Bodyguard Mick Conlon lives in 1860 slum Collingwood Flat, Melbourne. He is thrust into a detective role and must solve an explosives murder and find the evil man who ordered it. Trainee Conlon is coached by lover Annie, bar and brothel keeper. Mates Gul and Scratcher help too. Can Conlon’s team combine first to survive, then to save their fledgling city from corrupt takeover? More
Collingwood Flat is an historical crime story, with a dash of romance. Mick Conlon is a bodyguard working the unsewered lanes of shanty town Collingwood Flat in 1860 Melbourne, Australia. Thousands straggled back to the city after the Gold Rush and now eke out an existence in shacks on Collingwood Flat. Conlon’s gang boss Hardy orders him to make sure opposition gang leader Madigan stays safe. If anything happens to Madigan, Hardy will be blamed and his transition from mobster to legitimate businessman could not survive the scandal. Conlon has barely started his bodyguard duties when Madigan is blown to pieces. Hardy demands that Conlon finds the real culprit, because Hardy himself is arrested as a suspect.
Conlon has no idea how to start his hunt for a killer, but his lover Annie, local bar and brothel keeper and keen reader, boosts his confidence to get started as a detective using Poe’s Dupin as a role model.
Conlon is helped by his usual offsiders, young indigenous man Gul and street kid Scratcher and by old friend Wang, the café owner. As they hunt the “bang man” and his mysterious employer, they find that more is at stake than control of petty crime on Collingwood Flat. The prosperity of the new city is at risk of being corrupted totally. The director of these power grabs and corruption remains very well camouflaged
Farmer, a worried senior police officer, seeks out Conlon and is keen to cooperate. Despite vicious opposition or sometimes because of it, members of Conlon’s team travel to Bass Strait on a fishing boat, to Queenscliffe, to the deep bush of the Dandenong Ranges and to many parts of the fledgling city of Melbourne, including Hobson’s Bay, where there is a terrifying encounter on a prison hulk. The emerging investigators attack life with cheek, laconic wit and persistent leg-pulling. The widow of Madigan, Laura, becomes a strong leader and despite Hardy’s mistrust, she is a firm ally against their secretive enemy. While Conlon is no Dupin, he and the team he gathers manage to piece together identities, locations and finally to cause a compromising confrontation.
“The backdrop to this novel is acutely interesting. The parallels with the many faction and gang wars that make the daily media entertaining today, cannot be missed in this tale. Collingwood Flat is … a place of rutted unmade roads, open sewers, gin joints and bawdy houses. But be assured there are a nice class of girl in the brothel and two grades of gin to be had. Already the class divide is beginning to separate.”
[Clare Allan Kamil, author and editor]
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