Crimetime by Mark van Leewarden
Mark van Leewarden has written a page-turning account of his extraordinary career, including being an undercover police officer and an international fraud investigator.
Shoulder-tapped at the tender age of 20, Mark went from being a uniformed officer in Dunedin to going deep undercover in Auckland for a year immersed in the criminal underworld. His best friends were now crooks and gangsters, junkies and strippers. His only contact with the outside world was his police operator, Roo.
It was a dangerous double life, and Mark was constantly on alert for people who might blow his cover, the most dangerous, not just the hardened criminals, but their girlfriends and their infamous ‘women’s intuition.’ To the gang members, he was now Mark Munro, a rich kid living off family money and enmeshed in their criminal activities. But in reality, he was diligently gathering evidence for future prosecutions. The operation was terminated after a murder, and then Mark was wheeled out to his fellow police officers, search warrants were issued, and he testified against his former ‘friends’ in court.
This was during the 1970s, and reading Mark’s account is like walking back in time to a completely different era in our society. This is not a PC account of what happened, but a warts and all account of the time, with attitudes, especially toward women, that will raise some eyebrows – but it shows how far we have progressed as a society. Certainly, these immersive police operations no longer happen like this, and it’s a testament to Mark’s personal character that he came out of this experience psychologically intact, as he had minimal support before he went undercover and even less when the operation was terminated.
Mark also tells his story of working as a police officer during the Springbok tour, and doing police protection for some very well-known people, including royalty, US and NZ politicians and Hollywood stars.
These days Mark works as a successful international fraud investigator, and the accounts of his many cases also make for compelling reading.
Crimetime is a visceral, page-turning account of a fascinating career fighting crime. It’s well-written, a little shocking in places, but a better book for its unflinching retelling of real-life events.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Quentin Wilson Publishing