Drugs are never the answer, unless – maybe? – you’re in desperate need of some quick cash and you just happen to come across a large package of unclaimed heroin.
That’s what happens to Lachie Munro in Andy Muir’s debut novel Something for Nothing. Lachie’s down on his luck, on the run from his past and the owner of a serious gambling debt when he stumbles across a large quantity of illicit drugs with no obvious owner. With the gear safely on his boat, he begins to make plans.
It wouldn’t take much for some bright spark to work out who I’d been running with in Victoria, track my family history, maybe correlate some dates. It was why I ended up in Newcastle, where no one knew me and I was simply a normal guy who painted houses. Nothing says ‘under the radar’ better than painting a bunch of white walls another shade of white.
His friend Dave likes the idea of shifting the drugs and splitting their good fortune. The only problem? Neither of them knows a thing about drugs or where to sell them.
They bounce between men from the underworld to try to find a quick way out, but each meeting drags them further and further into trouble. They begin to wish they’d never found the package, but by then they’re in too deep.
The more the story develops, the more Muir tries to throw in extra twists and curve balls, which ultimately leads to a jumbled mess rather than a tangled thread that can cleverly be unravelled.
If the tide had been different. If we’d been delayed at any point. If I hadn’t been quite so keen to see what we’d hit. The ifs kept coming…
The shady underworld is not Lachie’s only source of trouble: he also meets a woman. A woman he likes, but who works on the other side of law enforcement. Although she’s not involved in the drug scene she might be interested in some of his other activities, which adds an interesting element to the early struggles of a relationship.
Lachie’s love interest adds menacingly to the mess that surrounds him and helps add a more-rounded element to the narrative. While dating can be difficult enough, it’s made harder when you’re tangled up in something illegal. The best example of this is when Lachie stands her up because he has to meet someone big in the local drug scene. While he truly feels bad about it, he obviously can’t come clean, and she realises that he’s lying to him about something. It helps add depth to the everyday hero story that’s gone slightly off track, making the reader feel for Lachie, despite the circles he’s starting to swim in.
Something in the back of my mind was saying turn around. Never one to listen to what anyone tells me to do, especially my own subconscious, I kept on. Curiosity killed the cat like video killed the radio star.
There’s also some delightful local flavour sprinkled throughout. There aren’t too many books set in the Australian city of Newcastle, something which may add an extra level for local readers, but not something that will detract from the tale for those who are unfamiliar with the area.
Likewise, Muir’s writing is full of Australianisms – like “years of getting up at sparrow fart” – which may seem baffling to outsiders, but are used with enough context to be understandable.
The book has a simplistic writing style which although aids the pace of the story, is what essentially holds it back from being worthy of 5 stars.
This is only the start of Lachie Munro’s journey and there’s enough early promise to make us hope that it won’t be too long before the follow up to Something for Nothing is available.