Reviewed by Robert Goodman.
By JM Green, Scribe, $29.99.
Shoot Through is the third, and possibly final, book by JM Green about social worker turned occasional detective Stella Hardy. The first, Good Money, released in 2015 was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for best first fiction and was followed in 2017 by Too Easy.
Shoot Through follows closely on from the events in Too Easy. Stella is being pressured by her sister to sign over her interest in the family farm and is also asked to go and get their brother’s signature on the papers. But their brother Ben is in a low security prison and while Stella is visiting one of the inmates, Joe Phelan dies. Joe’s mother puts the hard word on Stella through a fairly psychotic colleague of Joe’s who also knows some of her dark secrets. At the same time her old nemesis, the Minister for Justice also wants her to investigate the death, another killer seems to be after her, her relationship with artist Brophy is on the skids and her brother’s pregnant girlfriend, who has secrets of her own, is foisted on her. It is no wonder that her job at the migrant advisory service has to take a backseat and starts to suffer.
What follows is a convoluted story involving prisoners, politicians and cows. As in the previous tales, Green uses these schemes to shine a light on some very real Australian social issues including the privatisation of prisons and what that means for both the prisoners in those institutions and the justice system and the controversy around the live cattle trade. Corruption, greed, the power of class and money and hypocrisy all get a look in along the way.
All of this once again anchored by Stella’s world weary, extremely self deprecating noir narration, with fabulous little turns of phrase like “[s]omething to put the mango chutney back on our relationship samosa” or “… I tried to be enthusiastic, but no words came, instead a strange sort of whistle escaped me, like a punctured pool toy”. Stella is surrounded by a smorgasbord of grifters and criminals but ultimately backed up by her best friend and police officer Phuong Nguyen who supports her despite discovering that Stella might herself be a criminal of sorts.
It is probably a good thing that Green has decided to end the series here. Hardy’s life starts to strain under the weight of the coincidences that serve to put her at the centre of a number of schemes all circling around the central plot. But as always, Stella goes out on her own terms, not quite righting wrongs, but doing enough to put a spoke in the wheel of the most mendacious of her antagonists. With Stella off the stage for now it will be interesting to see where JM Green goes next.
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