Title: Heaven Sent
Author: Alan Carter
Published: 29th October 2018
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Detective Sergeant Philip ‘Cato’ Kwong is light on sleep but high on happiness with his new wife Sharon Wang and their baby girl. But contentment is not compatible with life in the Job, and soon a series of murders of Fremantle’s homeless people gets in the way of Cato’s newfound bliss. As New Wave journalist Norman Lip flirts online with the killer, it becomes apparent that these murders are personal – every death is bringing the killer one step closer to Cato.
Alan Carter is a Ned Kelly Award Winner, but until now I have not had the privilege of reading any of his work. I was assured by the author himself after listening to a talk given to celebrate the release of Heaven Sent, the fourth issue in the popular Cato Kwong crime thriller series, that newcomers can enjoy each novel in this series as a standalone. Heaven Sent, my freshman outing with Alan Carter, proved to be a most valuable reading experience. Based on my appreciation of Heaven Sent and the writing of Alan Carter, I am going to make it a priority to check out Carter’s previous novels.
Heaven Sent re-introduces Detective Sergeant Philip Cato Kwong to those who are fans of the series. For first timers, do not be discouraged, Carter fills in any gaps, so the reader never feels at a disadvantage. Cato has just entered a new phase in his life, he is content with his new wife and baby daughter. He is also back on his old stomping ground, working in the Major Crimes division in Fremantle. It doesn’t take long before Cato is fully immersed in a complex case involving a series of murders of homeless people inhabiting the Fremantle area and beyond. To complicate matters further, the killer sets their sights on Kwong himself and investigative journalist Norman Lip, who becomes heavily embroiled in this case. As the murders tally up, so do the false leads and dead ends. Cato is on a race against time to stop this killer in their tracks before they make a deadly move on his family.
This fourth outing in the Cato Kwong crime thriller series, has been eagerly anticipated by fans of the formidable Philip Cato Kwong. Heaven Sent is well worth the wait and it is a solid addition to this popular book series. What immediately struck me about Heaven Sent was the excellent balance Carter maintained between a cutting edge police procedural, a clever plot, the use of realistic characters and an evocative setting. It is always a little tricky for a writer to get all of these elements exactly right in a novel, but Alan Carter shows his audience he is a force to be reckoned with.
Heaven Sent would not be the great novel it is without the enigmatic Philip Cato Kwong. Carter clearly knows his lead inside and out. Carter completely embodies Cato and as a result, the reader sees all of his good points; such as his dedication to his job, his relentless attitude to the law, the love his has for family and the respect he has gained from his colleagues. However, Cato is far from perfect, which makes him all the more authentic. We see Cato’s failings as the book progresses, his ill choices and the struggles he faces between balancing work with fatherhood. Carter’s outline of his lead is second to none, it cannot be faulted and it is easy to see why this series is so popular. Likewise, readers will find the periphery characters add plenty of substance to this novel. The outer characters really stand on their own feet, thanks to their interactions with Cato on a personal and professional level, along with the haunting voice of the killer.
Alan Carter does a superb job of conveying his setting. It was a breath of fresh air to see such a well known location to me, Fremantle in Western Australia, captured in such a convincing manner by the author. Clearly Carter knows Fremantle like the back of his hand, but somehow Carter managed to tease out aspects of this local area that made me view Fremantle with a different set of eyes. Fremantle’s dark underbelly and social issues were spot on, thanks to Alan Carter’s top notch storytelling skills. I was also overjoyed to see my own local city, Rockingham, mentioned in the novel, what an added surprise! These aspects certainly contributed to my increased enjoyment of Heaven Sent.
In other reviews of this title, it has been mentioned that Alan Carter writes crime thriller novels with a conscious awareness of a social issue. I’m a keen to explore more of his back titles based on this new understanding. In Heaven Sent, Carter carefully unravels the sorry state of affairs around the homeless. In tackling this growing social issue, Carter unpacks any misconceptions and assumptions we may have about who becomes homeless and why. It was an eye opener and I liked the way in which Carter connected this issue to the broader focus of Heaven Sent. It was an interesting angle and it gave the book a sense of elevation.
Onto the central crime itself, a killer targeting the homeless around the Fremantle area and the subsequent focus on Detective Cato, this was an intriguing case. I enjoyed the ground work, the nitty gritty of the police tactics and the way in which the case was approached by Cato Kwong, along with his colleagues and the edgy journalist Norman Lip. What came as a surprise to me was the significant role the media can play in a case like the one presented in Heaven Sent. I appreciated the media influence aspects in the novel very much. Carter wraps his fourth instalment in the Cato Kwong series up well and for those who are fans of The Marlborough Man, you will be pleased with the brief link to this novel in Heaven Sent.
My fresh acquaintance with the work of Alan Carter, with his latest novel, Heaven Sent, has been such a welcome experience and I feel very fortunate to have discovered Carter’s work. If you have an appreciation for the fine art of crime writing from an Australian angle, Heaven Sent, or any of Alan Carter’s back list titles will be sure to fulfil any craving you have for good quality Australian crime writing.
Heaven Sent by Alan Carter was published on 29th October 2018 by Fremantle Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Heaven Sent, Alan Carter, visit here