Chinese-Australian Inspector, Brad Chen, has seen better times. The one time Rugby League star has been crippled by a hit and run accident that’s left him on crutches, addicted to drink and painkillers, and on the sick list. When Tracey Dale, the immigration minister, is found dead in her house, strangled with a coat hanger and a plastic bag tied over her head, he's called back to help his former protégé. The minister was seeking to implement a new immigration bill that would open the door for a wave of non-white immigrants, and there seems to be no shortage of people who would be happy that she was no longer in office. Into the bargain comes a new recruit, the beautiful Kate Malone. Her job is to shepherd Chen, his to mentor her first few days on the job. Tasked with following one particular strand of the murder investigation, Chen and Malone have a knack for discovering new bodies, all with some kind of link to Dale, and various kinds of trouble as they ruffle various feathers.
I thought the first half of Dead Set was a terrific read. The characters are well introduced, the police procedural elements are well handled, and the story just flies along. Robertson’s writing has a nice balance between dialogue and description, and whilst quite functional in style, it’s engaging to read. Chen is intriguing character with his sardonic wit, selective approach to procedure and various vulnerabilities. The second half of the book tails away a little and I increasingly found myself asking why questions as holes in the plot started to appear. And the end was a bit of a letdown, despite the blockbuster climax. Overall, Dead Set is a good, solid, entertaining read and it’s certainly whetted the appetite for the second Chen book, Smoke and Mirrors, which recently won the Ned Kelly Best Fiction Award in his native Australia.