In brief: Stella Hardy is a social worker in Melbourne’s west with a few secrets. As she becomes involved in a murder, there’s a hint she might be on the fringe of trouble. Plus, her neighbour’s gone missing and her wayward brother has landed on her doorstep…
The good: It’s hard boiled crime with a heroine that’s not stereotypical.
The not-so-good: I would have liked to have known more about Stella and the mysterious money.
Why I chose it: Thanks to Scribe Publications for the ARC. Love a local story!
Pages: 278 (eARC)
Publisher: Scribe Publications
Setting: Mainly Melbourne, Australia
My rating: 8 out of 10
Good Money is an Australian crime story with a number of differences that make it stand out in this crowded field. One, it has a woman as the heroine – Stella Hardy, who definitely isn’t a cop. She’s a social worker who assists migrants and who has a few dodgy things up her own sleeve. It’s refreshing to have a main character who isn’t a jaded, chain smoking detective with a string of bad relationships under her belt. Sure, Stella likes the odd wine or whiskey, and she has made some dumb relationship decisions but it’s not the focus of her dysfunction. In fact, she’s pretty functional!
Two, this story has some serious girl power. There’s Stella of course, but her recently reunited best friend Phuong is a rising gun in the police force and she knows how to kick some butt. Even the minor characters such as Mrs Chol, mother of a murdered boy, takes life by the horns and twists it to ensure her remaining son is safe. Similarly, Constable Raewyn Ross wants to be taken seriously in the male environment of the local police station and Stella’s friend Tania has taken drastic measures to take control of her life – with insurance.
The story reads like a hard-boiled detective novel, only with strong women in its place. The opening is particularly strong (it has the short, powerful sentences that set the scene and the tone) and the story just zooms from there. Stella is easy to relate to (even for all her faults) and the introduction of Phuong (who is awesome, holding her own with the idiot colleagues and breaking into things before finding the best food in town) makes things fun. There’s a lot of dark humour involved, mainly on Stella’s part, which brings some light to the dark moments. It’s very Australian with the black humour and Stella’s world-weariness. Some of the language used will make the reader crack a smile – J.M. Green knows just where to place the colloquialisms for maximum effect.
Essentially the story is based around the murder of a young boy, the family of which Stella has dealings with in her day job. Things are complicated by a notebook with Stella’s address in it, which has her panicking that she could be targeted for some misdemeanours years ago. Meanwhile, her nice-but-kind-of-ditzy neighbour Tania gives her some DVDs to mind and then disappears. Stella’s tangled up in two police investigations – could they be linked? Later the narrative moves to Western Australia, which is where I had a couple of plot issues – one, there’s more than just Cottesloe as suburb options and the plot seemed to almost be on a runaway train to over the top. Fortunately, Green winds it back to reality in the desert and the story finishes on a high note.
I think one of the things that pleased me is that the cover of Good Money mentions this is the first Stella Hardy novel, which means we will have more of Stella to enjoy. I’m hoping that means more of Phuong and the precocious young Marigold, in addition to Stella’s light fingered brother Ben – there’s plenty more here to explore!