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No Way Back by J.R. Carroll
From the Dustjacket
His fellow cops say he's trigger-happy.
His ex-wife says he's unstable.
His new lover says he's obsessive.
His superiors say he's off the case and under investigation.
His world is coming apart...
He's a cop on the trail of a killer the law can't touch.
He has his own brand of justice.
He's got nothing to lose. Except his life.
When you've been pushed to the edge, there's no way back...
Publisher : Pan Macmillan
First published : 1992
ISBN : 0330273477
No. Pages : 244 pages
Filling a nice little niche in the Australian literary landscape is J.R. Carroll who has put his own stamp on some of the less glamorous streets of Australia. No Way Back introduces us to the dangerous urban backstreets patrolled by a rule-breaking detective whose sole motivation is to win.
Detective Dennis Gatz is a good detective, dedicated to his job, tremendously insightful when it come to working through leads and relentless once he gets a sniff. The problem is, he doesn't care how many rules or regulations he breaks to get there and he also doesn't care who has to get hurt. If there's a chance he could solve a crime nothing's going to stand in his way.
After spending the night on the street posing as a derelict hoping to catch a serial killer who has been bludgeoning homeless men to death, Gatz arrives home to find his wife in the process of leaving him. Gatz had already had a heavy night, having shot a man who was running away from him in the back so he doesn't take this new development well, particularly the part where she's leaving him for a woman.
With an internal investigation hanging over his head and now a marriage shot to hell all that's left for Gatz is to immerse himself in some detective work, something that he's more than happy to do. He's taken off the derelict bashing case and put on a cold case involving a stabbing murder and the disappearance of the woman who was in the apartment of the murdered man. The thinking is that whoever committed the original stabbing would be worried that the woman may have seen or heard something and has come back for her.
She is either dead or has made herself disappear in fear for her life. Either way Gatz throws himself into the case with gusto, stepping on the toes of the cops who worked it before him.
J.R. Carroll pulls no punches in No Way Back using the sort of confronting vulgar language you would experience in any low level dive. But this fits in entirely appropriately with the tone of the book and the people who populate it. Gatz lurks on the edges of the darkest underworld imaginable as he gets inside the skin of the low-life scum he pursues. Is it any wonder that he occasionally takes on some of their special charms and personalities as his own.
No Way Back is hardboiled all the way from the opening scene where Gatz is an undercover derelict right through to the end, this gets right down into the gutter. Balancing out the tough guy aspect of the story is some pretty darn impressive investigative work that can't be faulted. Although he's rough around the edges, holds a grudge like you wouldn't believe and utilises some extremely questionable investigative techniques, you can't help but admire Dennis Gatz. Equally, J.R. Carroll has put together a well ordered mystery and has even sprinkled in a slightly off-beat side-story that appears destined to provide a fascinating x-factor influence leaving you to wonder when the injection will take place.
Even though Gatz works the kind of hours that would kill a brown dog and is suffering from a severe case of damaged male pride, he still finds the time to squeeze in a new relationship. Somehow he manages to work 'til all hours, kick a few heads to get a lead or two, dodge an IA meeting request or two and evade a borderline psycho with thoughts of revenge and still find the time to put in meaningful moments with a young hottie. You've gotta admire the man's stamina.
This is the kind of all-out, break all the rules hardboiled action that I find enjoyable to read and if you can ignore the odd procedural glitch such as Gatz being allowed to keep his weapon after shooting someone, then you'll enjoy it to. The good news is that he makes a return in the follow-up novel, Out of the Blue.
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