A uniquely Australian spy novel.
In The Shaman, Roland Perry continues the adventures of sometimes-freelance-journalist, sometimes-gentleman-spy Vic Cavalier. The book picks up several months after the events of The Assassin on the Bangkok Express, as Cavalier’s daughter is involved in a car accident which leaves her comatose. Cavalier is astounded when his daughter’s life appears to be saved by the psychic intervention of self-professed shaman Al Haut. Cavalier is indebted to Haut, and learns the Tasmanian is something of a tech whiz whose inventions have earned him the wrong sort of attention from one of the world’s leading oil cartels. They aren’t too choosy about which side of the law they operate on, so Cavalier decides to protect Haut as the Shaman tries to get funding for his technological breakthrough.
Although Perry is better known for his non-fiction, The Shaman is a true Aussie gem. Vic Cavalier shares more than a little of his demeanour, skill and outlook on life with other Australian characters such as Jon Cleary’s hard-bitten detective Scobie Malone, and Robert G Barrett’s bouncer-cum-detective Les Norton. All are rough diamonds: hard, up to the task, and quick on the trigger. Cavalier is a jet-setter, however, more in the Bond mould. Fleming might be shocked at his eating habits, though not those of his bedroom. The Australianness of the spy caper (a head spy codenamed ‘Wombat’, for a start) will raise a wry smile among fans of the genre.
Perry’s prose is clean and quick, and as precise as Cavalier himself. The action flits from exotic locale to exotic locale as Cavalier and Haut attempt to battle one baddie after another. However this becomes the book’s Achille’s heel—Perry won’t settle on a villain. The book shows us several, from the scheming French financier to a group of Tasmanian thugs, and while each drive the plot for their passage of the book, none shape up as the prime mover and shaker. Cavalier and Haut spend the book getting into (and ingeniously getting out of) several scrapes, but there is never the feeling they are fighting one overall battle.
This is only a minor criticism, and readers can expect to be caught up and swept away on the wave of a good story well told. In fact, the only major criticism this reviewer had was that The Shaman was the last book of The Assassin Trilogy. Surely Cavalier has a few capers left in him yet?
Reviewed by DC White
Distributed by: Allen and Unwin
Released: February 2021