Redback is a fast paced thriller with a distinct pulp spy fiction feel from one of the newest players on the Australian publishing scene, genre specialists Clan Destine Press.
It opens on a small Pacific island, where ex-Australian army commander Bryn Gideon and her team of retrieval agents, known as the Redbacks, are attempting to rescue hostages being held by local rebels. It’s the first but by no means the last time in the book that things don’t go as planned with bloody results.
The story moves to Tokyo where American investigative journalist Scott Dreher thinks he is onto the story of his life about a revolutionary manga combat simulation computer game that has been pirated and is being used to train terrorists. This quickly takes a turn for the worse when its creator is killed, turning Dreher into a fugitive from the knife-wielding assassin.
What follows is a sequence of apparently unrelated events, including bombings in Europe and America and an assassination in Sydney. Gideon, her Redbacks and Dreher soon find themselves in a common quest to unmask a larger conspiracy on the part of a shadowy international criminal mastermind.
Without giving too much away, the plot of Redback bounces between a number of locations, including Pakistan, France and Thailand, and introduces a host of characters, including rightwing American extremists and mysterious terrorists cum criminals. There’s high-level intrigue in the halls of power and some good, gritty on the ground action.
At times, it almost feels as through there is a bit too much going on – the reader definitely needs to pay attention. But Redback author and Clan Destine Press founder, Lindy Cameron, manages to stay on top of things and deliver a cliff hanger of a conclusion.
Whether it was self-conscious on the part of Cameron or not, one of my favourite aspects of Redback is its liberal use of high-tech spy gadgets, which give the book a great pulpy spy fiction feel. I particularly liked the Redbacks with their rooftop apartment headquarters and operations centre and the two-way communication devices surgically implanted in their ear lobes.
The idea of a crack team of private soldiers whose job is to get people out of difficult situations is a great invention that offers plenty of room for a sequel.
This is the second outing for Red Back, which was originally published by Mira Books in 2008. If Cameron, the author of several works of crime fiction and true crime gets her way, this is exactly the type of material Clan Destine will be publishing, “the best of Australian genre fiction I can find by new writers and some older hands who are out of print or want to try something new.”
“I established Clan Destine Press because I wanted to take control of things for myself: and to ensure that my authors feel they have control too. I am prepared to take risks on new authors; on inventive genre fiction of any kind.”
The plan is to follow these up in 2011 with what Cameron describes as a couple of “gritty crime novels” and an urban fantasy, amongst others.
Clan Destine Press books are available from all independent bookstores and Borders and (for overseas readers) on-line at the Clan Destine website: www.clandestinepress.com.au
A version of this review originally appeared in issue 5 of Crime Factory.