What is this about?: Stella is asked to try and find Mortimer, the man who can prove her BFF Phuong’s boyfriend’s innocence. Copeland is a cop, the kind that is more grey than anything else, and Stella doesn’t think he’s good enough for Phuong. But she’ll do what she can…
What else is this about?: Insight into Stella, into her family and her relationships. Green continues to build on the picture of Stella in book 1, while involving her in an intense case.
Blurb: Wisecracking social worker Stella Hardy returns, and this time she’s battling outlaw bikie gangs, corrupt cops, and a powerful hunger for pani puri.
On a stormy Halloween night, Stella gets a call from her best friend, Detective Phuong Nguyen. Phuong has a problem. Or rather her lover, Bruce Copeland, does.
Copeland has been implicated in a police-corruption scandal, and the only person who can help prove his innocence has disappeared. The missing man is Isaac Mortimer, a drug dealer associated with the notorious motorcycle gang The Corpse Flowers. Reluctantly, Stella offers to help track him down — and it isn’t long before she is way in over her head: evading bikies, drinking tea with drug dealers, and, worst of all, hanging out in the Macca’s carpark with a bunch of smart-alec teenagers.
Then, when Stella discovers that local street kids are being groomed for some sinister purpose — and that a psychopath with bust face tattooed across his knuckles is pursuing her — she realises she has her work cut out for her.
Sounds easy? Too easy.
Stella Hardy is a bit more settled in her life when this book opens, but it hardly lasts. Phuong asks her to investigate the disappearance of an important witness to save her not-good-enough boyfriend, and we’re introduced to her cousin, Cuong, a man who is mysterious as he is involved in the case. Then there’s Brophy, Stella’s boyfriend and his too-intense focus on his upcoming showing and the model that is sitting for him. She’s gorgeous, and understands his painting “process” better than Stella ever can. And then, there’s Stella’s family — her mother, sister and brother-in-law waiting in the wings.
There’s a lot going on…
…To say the least, but Green manages each storyline so well. What interested me in this book more than anything is the more full picture we’re given of Stella. I think Stella compartmentalises well, but then in and of itself means she’s not really dealing well. Is that as a result of her career as a social worker? I don’t know, perhaps. I know from my family and friends who work in similar fields, it’s a tough thing to do, but it’s necessary.
It’s how she can contemplate applying for a promotion, while talking to street kids and bikies while trying to find out what on earth Copeland, Phuong’s boyfriend is into. That case in an of itself, just grows and grows, leaving Stella more afraid for Phuong. They are best friends, the kind that will yell and be angry at each other, but they’ll still be the first person the other calls in an emergency, which this certainly is. As Stella investigates, Phuong grows more worried for her, but Stella also uses her investigation to try and convince her why she thinks Copeland isn’t good enough for her.
And then there’s Cuong, a man who hovers at the periphery of everything before Green’s narrative makes him make sense, and strangely I felt him more connected with Stella than Phuong.
Then there’s family and relationships
I think Stella’s family and her relationship with Brophy are her weak spot in a way. There, I could see her insecurities come to the fore more, especially with Brophy, They went through a tough beginning in book one, and in this book, in they seem to be on some sort of track that works for them. But Brophy is soon mired in painting for an upcoming exhibition with a woman, Felicity, that makes Stella insecure. I guess it makes sense that Stella’s so much more emotional when it comes to someone she loves, but I also feel like she deserves better than Brophy. Granted, there was Felicity causing havoc between them, but I wish he would have picked up a phone and perhaps cut this part of the storyline down. It made him look like he didn’t actually appreciate her, while she was pining for him.
This book also lays the foundation of her relationships with her family — her mum, sister and brother-in-law. Stella seems weary of them, but she’ll still still agree to convince her mother to sell her farm to her sister, who knows nothing about farming. ? And Stella, let’s just say she’ll still do stupid things for family — but who can’t understand that?
Green writes a story about diverse characters and a diverse Melbourne, I wish more books covered. And Stella Hardy is a character who loves completely and fiercely, and is loyal to a fault. She’s tough, but she has to be given the work she does, and the situations she finds herself in, but it’s with those closest to her that her shields fall some and we see shades of a different Stella.