Bay of Martyrs by Tony Black & Matt Neal , is a story extremely interesting and captivating. The review by Marco Piva for Sugarpulp MAGAZINE.
Title: Bay of Martyrs
Authors: Tony Black & Matt Neal
Publisher: Freight Books, 2017
Warrnambool, in the state of Victoria, on the southern coast of Australia; in the summer heat, jaded journalist Clayton (Clay) Moloney is sent by his paper to the Bay of Martyrs coast, where a dead body has washed up. We’ll soon find out that it’s the corpse of 18-year-old local girl Kerry Collins; the investigation is led by D.S. Frank Anderson, who has with Moloney a relationship of mutual hate.
The next day, Clay is also asked to write a story about a successful local politician, Wayne Swanson, and his decision to grant a huge construction contract to Lachlan Fullerton, who has in the past been suspected of seriously dodgy dealings – including some with Swanson himself. The dogged reporter is accompanied by young Irish photographer Bec O’Connor, who recently settled in Australia after having travelled the world.
Clay, helped by Bec who soon becomes his unwilling but headstrong ally and assistant, keeps investigating on Kerry Collins’s death, which D.S. Anderson seems to have hurriedly dismissed as an accident, and at the same time on the politician and his friend, despite having been suggested to stop worrying about that.
This first collaboration between Australian journalist Matt Neal – who has actually been writing for over a decade for the Warrnambool local paper – and Tony Black, Australian-born but better known as a Scottish writer, author of over a dozen novels, is a great, modern but at the same time old-fashioned crime story, full of journalists (both decent professionals and total slackers), cops (some honest, some corrupt), prostitutes, criminals, drug dealers and all the other elements present in the imaginary do-it-yourself noir writer kit.
So, what makes it different from the other offers in the genre?
First of all, the main characters. Not only the central duo of Clay and Bec, who are anyway not exactly your standard pairing, but also most of the others, from the already mentioned D.S. Anderson to the dodgy duo of Swanson and Fullerton, from the paper’s Deputy Editor Terry Kenna to a drug dealer known as Vegas, from Clay’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Gabby Petrie to Senior Constable Eddie Boulton, one of the “good cops”.
They all have something that suggests that they are not only characters in a book, that depth that is almost always found in main characters but more seldom in those which the focus of the story seems to pass on quickly.
Also, of course, the story is extremely interesting and captivating in itself. Despite touching (in a great and skilful way, as already mentioned) on all the mandatory points of a noir novel, it manages to add a lot with the detailed creation and description of the background, with Warrnambool and in general southern Victoria coming alive through the page.
For any reader of noir literature, Bay of Martyrs will be another great read; for any lapsed noir enthusiast, this could be a perfect way to get back into the genre, with something extremely well written, with a tried and tested frame set against a completely new environment, with very interesting characters.
A footnote for those who may have misjudged my intentions when I mentioned the presence of most of the noir clichés: sure, they are there. But mind, some of them are absolutely necessary, while others are key to a solid, interesting story as Bay of Martyrs is.
So, in brief: read it. This is all there is to say, really.