Mullholland Books, sadly only available in the U.S. in ebook format (try Powell’s Books for a Kobo copy or www.abebooks.com to get a British edition), c2008
Nah. Who am I kidding? Actually, I make a grab for the Robotham first, to hell with the other books.
It’s Robotham’s sense of humor, crazy good writing, and racing plot that hook me every time.
Robotham alternates his stories between his two protagonists, psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and retired police detective Vincent Ruiz. They usually make appearances in each other’s books, but this time Joe rates only a mention in what is definitely Ruiz’s story. I lean very heavily toward the Ruiz books, although I enjoy all of Robotham's books.
Bombproof begins with a bomb going off in the London subway. Sami Macbeth (“born in Glasgow, raised in South London, to an Algerian mother and a Scottish father”) is caught on CCTV running away from the scene. A dragnet is launched to capture him.
Through the course of the book, Sami is accused of many crimes (terrorism, theft, hostage taking, murder, murder again, yet another murder, and blowing up police headquarters). He is definitely NOT guilty of most, sort of not guilty of a couple. He has, however, as the result of bad lawyering, spent time in prison for a jewel heist. Although he is innocent of the crime, his reputation for being a master safecracker has gone viral. And that is what gets him into a world of trouble.
Crime boss Tony Murphy wants Sami to break into police headquarters and steal something from the evidence locker. It shouldn’t be a problem for a pro. Only Sami isn’t a pro. At best, he was a low-level musician with a group called Raw Liver (“Raw Liver seemed to be saying, ‘We might not be as good as the Stones, but we’re louder.’”). Because musicians don’t usually have the skills to break into evidence lockers, Sami makes a hash of it, resulting in the scene that opens the book: the bombing of a subway train.
In a darkly comic way, poor Sami’s life just spirals ever downward with farcical misunderstandings following one after another. There are three good things he has going for him: an understanding girlfriend, Kate Tierney, who shelters him at crucial points; a sympathetic parole officer, Miranda Wallace; and a contact Miranda gives him, her ex-husband, retired police detective Vincent Ruiz. Will they be able to extract Sami from the hell of a mess he and his sister Nadia have gotten themselves into, or will a sacrifice have to be made?
Finally, here are some quotes from Bombproof which should indubitably convince you why Robotham, if you haven’t already cottoned to him, should be next on your literary menu.
About a couple of characters with walk-on parts: “The desk sergeant is a doughnut short of being fat and has a torn piece of tissue paper, encrusted with blood, stuck to his neck.” And, “Mr. Dibbs is shaped like a sea elephant and is wearing a tartan sweater knitted with love but very little skill.”
About the story’s bad guys: “Tony Murphy might rip off mug punters, horny businessman and foreign tourists, but Ray Garza ransacks entire countries. Diamond mines in Angola, nickel mines in Botswana, platinum mines in Zimbabwe.”
About poor Sami: “Sami took the fall. He didn’t fall under the wheels of a truck like Andy Palmer. He fell onto the wrong side of the tracks. He fell through the cracks. He fell out of favor.” And, “He has a 150-point IQ, three A-levels and about as much common sense as a pork chop.”