REVIEW OF COMPLICITY CITY by Guy Salvidge

 An Enthralling Read – Due August 2021

Complicity City is the story of one woman’s pursuit for justice. Klara has died from an overdose of drugs and alcohol, and her best friend, Lesley, believes she’s been murdered rather than taking her own life.

Lesley wants revenge as she sets out on a quest to find out who has been complicit in the committing of this crime. Her days are spent determined to uncover the reason for Klara’s death. Lesley devotes her time to pursuing Patrick a guy she has had a brief relationship with and who has spurned her for Klara. She vehemently believes that he is responsible for her demise. Early in the narrative, his reputation precedes him as a sleazy, rich, misogynistic Irishman.

Through quick, page-turning chapters, we discover that Lesley, Patrick and Klara, before her death, all work in the same company, yet when a meeting is called, Patrick is nowhere in sight. Searching for the man at his home address, Lesley meets Maria, Patrick’s Filipina housekeeper. In the following scenes, Lesley learns from Maria about the debauchery going on under Patrick’s roof. The latest is a consensual ménage à trois of sexual activities between Klara (last known sighting), Patrick and a so-called Tony. She becomes suspicious and more aware of the possible dangers that Klara faced, especially involving herself as a dominatrix in this illicit underworld of a corrupt, male-pimping culture. It is basically a man’s club where the most depraved of sexual acts, BDSM and sado-masochism are enacted. The club is called the Knights of Apollo, a boy’s club where many scurrilous acts occur ‘after a few too many sherbets of an evening.’ However, further in, more detail emerges about these characters that inhabit this underworld. It is a world of crime, company fraud, embezzlement, sex trafficking and rape.

Without revealing too much for the reader, one main character remains a constant focus, Klara’s brother, Frank. When Lesley visits Klara’s home in Piara Waters, she meets Frank, a man on the edge of drugs, booze and trying to get sober. He is also like-minded about his sister’s death, both agreeing it’s not suicide. He remains her sidekick until the very end.

There are parallels of China Miéville’s The City & The City with themes of a hidden or unseen city where the two exist in the same physical space, including a murder and an uncovering of the mystery. Salvidge’s Complicity City of Perth juxtaposes a picturesque river town of pelicans, white swans and cranes with a menacing, degenerative social world of sex, albeit power and control, and also a dead girl. The story reveals that Klara works as a dominatrix to supplement her income, but being involved in this sleazy, working environment in order to save for her own home, ultimately has its consequences.

Other characters are involved in Patrick’s life of crime, his henchman Sando, Royce who works for the company he embezzles, and his accountant Bill Darko. In her search, Lesley meets Bill Darko’s wife, Anna, and both try to find the missing housekeeper, Maria. In her attempts for the truth, without the aid of the police, Lesley’s travels begin at the heart of her concern, become all time consuming, then circular. We are led on a road map from one environment to another, from suburbs to freeways, from houses to a character’s business or workplace. In final scenes we move to a disused railway tunnel and a killing.

Salvidge’s writing bursts with energy and suspense and his chosen words exemplify the seedy underworld that is on display. His descriptions of the city are pictorial and his action scenes are both authentic and cinematic, which makes the reader imagine this book as a TV series or movie.

Guy Salvidge is one of Western Australia’s young and up-coming writers. He’s published widely, and is active in the Susannah Prichard Writers Centre where he gives his time in helping others. His first novel is The Kingdom of Four Rivers, 2009. His second novel Yellowcake Springs won the 2011 IP Picks Best Fiction Award, and in 2012 it was short-listed for the Norma K. Hemming Award for speculative fiction in Australia. Yellowcake Summer followed closely behind and was a Winner (Best Fiction) in the IP Rolling Picks 2013.  I look forward to his next enjoyable work which I understand is an historical novel set in Tasmania.

Helen Hagemann

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