Who knew this robbery even happened? Certainly not me, true crime reader that I am. In this page turner Bainbridge unfolds the story of the so-called Waterfront Payroll Robbery which took place in downtown Auckland in 1956. A well executed robbery for that time: other than a smoke filled office and an empty safe, there was no indication whatsoever who the robber/robbers were.
A cast of characters straight from the pages of a crime novel are brought to life here in a realistic and believable way, back stories are fleshed out, questions are asked and the reality of the criminal element that populated Auckland at that time is unraveled. Then there is the Police Force, who wished nothing more than to be rid of this element and have them all locked behind very strong bars, methods and modus operandi be damned: the procedures book made reasonable reading but did anyone really expect they would follow it? In the Auckland of the 1950s, crime was very much under the radar, in fact generally Auckland was pretty crime free and most of it featured the activities of the “Underworld” of whom Joe Average would have no knowledge.
In this book Bainbridge excels at digging, chipping away and unearthing a story that is little known. He paints a vivid and gritty picture of 1950s Auckland, the story flows, there are twists and turns in the tale, and each character – good, bad or indifferent – gets his moment in the sun. By the end of the book, we know that a certain gentlemen served time for the crime – but we don’t know if it was a solo or group effort, and we don’t know where the money ended up, here or over the ditch. This, however, does not detract in any way from the books effectiveness or the readers enjoyment of it.
I have read earlier work by Scott Bainbridge and have always enjoyed it. This book simply adds to his reputation as a very good writer of non-fiction crime and those who pick it up, will enjoy it.
Reviewed by Marion Dreadon
The Great New Zealand Robbery
by Scott Bainbridge
Published by Allen & Unwin