Here is how I came to discover BORDERTOWN by Gregory James, the featured selection for the May Book Blast. Some weeks ago, Australian crime fiction author Gregory James followed me on Twitter. As I always do when a fellow author follows me, I immediately checked him out. First, I discovered his genre was right in my wheelhouse. Another thing intrigued me about James. Like me, he is a former police officer. So far so good. When it comes to a police procedural writer, you can usually count on a former cop to know his stuff.
Learning he had recently published his debut novel in his Robert “Bo” Campbell series, I searched it out. The blurb looked promising and after reading the interesting sample on Barnes and Noble, I purchased and read the book. Here is my review.
Promising young detective Robert “Bo” Campbell is in a stack of trouble.
After accidentally shooting and killing his best friend and partner during a bungled inner city drug raid, he faces the sack or, even worse, jail. With his career and freedom hanging by a thread, he’s outcast to a remote posting on the border – a place where he can kick back until all his troubles blow over.
But something isn’t quite right in this frontier country. Half a dozen missing indigenous women, secret meetings and a police force bursting with corruption and racism has Bo questioning his own moral character. When he’s asked to cover up yet another murder on his very first day, he suspects he’s been set up to fail. But by whom?
What happens will see Bo battling for his own survival. Is he prepared to risk everything to save a community that’s already broken?
Bordertown is a debut novel set in the Australian bush. It’s a story of redemption, survival and determination by one man to rise against the odds and do what’s right. A cop story with a twist…
And a journey that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Far too many police procedural novels get bogged down in the minutiae of the technicals aspects of collecting and processing the evidence from the inciting event, most usually a murder crime scene. As a long time fan of the great police procedural writers like Joseph Wambaugh and Michael Connelly, I prefer riveting, edge-of-your-seat action. That's exactly what you get from Gregory James in his entertaining debut novel BORDERTOWN.
Rather than peering over the flapping crime scene tape looking at technicalities, you get heart-racing action, the kind that kept me up too late at night once I start reading because I couldn't put the book down.
All debut novels are not created equal, but it seems Gregory James has really hit his narrative stride right out of the gate. This fast-paced, gritty story, set in the Australian bush, is chocka with action, drama, and suspense.
James masterfully creates conflict for the protagonist, Bo Campbell, from the get-go as historical secrets and hauntings begin to pile on top of one another. Chapter after chapter, Campbell resolves one sticky situation after another only to be thrust into another more dire circumstance than the one before. With a creeping sense of dread, you seriously start to wonder if it's realistic to believe he will ever come out on top.
But, little by little, Bo Campbell starts to sort things out. The pieces start to fall into place. There is never a momentum stutter or stall once the story gets rolling. The story is a high-stakes thrill ride that always seems in danger of flying off the rails. The story is also filled with well-drawn, interesting characters.
James powerfully evokes the ugliness of white racism and antagonism toward the aboriginal Australians, a state of desperate inequality from which there seems no obvious escape. It's searing, brilliant, and unflinchingly honesty, no matter the overwhelming ugliness and heartbreak that rests at the end of the road his honesty carves out.
Robert "Bo" Campbell is an interesting protagonist. All authors know a good hero must to an extent be a flawed human being to seem realistic. James takes this so far at the beginning, I not only found Campbell unlikable, but worthy of loathing.
He seemed like a weak-willed drunk wallowing in self pity. When he found himself among a group of bent cops in the outback, he was far too willing to cover up a murder in order to gain acceptance. But, as the story plays out, Campbell reaches deep inside himself. He manages to find both the self-respect and the backbone that transforms him into a character you can care about and feel empathy for.
If police procedurals are your thing, BORDERTOWN is the real deal with an imaginative plot, superb pacing, and the well-developed characters. I highly recommend you make a date with Gregory James and Robert "Bo" Campbell. Can’t wait to see what James has in store for us in the next Bo Campbell novel.
Book Blast Rating: 5-stars
About the Author
Gregory James is a former detective who took up writing to turn real life stories and concepts into fiction. As a kid growing up in country Queensland, Gregory was fascinated with stories about cops and the Australian landscape. Reading the tales of legendary larrikin Les Norton (by author Robert G Barrett) fuelled his love of great Australian crime yarns. He lived the life of a policeman for nearly two decades in both the city and the bush, experiences that now make up much of his extensive portfolio of novel ideas. His debut novel Bordertown (due out 2018) follows the story of a down-and-out young detective who’s cast into a world of corruption and racism. It’s the start of many adventures and challenges in both the outback and the city. Gregory lives on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast with his wife and three kids.
Bordertown by Gregory James