To Know My Crime is the first of Fiona five Capp’s novels I have read. Likened to Peter Temple, and with glowing quotes from Caroline Baum and Geordie Williamson from The Australian, it had be intrigued. I was not disappointed.
Set on the Mornington Peninsula in the post GFC noughties, it is full of complicated relationships and the ways people go about getting what they want, for themselves and others.
Ned has lived with no ‘mortgages, no debts, no dependents’, hadn’t ‘seen a reason to settle down or grow up’ and would have continued in this way, but when his sister Angela is left a paraplegic after falling down the stairs in dubious circumstances he was forced to ‘end his protracted adolescence’. He takes on the ‘most important gig of his life’ – the care of his sister.
When he invests all their money with old friend Fraser Wainwright, who handles it with the ‘absurd nonchalance with which he did everything’, and the GFC hits, Ned finds ‘there’s no end to what you can give up when you have no choice’.
He moves into the boathouse of the house that was owned by Fraser’s family, amongst what ‘look like expensive cubbies, places where adults play pretend’ on ‘Millionaires Walk’. Then he sees two men fly in and go into the house that had belonged to the Wainwrights. He recognises them as state politician Richard Morrow, and property mogul Ralph Stone, who ‘owns half the coal mines in the country’. Curious as to what is going on between them, he finds a spot where he can hear some of their conversation – including ‘big money development, fucking Greenie objections, fucking meddlers … how much ten? How much will it take?’ Enough for him to know something is not right.
He comes to the conclusion he can use this information and get the money he has lost, before he has to let Angela know it is gone. His logic is ‘he wouldn’t be harming anyone. In fact he’s be punishing an act of bribery, punishing corruption, which has to be in the public good’.
It seems straight forward morally, but then Morrow discovers him in the boathouse, and befriends him, employs him to help with the renovations of the house, and it becomes murky.
The lives of some are portrayed so well, with their power and privilege, their beach-houses -‘houses of six bedrooms or more that lie empty for most of the year while thousands lie in the streets’. This in contrast to Ned, Angela, her ex-husband Michael, and carer Mai.
Questions of right and wrong, how we see ourselves intrinsically as honest and trustworthy, and what is, and who are criminal are put to the reader. It reflects on the way politics and business are run these days, and what that means for us all.
It shows that ‘being desperate leads to desperate measures’ and that when all that goes wrong, ‘what happened when the truth is left untold’. Deft, insightful writing delivers great characters that are all recognisable, with a great plot. I highly recommend this book. It lives up to all of its accolades.