The Agency by Ian Austin – 2016

The AgencyWell they just keep coming – The Agency is another excellent Kiwi mystery/thriller.  The murders are part of a canny scheme of revenge and greed, perpetrated by an angry woman with a facility for disguise that would make The Jackal weep.  The solving of the mystery falls to an ex-cop with baggage – who has ‘escaped’ to New Zealand, and who ends up teaching the local force a thing or two about detective procedures.  Dan Calder has an attitude problem, the reason he is an ex-cop, and is also prone to depression – which makes him fair game for V. Stenning – who scopes her victims by hacking into depression-related websites.  Dan’s neighbour is an unemployed social worker who is keeping herself busy trying to find a romantic interest for her lonely neighbour.  Her success in this field, Tara, leads to them doubling up on Dan’s suspicion that there is a serial killer on the loose.  Austin is very aware that his plotting is thick with coincidences – and throws in the ‘six degrees of separation is much less in New Zealand’ argument to cover them, plus overstating the problem so you think it’s not that bad: “… the coincidences, freakish events and downright unbelievable twists beggared all rational explanation …” – which is all good fun.  The story has the frame of Dan’s Auckland Marathon aspirations, which works well and provides a nail-biting denouement.  Some of the other plotting is a bit uneven, and the book would have benefitted from a good proof read.  The procedural passages, where Dan is tutoring the task force, are really well done, as are the passages dealing with depression, which are quite moving.   The irony of Austin emphasising the gender differences between Dan’s approach and Tara’s approach is nicely placed against the complexity of the villain – all adding to the tension of the story and characterisation.  The Agency also doesn’t answer all the questions about Dan and his murky past – so there are undoubtedly more Dan Calder tales on the way.

This entry was posted in #yeahnoir, Book Review. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s