Title: Babylon South (Scobie Malone #6)

Author: Jon Cleary

Reader: Shaun Grindell

Category: Mystery

Audio published: June 1, 2013 by AudioGo (First published 1990)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Amazon | AudioGo

In 1966 Sir Walter Springfellow, head of Australian Intelligence, vanished mysteriously and without a trace. As a young constable, Scobie Malone investigated the disappearance. Twenty-one years later some bones are found up in the hills which are presumed to be Sir Walter’s, and Detective Inspector Malone finds himself back on the case. His first task is to break the news to Venetia Springfellow, Sir Walter’s glamorous widow, whose ruthless ambition has made the Springfellow Corporation a hugely successful company. Then comes news that there has been another death in the family, and one of the Springfellows is to be charged with murder. Police Commissioner John Leads turns out to have every reason for talking a close interest in the case, but emotional involvement results in his putting unfair pressure on Scobie Malone. Always a straight cop and a decent man, Malone finds his divided loyalties extremely troubling.

I’ve been on a Scobie Malone kick lately. I like him – he’s a good detective, honest, loyal, and a family man. And Shawn Grindell just captures his voice and attitude perfectly. This time around though, his loyalties are a little conflicted. His job is to figure out who killed Sir Walter’s sister, Emma, in addition to who killed Sir Walter 20 years ago. Problem is one of the suspects is possibly the illegitimate daughter of the police commissioner who would like Scobie to leave her alone if at all possible.

I liked this one because it threw me a couple of curveballs I didn’t see coming. I wasn’t sure who the killer in either murder was, although I had suspects all of which were of course wrong.

One of the better characters was a just-released ex-con, Chilla Dural, who had threatened Sir Walter twenty-years earlier when he had him put away. Chilla is a full of contradictions, a freed convict who wants to be back home in prison, but won’t shoot anyone or kill anyone and even fails at a bank robbery when someone else gets to it first. He’s a warm man, one you can like despite his flaws. I was wondering how he’d fit into the plot through the first half off the book though. His parts were disconnected until it all came together.

I tend to like strong women character, especially in male-dominated mysteries, and this one has a couple of great women. Venetia is honest and ruthless, but caring too, at least when it comes to her daughter and her dead husband. Her daughter is not quite as tough as she is, but can stand up for herself. Emma, the woman who was killed, was a little nutty, but strong and determined nonetheless.

It also provides an interesting picture of Australia in the 80s during a market crash. We get to see how the rich are viewed by ordinary cops and how everyone has their own prejudices.

I like this series in general, but this is one of the better installments.

Scobie Malone Series

  1. The High Commissioner
  2. Helga’s Web
  3. Ransom
  4. Dragons at the Party
  5. Now and Then, Amen
  6. Babylon South
  7. Murder Song
  8. Pride’s Harvest
  9. Dark Summer
  10. Bleak Spring
  11. Autumn Maze
  12. Winter Chill
  13. A Different Turf
  14. Endpeace
  15. Five-Ring Circus
  16. Dilemma
  17. The Bear Pit
  18. Yesterday’s Shadow
  19. The Easy Sin
  20. Degrees of Connection