Review: Zero at the Bone by David Whish-Wilson

Title: Zero at the Bone

Author: David Whish-Wilson

Published: Viking: Penguin August 2013

Read an Extract

Status: Read from August 27 to 29, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Having instigated a Royal Commission into police corruption in Line of Sight, Detective Superintendent Frank Swann is now out on his own. Forced to resign, accused of corruption by the men who he attempted to expose, he works as a private investigator while trying to avoid the retribution of his former colleagues.
When Swann is hired to investigate the suicide of a renowned geologist, he discovers the man was about to strike it rich in Western Australian’s gold fields. A little more digging reveals the dead man had partnered with Perth’s underworld elite – corrupt cops, mafia bosses, bookies and politicians, all intent on cashing in on the state’s mining boom – and now Swann is in their way.

Zero at the Bone has the tone of a hard-boiled detective novel with a distinctly Australian twist. It is a provocative story of corruption, greed and fraud in 1970’s Perth. There is plenty of action, violence is ever present in the city’s underground with the corruption amongst officials simply adding to it. The pace is fast, the narrative is sharp and the dialogue authentic.

Swann has more enemies than friends and his investigation is hampered by his need to avoid the manipulations of those who view him as an inconvenience. For his part Swann shows little fear despite the ever present threat of danger, previous events have obviously affected Swann deeply and he is willing to risk his life to take down the men corrupting his city. His motive is not entirely altruistic though, he has a personal axe to grind with the Head of the Fraud Squad, Ben Hogan and his corrupt supporters. Swann is a likeable character driven by a personal set of ethics which means he does not always keep to the right side of the law himself yet he evokes sympathy and admiration.

I particularly enjoyed Whish-Wilson’s depiction of time and place, though I am too young to be familiar with his vision of my hometown. The details feel authentic though and I do vaguely remember the sesquicentennial celebrations – I even still have a souvenir mug!

Entertaining, gritty and provocative, Zero at the Bone is an impressive crime fiction novel. I’m sure Fran Swann will be back, and I am looking forward to it.

Available to Purchase from

Penguin Australia I BoomerangBooks I Booktopia I Amazon Kindle

via Booko

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cleopatralovesbooks
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 15:13:50

    Great review, I always have a fond spot for books that are set in familiar (to me) locations. Until You’re Mine references Jersey but only as a haven for rich people which sadly is not the part of society I inhabit!



  2. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 16:04:13

    Thanks Cleo, I can’t resist books set in my hometown, though I haven’t been back there in over 25 years.



  3. notesoflifeuk
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 00:36:49

    Sounds like my kidn of book. Great review!

    I love it when books are set in a family setting. We don’t get many at all set here in Mid Wales, but it’s always a joy to read something set somewhere I know.



  4. Emily
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 18:14:29

    I didn’t know you were from Perth! Do you still live there? I do!



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