Thursday, April 05, 2007

Crook as Rookwood

The Oz mystery readers group (free sign-up) is discussing Crook as Rookwood by Chris Nyst, a co-winner with Peter Temple's The Broken Shore of the 2006 Ned Kelly Award as best crime novel.
2006 was obviously a hell of a year for crime novels in Australia, at least at the top of the list. I praise The Broken Shore to the skies, and so far I've enjoyed the very different Crook as Rookwood as well. A hundred pages in, Nyst shows great flair for mixing humor and menace, for plunging headfirst into the dirtiest of politics, and for incisive courtroom drama. That a lot of flair for just 100 pages, but Nyst also tells a story quickly, beginning scenes in mid-conversation, wasting few words, jumping from an event to its consequences years later.
Nyst comes by his courtroom knowledge firsthand. He's a high-profile criminal lawyer in Australia, and a number of the Oz mystery readers think the novel's gadfly lawyer, Eddie Moran, is a version of Nyst. And the title? Turn to page 30: "In these parts, it things weren't good, they weren't bad, they were `crook', and if things were really crook then they were `crook as Rookwood', because Rookwood was where the cemetery was, and simple working folk knew well enough that when you got as crook as you could be you ended up in Rookwood."
Nyst has a nice ear for the cadences of speech, too.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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2 Comments:

Blogger Damien said...

An curious little snippet came to mind when you stated that 2006 was a hell of a year for Australian crime - Crook As Rookwood was actually first published in March 2005, 2 months before Lost by Michael Robotham (the winner of the 2005 NKA).

How Crook As Rookwood then came to be nominated for the 2006 Ned Kelly Award is truly a mystery.

Nevertheless, CAR is one of the more entertaining legal thrillers I've read

April 05, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Now, that is odd. I was going to suggest that perhaps the award guidelines allowed for a book published toward the end of a year to be nominated in the following year, but March would be a stretch. Also, how a book nominated in one year could have been published before a book nominated the preceding year is a puzzle.

Legal thrillers are not normally my choice of reading.In fact, I can't remember having read another. But it occurred to me last night as I read that there is no way a John Grisham could be as entertaining as Crook as Rookwood. In fact, I'll try to work the phrase crook as rookwood into my conversation at the first opportunity.

April 05, 2007  

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