Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book Review: 'Nine-Tenths of the Law' by Glenn Mitchell

Nine-Tenths of the Law
Looking over author Glenn H. Mitchell’s own statements about his past one would expect that he is a top comedian and that his books will be infused with rollicking laughter. Wrong! Glenn writes mysteries – his debut was NOWHERE and now his second full fledged novel is NINE-TENTHS OF THE LAW – both keen horror stories that perhaps reflect his training and work in journalism, scriptwriting and producing and writing programs for the ABC, Foxtel and SBS including co-writing the infamous Australian comedy, ‘Pizza’ (and there the seed of his comedic talent is in full bloom). Glenn has written science fiction, horror and literary fiction for magazines such as The J.J. OutrĂ© Review and Crack the Spine Literary Magazine.
So prepare yourself for something very dark and terrifying.

Glenn knows the flavor of horror genre – spill out a few hints in the first pages, set the stage for something inexplicable, and then sail off into a story that matches the cover of his book. All of this tale takes place in five unforgettable days in July and he starts us with the following: ‘The dilapidated terrace house spat the suspect through its back door, sending him stumbling as his sandals lost traction on the cement stairs. This led to him hitting the mud so forcefully that the loose elastic of his cheap tracksuit pants slipped. As if having twenty enraged cops on his tail wasn’t harrowing enough, the frightened imp was suddenly half naked, his dick in the gunk and his hairy arse catching the reflected glare of the overcast afternoon. There was a lot of information to process at that moment. Only a few seconds earlier I’d been leaning on the corner of that house, resigned to my emasculating role as a safety net. I was only there in case the impossible happened and the little monster had the audacity to do a runner. Everyone else was involved in the arrest while I stood like a scarecrow in the yard. It was hardly a fitting job for someone who— and I don’t mind saying so myself— was a reliable man in the clinches. I’d been paying more attention to the house: a rotting aberration among the neat row of gentrified dwellings.’ Flavor? Plenty of it.

See where he takes us; ‘Detective Ben Ricci has never experienced fear. He’s about to spend the next five days mastering terror. A doomed killer’s cryptic warning, an ancient Japanese book on the occult, a family of Italian witches, a mannequin that can’t be destroyed, the murderous spirit of a dead child. Detective Ben Ricci is not a believer. Everything must have a logical explanation, including the brutal murder of Fabrizio Lecanto. All he needs is a broken alibi or compelling motive. Instead he has unreliable testimonies, all telling the same dubious ghost story. It’s bad timing for Ricci. He’s under investigation, struggling to save his marriage and shamefully obsessed with a key witness. To find the killer, he’ll need to control his many compulsions. Unfortunately self-control has never been Ben’s strong suit. As the killer’s evil intent becomes clear, one cop’s stubborn cynicism will challenge the demented zeal of believers, shedding unwanted light on a society’s darkest secrets.’

Glenn provides enough bizarre sidebars and weird situations to make reading his novel a rollercoaster ride in a wicked theme park – it is that hard to get off the ride, once on. Excellent prose and the skills of a screenwriter craftsman make us wonder if this could be a horror flick….? Excellent book, this. Grady Harp, October 15

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.