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Straight from the Pig's Mouth by Al Lester

From his fledgling days as a constable to being a detective sergeant on high-profile cases, retired Christchurch policeman Al Lester has many a story to tell as he reflects on a career on the thin blue line.

With a cool 31 years on the New Zealand police force, Lester covers his most memorable stories, giving insight into the weird, disturbing, heartbreaking, and dangerous things a police officer is exposed to. Lester says that nothing in the book has been cleared with police. They are his recollections and stories to tell, but he is very careful not to breach court orders and has changed names and places on occasion.

The title of the book is a fairly obvious hint as to Lester's personality - he is funny, humble, and isn't afraid to have a laugh at himself.

Lester is a great storyteller. With eight books already up his sleeve, he knows how to tell a yarn. I was so engrossed in his writing, I finished the book in one sitting. It really felt as though he was sitting beside me in a bar, spinning a yarn.

Through each one what shines through is his compassion, passion, respect, and intelligence.

One such event was in 1996, when elderly man William Marshall was beaten and left for dead outside his home. Lester took on the case, and in turn, struck up a sort of friendship with Marshall and his brother who also lived at the property. It is his compassion and dedication that leads to the Marshall brothers revealing some endearing secrets to Lester about their property. Lester's hard work, with a touch of luck, pays off for the brothers and he eventually arrests and charges a man for the assault.

The book also reveals some potentially controversial opinions of Lester's -- including the belief that all drugs should be decriminalised. It's only a page or so of his thoughts, but it would have been interesting to see that expanded more. Lester's brief writing on his experiences and thoughts about the court system, and his interviewing techniques, are also enthralling, but not explored in any detail.

Whether Lester was working with a victim or a criminal, his respect for people shines through. This is a man who truely cares, and it was tough to read of some of the huge emotional and psychological challenges he faced while serving the community.

Straight From The Pig's Mouth is an entertaining look behind the scenes of one man's long police career.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Penguin Random House New Zealand, RRP $38