How I Became the Mr Big of People Smuggling is sold as a crime novel, but this is a crude categorisation for an unusual book. Mr Big is more like a fictional memoir; the story of Nick Smart, a high-school graduate who signs up to work as a jackaroo at the remote Palmenter Station, but quickly discovers that it is a front for a people-smuggling outfit. He then kills the station’s murderous namesake and takes over the operation.
However this might read at first glance, and despite some risky plot twists, it is a surprisingly plausible story. Martin Chambers shows great perspicacity in exploring how Smart descends into people-smuggling by almost imperceptible degrees, but his insights do not stop at psychology. Every scene seems to spring from either personal experience or meticulous research, from the intricacies of building a barbecue to the repulsiveness of cleaning up the fly-blown bodies of dead refugees. This attention to detail does not entail mechanical prose, though, and at times Mr Big shows impressive flashes of lyricism.