Getting Warmer, the new novel by Alan Carter, brings with it the return of Detective Cato Kwong. In this second novel in the series, Cato finds himself in Perth, Western Australia, searching for a missing fifteen-year old girl. After sending the investigators on a wild goose chase, Wellard, the supposed perpetrator believed to have killed the missing girl, turns up dead in the prison kitchen. The chief suspects? Two outlaw motorcycle gang members.
Lara Sumich is investigating another murder, that of an undercover cop who turned up dead in a nightclub. Her murderer is suspected to be a member of an Asian crime gang, and the murder the result of gang turf wars. Criminals seem to be staying one step ahead of the justice department, and as things starts hotting up, and corrupt cops start being weeded out, the squad finds itself under increasing scrutiny.
Carter’s first Cato Kwong novel, Prime Cut, earned him the 2011 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, and was shortlisted for the prestigious 2010 Debut Dagger Award. After reading Getting Warmer, it is immediately clear to see why this author was initially noticed. Carter expertly and succinctly weaves together separate plotlines, and writes moments of nail-biting suspense alongside those that are laugh-out-loud funny. His second novel takes us into the heart of the Western Australian mining boom with assuredness, and successfully keeps the reader entertained with an interesting plot and stellar cast of characters.
In particular, there is Cato Kwong, our likeable and relatable hero. He is one of those protagonists that would be difficult not to like. This good, honest cop has a wit and a cleverness about him that is truly entertaining, and gives a genuinely funny edge to the otherwise dark cases he investigates and the situations he finds himself in. He has been believably drawn, and readers are given enough of the personal to feel a real connection to him: we read about his infallibilities, about his earnest attempts to be a good father, about his restraint against becoming too emotional over his cases, and his, sometimes, tricky working relationships. This is not a superhuman detective, but rather one who is trying to keep his own balls – and the unexpected ones that life throws at him – up in the air, making him real, and winning him favour amongst readers.
Getting Warmer is an easy read, one that will keep you guessing right ‘til the end. Carter includes a lovely local flavour, allowing readers to get a genuine feel for the geography – and its people. If this is your first Kwong novel (as it was mine) you won’t feel left behind…but you will be heading straight out to get your hands on the first!