Shane Maloney

Seemingly a significant figure in the Melbourne arts scene. The Murray Whelan series, however, seems to have come to a grinding halt while Maloney finds a way to get him into trouble in Canberra. 


  • Stiff, which  starts off when someone finds a body in a chiller at the Pacific Pastoral meat-packing works, there's a hint of union issues that might have ramifications for a Labor government where an upcoming election's concerned and Whelan's delegated to sort things out.

He's not, however, the most adept of investigators, but in between a leaking roof, the Labor Party's internal intrigues, Turkish community welfare agencies and gambling clubs, the lusts of the flesh, an aqua Ford Falcon and an impending visit from his estranged wife, who'll probably end up with custody of his six-year-old son Whelan gets matters more or less sorted out, and by the end of the yarn he's done enough to ensure that his job is (temporarily) safe as ministerial adviser Angelo Agnelli takes over Charlene Willis' seat in the Victorian Legislative Council.

  • The Brush Off kicks off with a cabinet reshuffle that moves Agnelli into the strange double portfolio of The Arts and Water. Water would, you'd reckon, be reasonably straightforward, but when you get to The Arts with a world of cliques, institutions, millionaires, sponsorship and government funding the waters start to get muddy.

Whelan's conducting some preliminary reconnaissance when he ends up rolling around the Botanic Gardens with Salina Fleet just before her artist boyfriend, who has been making drunken allegations about the art world, is dragged dead from the moat of the Arts Centre. It's a question of falling or someone adding the impetus, and with unwanted front page coverage in the weekend papers the plot thickens as soon as Whelan starts digging around the deceased painter's quarters.

Throw in an old high school acquaintance turned heavy chauffeur, art forgery and healthy doses of greed, ambition and skulduggery and you've got a lively read with the regulation access visit from son Red (now based in Sydney, where his mother is moving into an increasingly rarefied atmosphere of movers and shakers) thrown in to complicate matters and provide some unwitting clues that allow Whelan to sort things out.

Well plotted, lively paced and sardonically comic, the observations about politics, the arts, the city of Melbourne and Victoran ALP politics, the characters and their interaction run in together to make an entertaining read about politics and corruption in the arts scene. 

  • Nice Try At the end of The Brush Off Whelan's happily sitting in the background looking after matters on the Water side of Agnelli's odd double portfolio, getting to the point where he can stand up on the skis for nearly fifty metres at a stretch, but desperate political times call for people with specific skills and contacts, so Whelan's recruited to help with a vital aspect of the Melbourne bid for the 1996 Olympics.

Specifically, faced with the threat of distracting posturing by Aboriginal activist Ambrose Buchanan, Whelan's brought in to find something that'll keep him quiet and prevent embarrassment during a visit by three IOC delegates. Simple, fairly straightforward and Whelan delivers something that definitely looks to fit the bill.

But it's not that straightforward.

Along the way, Whelan, into his forties with a burgeoning waistline and a desire to give up the fags has enrolled himself at a swish inner city fitness club, where he encounters gorgeous aerobics instructor Holly Deloite  and her psychotic steroid guzzling ex-boyfriend who turns out to have a strange link back to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He also runs across stylish doctor Phillipa Verstak, another would-be ex-smoker, filling in as a locum for Whelan's regular physician.

Things go seriously wrong when young indigenous triathlete Darcy Anderson is killed in what appears to be a racially-based bashing and Whelan's called in to help young Holly recover property from her ex's home.

While Whelan's increasingly estranged from his son Red there's an opportunity to bring him down to Melbourne to participate in a torch relay that provides the excuse to bring all the major players together at the climax. Ex-wife Wendy, now attached to a Sydney lawyer, turns up to get in the way of the father-son quality time quotient and while things work out rather nicely in the end it's touch and go for a fair while.


© Ian Hughes 2012