The Brotherhood is a superb police-procedural with a difference, set in Hobart, Tasmania. The Brotherhood in question is the police force: a group of men and women who have a bond in some senses stronger than family, but with as many underlying dark secrets.
The prologue takes place at 11.30 p.m., in which a Detective Inspector is going through the possessions of a dead colleague. What he finds makes him despair, but the reader does not know why. After this hook, the novel shifts in time to 8 a.m. that day, when the police are informed of a break-in at a house in the suburbs. The rest of the novel takes place over the course of that long day, ending where it began. Each of the next ten chapters is told from the point of view of a different person as the day pans out: a young probationary police officer, the police commissioner, a journalist, a wife, an ex-girlfriend, a suspect and so on. I wondered if this approach might make the narrative rather disjointed, but far from it, it’s a fascinating 360 degree account of a crime, providing a full emotional effect as the victim’s life is gradually fleshed out by seeing him as he was perceived by a variety of people. At the same time, the aftermath of the crime, in particular the criminal justice system, are seen with all their flaws – both structurally and via the people supposedly working for good.
As one reads on, the book becomes gradually darker. At first, one sees the corruption at the top in the police force and its interface with the state’s government. Later, the author provides an unvarnished account of the Aboriginal population of the state: how the laws are organised to protect them and how people use these (as well as manipulating their own ethnic identity) to their own advantage. As if this were not cynical enough, at its core the book is about rotten corruption at the heart of the “brotherhood” itself – by the end of the novel, there are very few at any level of the police force who are not tainted by it in some way.
I very much enjoyed this fast-paced, muscular novel, as intense as it is dark. It tells of a tragedy in the best way: by letting the reader make up her own mind as all the evidence gradually emerges. It uncovers a Tasmania that is as crime-ridden, corrupt, racist, cynical and devious as the regions of the world more familiar to crime readers. And there is a nasty twist to the tale. A great debut novel by former police officer Yvette Erskine: I am already looking forward to her next.
I purchased this book. Although it is as yet published only in Australia, it is available on UK and US Amazon. It isn’t a cheap book but worth every penny or cent.