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Book Review: Alex Hammond's "The Unbroken Line" (2015)

Alex Hammond's The Unbroken Line is the second in his series of books about vigilante Melbourne lawyer Will Harris. Set against a back drop of Melbourne glamour, corruption, and a conspiracy stretching back to the landing of the First Fleet. It takes inspiration from a little-reported pseudo-conspiracy in Melbourne called The Brotherhood, a group of high powered Victorian police officers and former MPs who may or may not swapped favours before being investigated in 2011.

Australia has an odd relationship with literature in general, and genre fiction especially. We sometimes can't seem to figure out where our position on the English-speaking literary landscape should be. Not that we don't have some superb authors – Miles Franklin, Tim Winton, Christos Tsolkias, just to name a few – but we have a hard time balancing our relatively recent, surface-level of history with our desire to have a proper, sophisticated literary tradition.

All of this preamble is the say that there's a movement towards a more accomplished, individualised Australian literary landscape, and it's going pretty well. Part of that has to be the award winners, but the more popular fiction is important too. Good genre fiction is just as important as a Miles Franklin winner, and The Unbroken Line is good genre fiction. Hammond has woven together all of the expected elements of a modern crime novel – fast cars, beautiful women, drugs, dark secrets – with a lot of inherently, uniquely Australian themes to create a dense, taught thriller. It's a smart and slick page turner with enough pulp to make the whole thing a very fast paced, enjoyable read.

The Unbroken Line is exactly the kind of thing you want with you in an air port lounge, on the train, or by the pool. It's clever enough that you don't have to switch your brain off to read it but lively enough that you want to keep reading it and fun enough that it's easy to do. Will Harris, the protagonist, is mostly a cipher through which we the reader understand the (more exciting version of) the Australian legal system and the world of a high-stakes, high-money version of Melbourne that few will ever get to see. It's a glorious little bite of guilty pleasure, and I don't want to give too much away, but I would strongly recommend it if you have some reading time set by this winter.

The Unbroken Line is out now through Penguin Random House.