THE SHARK NET by Robert Drewe


Memories and Murder
Email this review


Such a strange literary amalgam: a Cold War-era youth memoir interpolated with a true-crime drama. Yet, as written by Drewe, it not only makes sense, but is also damnably compelling at that.

Quite popular and well respected "down under" as a novelist (The Drowner, 1997), Drewe stakes out new literary territory, telling of his progress from schoolboy to young newsman on the make. Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s against the remote backdrop of Perth (described by some as "the most isolated city in the world"), the story manages to cover a lot of ground, tying together several themes effortlessly: youthful superstition, adolescent longing, suburban conformity, the ongoing war between man and nature, the wonders of rubber products (really), etc. But bracketing the author's recollections of sun-dappled days at the beach, boozy, glad-handing get-togethers arranged by Drewe's dad, a successful Dunlop tire area manager, and the fear of "boiling brain" (a nonexistent affliction arising from prolonged bareheadedness under the relentless western Australian sun), is the forbidding shadow narrative of Eric Cooke. Fired from a menial job at the Dunlop factory, Cooke moves to the fringes of polite society. Hare-lipped, hot-tempered, and the young father of seven, Cooke turns out also to be a serial murderer who has been terrorizing the Perth area, killing a former school chum of Drewe's, among others. Drewe and Cooke come together, in a sense, when the former is an investigative reporter on the overnight crime beat. While these protagonists' dual paths are in no means parallel, and their meeting is, as the book's title suggests, inevitable, Drewe creates and maintains suspense by moving Cooke throughout the narrative in much the same stealthy fashion that Cooke moved through the underside of Perth. Drewe also fleshes out Cooke's character by creating a sympathetic portrait of the killer's wife, and lends some insight into why he turned "bad."

Altogether unexpected and quite involving: a briskly paced summer read.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-670-88809-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2000