Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Book Review: 'An Unholy Union' by Peter Ralph
“I won’t be a laborer, but, if I am, it won’t be for long.”
Australian author Peter Ralph sports a richly experienced business career as a chartered accountant, specialising in corporate recoveries and reconstructions, as CEO of a mid-sized private company which was successfully floated as a public company, and now a share and derivatives trader. He has published eleven novels that fall into the category of white collar crime suspense thriller category.
AN UNHOLY UNION spans from 1978 to 2017 and is several stories well blended into one tense thriller. Peter’s writing style is rich in atmosphere – capturing the various languages and lingo of the different characters form different climes. We first meet Luke – ‘Englewood wasn’t a suburb where the residents strolled around enjoying the night air, but it held no fears for me. As I trudged along South Ellis Avenue through heavy snow, a blue and white pulled up beside me, and one of Chicago’s finest rolled down his window and shone a flashlight in my eyes. “What ye doin’, lad?” I squinted, put my hand to my eyes, and caught a glimpse of a ruddy face and a huge gray mustache. “Is that you, Officer O’Flaherty?” “Aye. I didnae recognize ye, Luke, me lad. Each time I see ye, you’ve grown a foot. What are ye now, six-one?” “I dunno.” The big cop sniffed. “Ye didnae answer me. What ye doin’?” O’Flaherty said, before turning to his partner. “Ya wouldnae believe it, eh? He’s just turned thirteen. Have a look at them shoulders. He could pass for eighteen. I know his da, Harry Cramer. A good man, so he is.” “I’m on my way home.” “Yeah, but what ye been doing? I hear ye’ve been running with them Taipans. Is that true, lad? I hope not because I don’t want to be the one who takes yer da to the morgue to identify yer body, or sits in court and watches ye get put away for life for killin’ someone. He don’t deserve that, so. Ye may not know it, but he sacrificed his life to bring ye up after yer ma took off with that vacuum-cleaner salesman.” “Just hangin’ around with the guys. I don’t run with no gangs,” I lied, the steam from my breath seeming to freeze in front of me. “Yeah, yeah,” O’Flaherty sighed. “Look at ye. Curly black hair, sculpted cheekbones, and an aquiline nose. The face of a girl on the body of a man. If it’s not yer fists that get you into trouble…’
The offered plot synopsis is sound without diminishing the surprises and tension – ‘Chicago born Luke Cramer loved working on Las Vegas’s huge construction sites. That is until he slugged a mobster working for the union. With the mob threatening retribution, he has no choice but to run for it. With his wife and baby, he heads to Australia’s Gold Coast, where he gets a lucky break, and help to start his own building business. Within a few years, young Luke is a millionaire but the lawless Builders Laborers and Mining Union (BLMU), which is worse than any American union want its payoff, and there’s nothing it won’t do to get it. Complaining to politicians and the police doesn’t help because the BLMU’s paying them off. Desperate, Luke returns to Chicago and recruits his best friend and hitman, Joe “Ratsy” Ratsch, to level the playing field. When the BLMU appoints a powerful new leader with murder on his agenda, the stakes are ratcheted up. Will Luke survive to enjoy his hard-earned success?’
For the large audience that thrives on crime stories from such authors as Grisham, King, Patterson etc, welcome a major figure into that echelon. Excellent story, well written and guaranteed to tempt you into following his output.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.