I had the good fortune to meet Pamela Newton last year at a Cherchez La Femme event on Women and Crime. While the discussion mostly ran to how women suffer as both victims and perpetrators, Newton, as an ex-police officer, was on hand to supply some extra information and then, afterwards, happy to chat about crime fiction with me. We bemoaned how many women need to be put in boxes (literal ones, in this case) and tortured and raped in crime fiction, a topic I’ve covered before (and hope to cover the alternate universe version of soon). Anyway, the chat we had made me look forward to the new book she was bringing out, and finally, a few weeks ago, I managed to get my paws on a copy. Let’s just get this out of the way: it’s great. It’s wonderful. Read it.
Nhu “Ned” Kelly is a Sydney-based detective with a Vietnamese heritage – one that shows in her face but not as much in her language. Her fellow police assume that she knows how to speak Vietnamese, and in ’90s Cabramatta, that’s a useful tool to have – but she does not. What she does have in spades is determination and a bareknuckle love for her job and for justice; beneath that, she carries with her the trauma of the events of The Old School, Beams Falling‘s prequel. It tested the loyalty of those around her, and left her with physical scars she is still trying to heal, and psychological scars that she first needs to address before things can get better. It’s the book’s deep search into Ned’s recovery that I really loved; when you read a lot of crime, you realise (even though it’s fiction), that a lot of fucked up things happen to those in the emergency services. While you get a lot of alcoholic protagonists who seem to just drink and joke it away, the very real trauma deserves airtime, and Beams Falling has it. Never boring, and accompanied by the grim crimes against Vietnamese youth in a suburb struggling to deal with violence, this is a character piece, one with nothing to hide, and all the credit in the world to PM Newton for delivering it so well.