Review: THE BANK TELLER, Roger Monk

  • this edition published by Horizon Publishing Group 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-922238-74-0
  • 361 pages
  • #3 in “Bank” series
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Amazon)

A top executive dies suddenly.
An accident?
A murder?
An inside job?
Hundreds of suited suspects in one city office.
Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw is recalled from Yorke Peninsula.
From sleepy country town to throbbing city throngs,
clashing personalities, old scores to be settled, frustrated ambitions, jealousies, and something new:  female tellers.
A hotbed of suspicions from managing director to tea lady.
And who started the rumour that one of the tellers may be involved?
Why?  Who?
Know why and you may know who!

My Take

This is #3 in the series based in Adelaide around 1950, focussed around Detective Brian Shaw. A real treat for South Australian readers in particular, but really for all who reflect on how things have changed in the last seven decades.

The novel is a delightful mix of fact and fiction. During the second World War women were allowed to take on the role of tellers in various banks and some were so good at it that they remained in place after the men returned from the services.The fictional Great Southern Bank has branches not only in South Australia but in most of the eastern states. It’s Managers and tellers have been moved around from city to country and vice versa and many are fiercely loyal to the bank.

Like many of its competitors the GSB has been looking for that investment that will give it “the edge” and, as a result, now has a problem that, so far, only its Board is aware of.

A beautifully written, quite complex, story which starts with a murder when the General Manager, Staff, is literally booted down the grand marble staircase and dies as a consequence.

Detective Brian Shaw, who has had dealings with the GSB in the past, is brought back to Adelaide from Yorke Peninsular to solve the puzzle.  And within days there is a second murder.

A highly recommended read.

My rating: 4.7

I also recommend

Review: THE BANK MANAGER, Roger Monk

  • first published by the Horizon Publishing Group 2016
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-922234-573
  • 337 pages
  • source: my local library
  • paperback also available from Amazon

Synopsis (Publisher)

Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw is transferred  to a country town.

Just an ordinary, average Australian country town where nothing ever happens — except blackmail, fornication, embezzlement, revenge, avarice, brutality, snobbery, rape … and murder.

Like any other ordinary, average Australian country town.

My Take

We first met DS Brian Shaw in Roger Monk’s first crime fiction book, THE BANK INSPECTOR.
I felt his character emerged rather more clearly in THE BANK MANAGER.

The year is 1950. Superintendent Matthews of  the South Australian Police Headquarters decides to try stationing detectives in different regions in the state. This will mean when a serious crime occurs a detective will not have to be sent out from Adelaide, he will already be more or less on the spot.
Brian Shaw’s boss Inspector Williams breaks the news to him that he will be reporting to the Midway police station on Yorke Peninsula as officer in charge of all detective functions.

Shaw does not have very long to settle in. The day after he arrives the manager of the Midway branch of the Great Southern Bank disappears on his way back from visiting a local agency. His car mysteriously turns up in his garage overnight but there is no sign of Frank Anderson.

I very much enjoyed this carefully plotted story. There is a good sense of South Australian country life just after World War Two, and some interesting characters.  Brian Shaw is seen by some families as an eligible bachelor, and receives a number of social invitations which gives the reader a good idea of the structure of this country town.

Unfortunately there is no sign of an e-book, but South Australians at least can easily get a copy of both titles through their local library. I look forward to the next in this series.

My rating: 4.8

I’ve also read 4.8, THE BANK INSPECTOR

Review: THE BANK MANAGER by Roger Monk

TheBankManagerMonkFollowing the adventures depicted in this novel’s predecessor Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw is assigned to provide an on site detective presence for the Yorke Peninsula, north west of Adelaide. The year is 1950 and until this time all police detectives have been based in Adelaide which proves expensive and wastes time when investigations requiring their expertise happen outside the city. Brian Shaw, and his personally selected offsider Senior Constable Harry Fetter, are to act as a sort of pilot program for the notion of having detectives based in key locations all around South Australia. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking the two policemen ensured their program’s success via some kind of personal intervention when the normally uneventful (fictional) town of Midway sees high drama the same week that the Adelaide policemen arrive. The manager of one of the town’s two banks disappears one Tuesday afternoon, failing to return from his regularly scheduled visit to an outlying town to provide banking agency services. Frank Anderson is well liked and respected; a happily married man. His family, the town residents and the police are baffled to explain the reason for his disappearance let alone the manner.

As with THE BANK INSPECTOR  the book has an authentic historical feeling to it. Monk has depicted the pace and lifestyle typical of such places with affection, obviously using his own experiences as a country banker to draw on. There’s no big city sneering at country bumpkins here; if anything the slower pace and inter-connected nature of the town’s residents are highlighted as positive attributes of country living. The difficulties that Shaw and Fetter encounter in uncovering what has happened to Frank Anderson really highlight how policing has changed with the advent of technology. About all Brian Shaw can rely on is shoe leather, the town grapevine and his own wits.

Perhaps the pace at which the story unfolds would be a little slow for some readers but I enjoyed the way the book offered a real sense of the time it must have taken for such investigations to unfold. And there is a lot else to enjoy in the book as we meet all the town’s residents, several of whom attempt to ensnare Brian Shaw as an eligible bachelor for their unmarried daughters, and often provide humorous elements to proceedings.

I found the characterisations here stronger than in the first novel. Brian is more well fleshed out we seem to spend more time learning his inner thoughts. His sense of nervousness and excitement at being given such an opportunity is palpable, as is his excitement over a growing love interest (I’m not letting on whether it’s one of the town’s daughters or not). Among the other well-drawn characters my favourite is Miss Iris Wearing: the last surviving member of a wealthy family. She can be haughty, even rude, but reveals both softness and nerves of steel to Brian Shaw in some very engaging passages.

I can thoroughly recommend THE BANK MANAGER to fans of historical crime fiction, especially those who prefer plot and character to guns and blood. There are deaths in the book but minimal depictions of violence, even the kind that happens after death in the form of autopsies and the other grim realities more modern settings seem to demand these days.

Publisher: Horizon Publishing Group [2016]
ISBN: 9781922238573
Length: 335 pages
Format: paperback

Review: THE BANK INSPECTOR, Roger Monk

  • Publisher: The Horizon Publishing Group
  • ISBN: 9781922238375
  • ISBN-10: 1922238376
  • Format: Paperback
  • Language: English
  • Number Of Pages: 422
  • Published: 1st September 2014
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Booktopia)

The perfect crime! One Monday morning, a bank branch is robbed.
No one hurt or threatened.

Not a hold-up. Not a tunnel into the vault. A three minutes robbery and the robber drives away. Not followed. Not caught. A perfect, flawless crime.

Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw hardly knows where to start, especially as
he is distracted by an attempted murder in a nearby street.

A story of greed, treachery and a heart-breaking family feud.

My Take

Thank you to blogging friend Bernadette for the recommendation to read this book. Her review at Fair Dinkum Crime is here.

This novel has so far not received the publicity it deserves. The plot is remarkably simple but at the same time intricately woven with a delicate twist. The setting is local – South Australia, Adelaide, Grote Street, Norwood, the Barossa Valley – some recognisable local scenery, set in 1950, some strongly drawn characters, and some intriguing mystery.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. For overseas readers I wish I could recommend an e-book but there doesn’t appear to be one yet. I live in hope. I also have hopes thta it will make the Ned Kelly shortlist.

My rating: 4.8

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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