by Douglas Lockhart
SYNOPSIS: 1996: A Metaphor:
This is a novel with an international theme set in Australia circa 1996 which develops into a tale of intrigue and deception at the political level. It is the story of John Hennessey, a novelist and ex-army intelligence officer who has had a manuscript stolen and published in the UK by one Gavin Dean, an Australian criminal of vicious temperament whose aim is the setting up a new identity for himself. Dean’s scam is uncovered, it being thought he has used the book to import hard drugs, and this sets the novel’s storyline in motion.
There is however much more to the situation than a stolen book: Hennessey is questioned by the police (Hobart drug squad), and subsequently interviewed by David Palfreyman, an urbane individual representing the Office of Special Investigation (OSI), a small, specialist unit set up to identify and prosecute war criminals living peacefully, but furtively, in Australia since 1945. As a skilled interviewer of German civilians wishing to work for the British army in Germany, National Service Captain John Hennessey finds himself drawn into a situation that quickly escalates and darkens.
When the novel begins, Hennessey’s relationship to his partner is on the rocks, their subsequent separation and interaction counterbalancing the intricacies of the developing plot. And all the while Gavin Dean’s shadowy presence flits in and out of the story, threatening Hennessey and revealing deep and troubling associations between the far-right, the criminal underworld and Australia’s rapidly changing political climate. Friends of Hennessey’s are caught up in the nightmare of moves and countermoves, the dramatic climax of the novel bringing into play a number of unusual characters with equally unusual aims and ambitions. Having taken up the challenge, Hennessey is confronted by a new type of political reasoning, and by the book’s end has had to deal directly with those wishing to foist this new type of reasoning on the public mind via the ballet box: populism and madcap political pragmatism is in the air.
The novel also carries us into Australia’s chequered political past, and into the nightmare that was Germany as a result of National Socialism’s distorted vision. It is a window into the minds of those who would have us believe that certain individuals are less worthy than others. Catching a glimpse of Germany at the turn of the nineteenth century, we are made aware of how a subtle manipulation of symbols can confuse and disorientate the psyche of a whole nation.
This is, in every sense, a novel for today, it’s time element a perfect vehicle for an examination of present-day political, philosophical and psychological points of view through the prism of the past. It is at once a thriller, a story of unrequited love and a reminder that a society, any society, can be systematically seduced away from its core values.