JM Green’s debut novel Good Money was published after being shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Award for unpublished manuscripts. It went on to be shortlisted in 2016 in both the Ned Kelly Awards Best First Fiction category and Davitt Award for Best Debut. While it had some flaws it was overall a cracking debut and the promise that Green showed in that book comes good in the follow up Too Easy.
Too Easy is once again anchored by world weary social worker and occasional detective Stella Hardy. Stella’s narration and observations are once again a joy. Such as this:
I wish I could do that, suppress all outward signs of thought and feeling. Instead I was cursed with a face like an open book – and not a normal book, one of those kids pop-up books with moving parts.
This time, Hardy has to investigate her friend Phuong’s policeman fiancé, her own artist boyfriend’s interest in his muse, the sale of the family farm and her day job as a social worker where big changes are afoot.
With much of Australian crime these days turning to the bush, it is refreshing to have a classic noir novel set in the grunge of Footscray. From the opening paragraphs, where Stella waits outside her boyfriend’s studio called The Narcissistic Slacker and describes the passing parade of “her people”, to the smash repair places, MacDonalds’ toilets, bowling alleys and falafel joints.
The plot itself revolves around police corruption, bikies and money and, peaking Stella’s interest, the recruitment of street kids for some nefarious purpose. But there is more going on here than the usual drug smuggling. And when Stella gets into the middle of it all she puts herself in the way of some very dangerous people. Stella Hardy is no hero and when she is beaten up, as happens to all good noir detectives, it hurts and both she and the reader feel it.
Too Easy is more great crime fiction from a writer who continues to hone her craft. And with Cliff Hardy bowing out in Sydney it is kind of comforting to have another noir Hardy, albeit a very different one in a different locale, coming on to the Australian crime scene.