Although a resident of the Hunter Valley, Barry Maitland is best known for his successful Kolla & Brock series set in London.
In more recent years, however, he has written a strong trilogy about NSW Homicide Squad detective Harry Belltree. It involves more violence than the UK series, and has a strong back story as Belltree tracks down the people who killed his parents and blinded his wife Jenny.
The trilogy is notable for its use of a similar deus in machina device to that utilised by Donna Leon in her Commissario Brunetti series, where more routine information – phone numbers, addresses and bank accounts – is dug up promptly, comprehensively and illegally through the almost supernatural computer powers of Signorina Elettra Zorzi. In this case it is the home-based Jenny Belltree who provides a similar service, at least in the first two books, particularly useful given how often her husband is suspended from duty for one reason or another.
The trilogy is one of the strongest examples of contemporary crime fiction based wholly or largely in Sydney. One of its many pleasures is the plot elements involving notorious aspects of contemporary life such as corrupt property developers and the impact of coal mining.
The books need to be read in order. They start by establishing character, but gradually speed up and acquire the almost thrilleresque focus on plot also found in the novels of Candice Fox. By book three the pace is so fast you need to have a sense of who’s who to keep up, as events explode like the climax of a fireworks display.