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Posted January 18, 2013
Although I had heard of this Australian author, before picking
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Although I had heard of this Australian author, before picking up “Port Vila Blues,” I had not read any of his previous novels. He has written over 40 books, including most conspicuously the Inspector Hal Challis series. This book, written in 1995, is the fifth in the Wyatt series, which now total seven entries, and is the first published in the US.
The protagonist, Vietnam vet Wyatt Wareen, is a thief, and the book is filled with his cohorts and colleagues of equally unlawful lifestyles, all of them with virtually no redeeming qualities, and quite unsympathetic, with a propensity for violence, racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny - - well, you get my drift. Wyatt, a man with “the habit of permanent vigilance,” is an original and interesting creation. At one point, he reflects on his past: “A year ago he’d traveled these waters alone in a stolen motorboat. Having shot a man who’d sold him out, he’d been on the run. He usually was, in those days.” At another point, he reflects further: “The old ways were gone, it seemed. Men like him - - private, professional, meticulous - - were anachronistic in a world given over to impulse and display.”
The book shifts in time, place and p.o.v. with sufficient frequency to induce, if not exactly whiplash, at least occasional momentary confusion, as it veers from one well-planned robbery to another, with rampant corruption making it impossible to separate the good guys from the bad. The book is a satisfying read, with a suspenseful denouement, and while not without its faults, it is recommended.