five ring circus 2

Title: Five Ring Circus (Scobie Malone #15)

Author: Jon Cleary

Reader: Shaun Grindell

Category: Mystery

Audio published: Sept 1, 2013 by AudioGo (First published 1999)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Amazon Audible

When Australian homicide detective Inspector Scobie Malone is treating his family to dinner at one of Sydney’s best Chinese restaurants, a masked killer suddenly enters and shoots three men dining nearby. The stakes are raised when Scobie finds out that one of the victims was an investor in the multimillion-dollar construction project Olympic Tower, built to house VIPs during the 2000 Olympic Games. But in the midst of union disputes and an economic slump, the tower is still unfinished. Scobie has stumbled upon a scam that could show Sydney’s underbelly as much as it shows its seedy characters—from former Chinese government men to the mysterious Madame Tzu. Even as the Olympics approach, sportsmanship is nowhere to be found.

I enjoy Scobie Malone mysteries. He’s a good character, an honest, hard-working detective. His family also gets their share of screen time. In Five Ring Circus, Lisa, his wife, has just gone back to work, at town hall no less, with some of the very politicians at the edges of the potential scandal surrounding Olympic Tower. His children are adults now, or nearly and I like that, as opposed to earlier books in the series, he doesn’t worry so much about how his job effects his family. The issues are there, but they are dealt without a lot of moaning or second-guessing.

Three men are killed and of course, Scobie just happens to be dining at the same restaurant, but that’s how mysteries work sometimes. He also knows a couple of the investors in the Tower project, including one “crim” who has retired and is going straight, more or less. I liked him a lot, but I can’t think of his name right now. That’s the problem with listening to audiobooks, you can’t go back and look things up. It doesn’t help that I’m horrible at taking notes. Anyway, he had a great mix of honesty and rough edges.

I’ve been a bit critical about some of the Malone novels before because the suspect is settled on too early, with not really enough clues and the rest of the book is about how Scobie finally gets his man. This was not one of those. There are more than enough suspects, but even at that I did not even come close to seeing who was the actual killer(s) or why. In some ways the solution was out of left field, in others it fit perfectly. It’s like there were so many possible threads to the mystery, between the finances and corrupt officials and Chinese interference that it was hard to pick the right one, for us and for the investigators. I mean that in a good way.

I like the Australia setting, the slightly different phrases. In Five Ring Circus, we get to see more of the prejudices of our characters and how they deal with them. One of the detectives on the case is a female who is half-Chinese. I’d like to see more of her. She gets looks both for being a woman and for being Chinese, but she handles it with aplomb.

I’ve been listening to this series out of order, which has worked out fine, except I was slightly surprised Clements, Scobie’s partner throughout the books, has a wife and child now. I guess characters are allowed to have life changes, even when they happen in books I’ve skipped. Each story I’ve read has stood on its own though, a solid plot with no loose ends that needed picked up in the next episode.

Shaun Grindell is the reader I’m used to for the series and I think he fits perfectly. He sounds like Scobie to me, laid back, competent, with a good sense of humour. And his slight accent works well.

There are so many mystery series out there that its hard to decide which ones to start and which ones to continue with. I’ll keep listening to these. They’re standard mysteries. They’re fun but don’t take too much investment on my part, and I like the Australia setting.

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


This was my second book for R.I.P. VIII, a reading event embracing the ghastly and ghostly, mysterious and grim. RIP VIII is hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

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