- Trust, by Chris Hammer. Allen & Unwin. $32.99.
The third instalment in Chris Hammer's thriller series starts with a detective king-hit in a flash living room while the owner of that house is abducted by a vindictive rival in love - and larceny.
From that first scene onwards, the pace does not flag, even if Hammer allows some space for irony and whimsy in between chases, shootings, bashings and sundry criminal revelations.
Having now completed three thrillers (with Scrublands and Silver preceding Trust), Hammer might be wondering whether his weathered, world-weary journalist hero has embedded himself in our literary imagination.
Will he turn out to be as durable and resilient as Peter Temple's rumpled Jack Irish, Phryne Fisher (Kerry Greenwood's chic creation) or Peter Corris' battered Cliff Hardy?
In a competition for exotic character names, Hammer already wins, with Tarquin and Mandalay here joined here by Clarity.
Moreover, none of the other writers invented a retro villain wearing natty clothing, smelling of greasy hair oil and sporting a revolver almost too large to hide inside his jacket.
Trust opens with a bourgeois dream of Heaven, in a house on a cliff by the beach in northern New South Wales: "No bushfires for you, no viruses, no recessions".
Nemeses can, however, return to claim even those who have inherited wealth and fled their past lives. Many staple symptoms of human perfidy then emerge, some beloved by thriller writers the world over.
Police collude with villains. Developers reveal themselves as corrupt and malicious. Corporations cover up greed. Judges are vulnerable to temptation.
Throughout a lifetime of addictive thriller reading, I have never, though, read before about a secret society of former prisoners of war.
As Simenon and Chandler knew, success with a thriller depends less on suspense and surprise than on sustaining a credibly flawed central character.
To borrow Hammer's title, the reader needs to trust the authenticity of a thriller writer - as measured in emotional depth, and in the capacity to see through folly or pretence.
Bringing the setting alive is crucial. Hammer evokes inner-city Sydney, "a mix of mould and cockroaches with the added tincture of leaking gas".
A coffee "tastes as if it's been consecrated: rich, strong, smooth".
For thrillers, Hammer's books are particularly long. With the third, the heroine's repetitive and self-pitying interior monologues might have been trimmed. The rest, though, is assured and focused.