Book review: Man at the Window by Robert Jeffreys

Friday, November 30, 2018 Permalink

It’s always good to come across a series at the beginning. Coming in mid-way through a series can be fraught, and I’ve talked about the pros… well the cons really, before.

Happily Robert Jeffrey’s debut novel is also the first in a new series set in 1960s Perth. And interestingly, it’s one I could see being adapted into a TV series or mini-series, thanks to some great character development.

Book review: Man at the Window by Robert JeffreysMan at the Window
by Robert Jeffreys
Series: Detective Cardilini #1
Published by Echo Publishing
on November 28th 2018
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 9781760683306
Pages: 352

When a boarding master at an exclusive boys’ school is shot dead, it is deemed accidental. A lazy and usually drunk detective is sent to write up the report. Cardilini unexpectedly does not cooperate, as he becomes riled by the privileged arrogance of those at the school. He used to have instincts. Perhaps he should follow them now…

With no real evidence he declares the shooting a murder and puts himself on a collision course with the powerful and elite of Perth. As he peels back layers, the school’s dark secrets being to emerge. But is his dogged pursuit of justice helpful or harmful to those most affected by the man’s death?

Detective Sergeant Cardilini is an interesting character. In fact he’s quite horrible when we first meet him…. rather unlikeable and seemingly happily so. However it’s not long before it’s obvious the lazy, overweight, insubordinate police detective who tries to think of ways to start his day / night of drinking as early as possible, wasn’t always like that.

His bosses cut him an alarming amount of slack and we soon learn why. Cardilini is still grappling with the death of his wife a year earlier. His life has spiralled out of control and his 18yr old son Paul’s has basically gone down the gurgler with him.

However… Paul seems like a good kid. I initially hoped he was going to be the DS Cardilini referenced on the front cover (as I disliked his father so) but nope… it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the heavy-drinking (oft-drunk) detective is not only droll and rather arch, but smart and a bloody good cop. And he grows on you. In a nice way.

The case of the murdered school teacher seems open and shut. Many of Cardilini’s bosses went to the prestigious boys’ school so are keen to have the death ruled an accident and closed as quickly as possible. But Cardilini has questions. Lots. And soon he digs into school secrets many would prefer stay buried.

There’s also an interesting ethical dilemma posed by Jeffreys; and the old ‘two wrongs making a right’ or ‘ends justifying the means’ quandaries come into play. (Actually I’m not sure I’ve got those analogies right but hopefully you know what I mean!) Cardilini however – despite not being overly rule-abiding himself – believes no one is above the law and struggles with those who take justice into their own hands.

The only negative for me was the structure of the novel, particularly in the early stages. We jump about in time but it’s slightly confusing with the commencement of action at the school, slipping away briefly to meet Cardilini, before heading back to the school for the teacher’s death, then revisiting Cardilini. (And the use of Italics at some times and not others was a bit strange.) I would have ditched the first meeting with Cardilini and stayed with the school until the teacher’s body was discovered which would have been a smoother transition. We know what’s coming so there seemed no point in delaying that element. But, that’s just me being picky….

I really enjoyed this first Detective Cardilini book. There’s a lot of backstory missing and I’m assuming we’ll be drip-fed it throughout coming novels, to keep us hooked. The strength is very much in the characters developed by Jeffreys: his far-from perfect detective; untrustworthy police officers; Cardilini’s bosses who seem more generous towards him than expected; and then there’s his own son Paul who’s ready to give up on his father, not realising he’s the only reason his father is hanging on by a tenuous thread.

Man at the Window by Robert Jeffreys was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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