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Posted on 3 Feb 2015 in Crime Scene |

Crime Scene: CS BOAG the Mister Rainbow series. Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

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hoodwithnohandsThis gloriously retro private eye series is purely for fun.

Crime fiction tends, in the main, to take itself very seriously. Murder after all, isn’t a laughing matter, and the exploration of who did what to whom sometimes demands the playing of a very straight bat.

That’s not to say that there aren’t excellent examples of comic crime fiction, many of which, for some reason, include a rather hefty hat-tip to the classic, early PI-style novels. The use of that scenario does mean that the author can move away from the sort of gallows humour that characters under pressure often use, and set up some slightly odd-ball crimes and criminals, some over the top characters, and generate a central protagonist who, frankly, is very easy to like.

The case in point is the Mister Rainbow series, which so far is made up of The Case of the Hood With No Hands, The Case of the Death of a Ladies’ Man, The Case of the Horses for Corpses, The Case of the Bullets for the Ballet and The Case of the Cock Robin Killer. Perhaps it’s needless to say these are all written with tongue firmly placed in cheek.

The novels are set in Sydney, frequently among its dives, back streets and bars, although with cameo appearances from Sydney Harbour, the Bridge and some of the better-known landmarks about town. Our hero, Mr Rainbow, is a gloriously retro private eye. He dwells comfortably in an illegally berthed boat on Sydney Harbour, has the obligatory cast of mates, women and contemporaries who get in his way – and occasionally manage to help him get to where he has to go ­– and an enigmatic, glamorous nemesis called Pandora.

The first book in the series, The Hood With No Hands, sees Mr Rainbow righting wrongs, worrying about a girl, frequenting the shadier joints of Sydney, and generally lurching his way to a resolution. Lurching is probably a bit unfair but there really are times when you’re not sure if he’s got the whole thing under control or is just getting lucky … in a staying-alive kind of way.

From the titles you’ll understand that we’re not talking psychological analysis, careful police procedures, or even a hard-boiled, put-upon private detective working the mean streets. Because Mister Rainbow’s not a straight character, somehow the style of writing, made up of some seriously funny quips, and the occasional aside to camera (so to speak), works particularly well. The language is pared back and clever, managing to give a feel for the character, as well as the place and the action:

Rory never had family. Consequently, when he meets people he tends to shoot them. He finds normal social intercourse challenging.

… You can’t be followed into a kitchen, not without creating a serious disturbance. One person might get away with it but in your average industrial-strength kitchen, two more’s a crowd.

There’s also the wonderful character of Aunt Rube, who raised Rainbow and did her best by him. Her actual involvement in this particular case is somewhat limited, what with her being in jail and all, but she’s there with advice when Rainbow can weave his way past the screws. And she’s definitely there in his head:

When Aunt Rube hauled me out of Baisson Primary and started in on my home schooling, I discovered that her idea of education was screening James Cagney movies on the cracked dining room wall … Along the way, I learnt the principles of logic, surveillance, self-defence, anatomy, pharmacology, body mechanics, several languages, ballet and how to play the piano.

ladies'manThe second book, Death of a Ladies’ Man, sees Rainbow discovering a headless corpse in a Kings Cross alleyway, with a nicely positioned neck tattoo providing all the clues required to identify the victim. As well as our female sidekick/nemesis, in this book we’ve got an ex-wife and child, an ex-colleague and born-again Christian, a heap of pissed off local gangsters, and a boat on the loose in Sydney Harbour. It’s almost impossible to pick the timeframe in which this book is set, and it doesn’t matter a damn. Everything seems to slot together, including the wide boy in the gun sights alluded to in the blurb.

horsesforcorpsesThe third in the series, Horses for Corpses, litters more bodies around Sydney’s mean streets, adds some crooked gamblers and, of course, a dame determined to whip everybody and everything into line.


bulletsattheballetThe fourth novel, Bullets at the Ballet, sees Mr Rainbow out of his comfort zone in Paris, in the company of a beautiful dame who is not Pandora, and searching for his missing daughter. Which leads, as it does, to the assistance of old mate, and spy, Ace Mollema, and a bad case of the who-do-you-trusts?

cockrobinkillerThe latest, Cock Robin Killer, gives us ex-wife problems, an escaped snake, a sick Aunt Rube, an assassin who has found God and ballet teachers under siege. All the ingredients needed for a thoroughly enjoyable read.


One of the major requirements of this style of book is that among the asides, the wisecracks and the vague sense of lunacy, there must be reasonable plots. There have to be good characters a reader can make a connection with, and there most definitely should be at least a glimmer of a reason for the crime. While there are plot elements in all of the Mister Rainbows that might call for a high degree of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, it really doesn’t matter a bit. The action is well-paced and the wisecracks, asides and dialogue make you laugh out loud at times.

For readers looking for something that’s a bit outside the norm, and particularly for those who have a strong affection for old-fashioned Australian slang and attitudes, the Mister Rainbow series, in all its glory, is a real little gem. It’s not crime fiction to make you sit up and pay serious attention, but the books are perfect relaxation reads. As long as you don’t mind the odd strange look when you can’t help but laugh.

Karen Chisholm blogs from, where she posts book reviews well as author biographies.

CS Boag Mr Rainbow in the Case of the Hood with No Hands Xoum 2012 256pp ePub $4.99 print $24.99

CS Boag Mr Rainbow in the Case of the Death of a Ladies Man Xoum 2013 256pp ePub $9.99 print $24.99

CS Boag Mr Rainbow in the Case of Horses for Corpses Xoum 2013 224pp ePub $9.99 print $24.99

CS Boag Mr Rainbow in the Case of the Bullets at the Ballet Xoum 2014 224pp ePub $9.99 print$24.99

CS Boag Mr Rainbow in the Case of the Cock Robin Killer Xoum 2014 224pp ePub $9.99 print $19.99

These titles are all available from the publisher.