and the one that isn’t is described in a couple of sentences rather than with pages of blood-dripping gore. There are no ax-wielding psychopaths or other terrifying individuals, although I suppose you could argue that the person revealed to be responsible for the crimes has some sociopathic tendencies. All of which means the book has received virtually no publicity – even locally – (because how can you market a book that can’t lay claim to being the next Larsson/Connelly/Gerritsen…?) but offers a thoroughly entertaining yarn to those who manage to stumble across it as I did.

Publisher: Horizon Publishing [2014]
ISBN: 9781922238375
Length: 374 pages
Format: paperback
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