Aussie Book Review: Sinister Intent by Karen M Davis
My Rating: 5 / 5
Format: Paperback courtesy of The Reading Room
and Simon & Schuster Australia
Publication Date: August 2013
Category: Crime Thriller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
"There is no pain as the blade slices her skin. She is only conscious of a warm, sticky sensation dribbling slowly down her neck. Her own blood ...
For eight years Lexie Rogers has been a uniform cop in Sydney's red light district, Kings Cross. Having survived a violent knife attack, she's witnessed far more than most cops her age. Now she's back at work as the newest member of the Bondi Junction Detectives' office and ready to start again.
One of her first jobs is to execute a search warrant at a bikie clubhouse belonging to one of the two local gangs in the eastern suburbs. What she uncovers begins a chilling investigation into a vicious world where loyalty is dead and unwavering and can't be bought ... Or can it?
Lexie forms an unlikely alliance with one of the bikies, who's realised his family is in danger. But what neither of them knows is that Lexie is the one who's in too deep. She knows too much.
And as the stakes get personal, it seems the secret bond she has with a big bad bikie could be the one thing that'll save her life."
Summary and Thoughts
Is this a bikie war ... or something far more sinister!
The bright lights and big city of Sydney can always be relied upon to serve the perfect backdrop for an Australian crime novel and this debut by former policewoman turned writer, Karen M Davis, doesn't disappoint, with an action-packed story perfectly blended with murder, blackmail, police corruption and misplaced loyalties.
We meet Lexie Rogers a few months after an almost fatal attack with a member of a bikie gang in Sydney's Kings Cross area. Having been left for dead, Lexie is still trying to overcome the horror of her near fatal encounter and anxiety has become a part of her life. To make matters worse, the second week in her new job as a detective in Bondi Junction sees her having to accompany her partner, Brad Sommers, to execute a search warrant at one of the local Bikie Clubs after an anonymous tip-off comes through. As thing would have it, when she has a personal encounter with Rex Donaldson, sergeant-at-arms for the Devil's Guardians, their search turns into a fray and her fear gets the better of her. Not wanting to be the laughing stock of the office, her inner strength and determination soon have her back up on her feet and, by the end of the second week, when her partner injures himself unexpectedly, she's placed with Detective Josh Harrison to carry out an undercover assignment after yet another tip-off relating to the motorcycle clubs.
Josh Harrison has been on the force for twelve years and has plenty of demons of his own, not to mention his favourite vice - the bottle - which is about the only thing that's come close to dulling his sense of horror with the cases he's had to deal with. Aloof, yet friendly and polite, he has an instinctive mistrust of everyone, preferring to keep them at arms-length, but at the same time, he's got an easy-going manner towards his subordinates and it shows through his ability to demonstrate authority without being egotistical and reprimand without causing embarrassment. He has a firm stance on office protocol and that's to "never mix business with pleasure" and, while he's exchanged superficial pleasantries with "the new girl", keeping it professional and not displaying more than a passing interest in Lexie, he finds himself starting to think about her more and more. He can sense her unease, but he's unsure of whether it's him or something else. But why does he care? And why does she look so familiar?
As they're about to wrap up their undercover assignment, they find themselves responding to a radio call announcing that there’s been a shooting at a residential address. From here, the narrative begins to gather momentum when it is discovered that the victim of the shooting is a member of the Devil's Guardians bikie club and suddenly Lexie is thrown headlong into an investigation in which she has, unwittingly, become the only witness to a dying man’s declaration. As her and Josh go through the procedures and protocols of a murder investigation, the sexual tension between them heightening to self-combustible levels, unbeknownst to Josh, she starts to receive threatening text messages from an unknown source. When doubts begin to emerge as to the competence and integrity of certain members of their unit and Rex Donaldson's fears for his family's safety come to the fore, a seemingly unspoken alliance is formed between him and Lexie. When she finds herself in the clutches of a killer, the clock begins to tick!
It's been a while since I read a crime novel and this one in particular kept me engrossed right from the first word of the Prologue. I also felt it was rather timely, given the fact that the Queensland Police have recently declared a crackdown on outlaw motorcycle clubs after an incident outside a bar on the Gold Coast thrust some of their festering hostilities into the spotlight and resulted in the arrest of numerous people.
I am of the opinion that Karen Davis’ portrayal of the essence of bikie gangs, along with the trouble they can cause, the organised crime, as well as life as a detective (and a bikie) are credible and a reflection on her many years' experience as a detective and undercover operative in Australia.
While a police procedural is generally characterised with a strong focus on the “nuts and bolts” of law enforcement, without too much emphasis on the personal lives of the characters, in penning this novel Ms Davis has shown us the other side of the coin. Her protagonists are engaging and three-dimensional and, although cast from the stereo-typical "damaged cop" and "bikie" mould, they are neither jaded nor dysfunctional - Lexie fights nightmares and flashbacks from her previous horrific encounter and is still trying to come to terms with a broken marriage and the fact that she lost her brother, Lincoln, in the line of duty two years before; Josh likes to see the bottom of a bottle, believing that he is in control and can stop at any time. While we don’t get to meet his parents and sister, we get the gist of his upbringing with a father who seems to have created an “emotional wasteland” in him. And Rex Donaldson? He’s the big, bad, mean, hard bikie, but I'd go so far as to say that there's far more to him than meets the eye!
Overall, Ms Davis' relaxed and easy writing style pulled me in immediately with the narrative giving me the necessary insight into the characters’ thoughts, fears and motivations. The suspense is well maintained with a good blend of several plotlines (and a twist that I didn’t see coming), all of which she has deftly tied up, with the resolution quite possibly being the set-up for her next book. This being said, I feel that this debut proves she is proficient at creating a multi-layered crime novel and I will definitely be keeping her on my radar.
I wish to thank The Reading Room and Simon and Schuster for providing me with a first edition hard copy of Sinister Intent.
A Little About the Author
Karen was born and raised in Sydney. When she was young she was a keen ice skater, horse rider and was ranked in the state in tennis. From the age of fifteen she worked casually at Woolworth’s, coached tennis on weekends and dabbled in a bit of part time modelling. After completing her higher school certificate she worked for twelve months as a clerical temp in variety of office jobs to fill in time until she was old enough to apply for the New South Wales Police Force. Starting her career in Newtown, she then moved on to work as a detective and undercover operative in a variety of sections, all of which specialised in the investigation of organised crime.
After twenty years as a police officer and when Karen left the force six years ago, her mother (author of twelve novels, the late Lynne Wilding) encouraged her to write about her experiences. Not having written anything other than police reports for years, she was unsure where to start, although as soon as she sat down in front of her computer and started to relay her stories, she found the words flowed easily and soon, her memories grew into a collection of events; a chronological record of her time as a police officer.
During the process of documenting some of the significant incidents that had etched themselves into Karen’s memory, a strange thing happened. She discovered that just like her mother, she loved to write although her first attempt at a manuscript was "all over the place" and will be buried in the archives of her computer forever.
Sinister Intent, her second manuscript, took two years to write and another two years of editing and rewriting before it was ready to be presented to publishers and she is currently working madly on book number two, due to be released in 2014.
Karen lives in Sydney with her husband, a senior serving member of the NSW Police Force, her two teenage daughters, three dogs and one cat. She also has two teenage step-daughters.