The cover of the book Crocodile Tears by Alan Carter

Title: Crocodile Tears
Author: Alan Carter
Genre: Crime fiction
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Published: November 2021

Unknown to me when I asked to review this novel was that it was the final in a series. All I saw was crime fiction and jumped straight onto it! Although it is the final novel in a series of five books, I was surprised to find I could follow the plot easily. Carter’s writing was exciting to read, and I was entranced by Cato Kwong’s story.

Crocodile Tears was written as part of Carter’s PhD thesis, with the academic papers focused on projections of Australian identity onto Asian pacific neighbours in works of crime fiction. The author also travelled to Timor-Leste, which was clear by the authentic and well-researched setting, events, and other information.

After a retiree is found dead in the suburbs of Perth, Phillip ‘Cato’ Kwong’s investigation leads him to Timor-Leste where he meets up with his ‘frenemy’ Rory Driscoll, who is doing his best to keep a group of whistle-blowers alive. With elements of espionage and procedural policing, Cato and Rory must work together to find out why the death of this man is wrapped up in a completely different country.

The interactions that Cato has with his colleagues, partner, and his frenemy Rory are interesting and give a little comedic relief to what can sometimes be a heavy or distressing situation. While the frenemy relationship is clear, it is also apparent that these men can work together and work together well.

As the novel attempts to end, there is a sense of finality brought on making you think that Cato has figured it all out. But then there is another surprise visit from someone, or a new piece of evidence shows up shifting the situation again. Another review given to the novel by The Australian mentioned “aha moments” and I could not agree more: it is what kept the novel exciting and left you almost in a trance until the very last page. One mystery would be solved just for you to be presented with another. No matter how hard you try to guess what might happen with the evidence and clues given to the characters, you are always surprised with the outcome.

As mentioned, I missed out on reading the first in the series, and while there were some situations and references to these novels, I was not left completely in the dark, which I think Carter should be praised for. While I am sure it was not his intention for the series to be read out of order, I do think it is a valuable skill to allow your readers to follow along without knowing the past stories or circumstance. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel despite one or two little holes in the plot I could not quite figure out. For the most part though, Carter briefly summarised events of the past just enough for readers to be prompted, reminded, or in my case, shown for the first time what some of these characters got up to in past novels of the series.

This was in all senses a page turner. Once I started it, I didn’t want to stop and, as I finished the novel, I regretted not being immersed in Cato’s story sooner. While I am yet to continue his story backwards, if you are a fan of crime stories like those by Chris Hammer or Jane Harper, I suggest you take on Crocodile Tears and be entertained as well as informed on the issues of Australian border control policies when it comes to smugglers versus gas and oil interests. If you are ready for a new crime story to begin the funky year of 2022, I suggest picking up Crocodile Tears!

Underground Team
editors.underground.writers@gmail.com

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