Reading The East Park Syndicate

The East Park Syndicate, like any good murder mystery, starts with the discovery of a body. In this case, the body of the mayor of East Park – businessman and political insider – Doug Clarke. 

The story is driven by several questions:

  • Who killed Doug Clarke?
  • Why was he killed?
  • Will Inspector West and his team solve the mystery and arrest the killer?

As you’d expect, I’ve also thrown in a few curveballs to make solving the crime just that little bit more of a challenge for Carl West and his team.

No story exists in a vacuum. There are always social problems within a story’s context that will influence people’s behaviour, so it’s not surprising that a few of the social issues currently playing out in Australia found their way into the tapestry of Doug Clarke’s story as it unfolded. 

And, let me confess, the story of this mystery did unfold, even though I tried to plan it and write an outline so I’d know where the story was going before I started. It turns out, I don’t write stories that way. I write using a method known as writing into the unknown. 

So, when I started writing, I knew who the victim was and how he had been killed, and I’d drawn up his family tree so Inspector West would have someone to interview after he’d identified the body. The only other thing I knew was some of the action would be taking place in a remote location.

The details of the story emerged as I tried to find out why Doug Clarke had been killed and who killed him. At least in my investigation of the murder, I had an advantage over Inspector West. I could get into the stories of the other characters without telling the inspector what they knew. 

I think giving you some insights into the backstory of the criminals adds to the suspense – especially when the storylines will intersect, as they inevitably do. If you’ve read any of the other Inspector West stories, you’ll know there is always more than one crime story inside the main story and that, somehow, I’ll pull them all together and surprise you. 

It’s always fun constructing that web and watching how the storylines come together. Of course, a lot of thought goes into making sure you don’t get to guess who the killer is too early and laying down the breadcrumbs that allow you to see how it all comes in the end.

For those interested in the personal life of the main characters of the series, The East Park Syndicate also explores the life of Carl West outside the confines of the investigation and touches on some of the relationship stresses and strains his detectives live with. I like to expose the human side of my main characters to remind you that police officers are people with ordinary lives like the rest of us, even if their professional lives sound a little more exciting than ours.

One of the challenges of writing crime fiction is keeping things believable, so it was reassuring to read a news report describing a police raid on a farmhouse in a remote part of the country that aligned with the scene I had written about such a raid a few days earlier. They even found the same thing I had raided the place to find. One happy writer reading the news that day.

And, for those who wonder how the police track down criminals using mobile phone data, I’ve recently discovered that police in Australia are now using an app that gives them instant access to a mobile phone’s location data. It works much like that app that lets you find your phone. Something to think about the next time you leave the house with your mobile phone in your pocket.

The East Park Syndicate is available from a range of online retailers.

Choose Your Store

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene eight

‘The prick’s been lying to me, Ryan,’ said Maggie, as soon as she sat down.


‘The Prosecutor’s Office called as I was leaving the office. The police have cracked the password on his phone and accessed his photos.’ She stared at me, primal rage written all over her face. 

I wondered if she was going to explode but she took a steadying deep breath and let out a sigh.

‘He took a photo of the body after he’d strangled her.’

I laughed. Clive had been framed alright. By himself.

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene six

Hamilton was a six-hour drive from Adelaide. I spent the night in a motel and went to see Ellen Ford’s parents at ten on the morning after I’d arrived. I guess I could have telephoned but I thought they deserved a face to face interview, seeing I was batting for the opposing side.

They were wary of me from the get-go.

‘Are you trying to prove he didn’t kill her? The police told us he did it,’ said Mr Ford.

‘They could very well be right,’ I said, ‘but I’m trying to find out if there’s another explanation just in case they’re wrong.’

‘Like what?’ said Mr Ford.

‘Tell me about Mick Daley,’ I said.

‘Who told you about him?’ said Mr Ford.

‘The woman Ellen was sharing her apartment with.’

‘Sally?’ said Mrs Ford.

‘Yes, Sally.’

‘Well, I guess Sally’s not up with our local news, Mr Parish,’ said Mr Ford. ‘Mick’s been in the cemetery for the last six months. Silly bugger died of an overdose. Heroin, I think it was.’

‘And, good riddance!’ said Mrs Ford. ‘He was horrible to our daughter.’

That certainly put Mick Daley out of the frame.

‘Did Ellen ever mention if she was in any trouble after she moved to Adelaide?’ I asked.

‘She didn’t tell us much about her life over there,’ said Mr Ford. ‘I guess she knew I wouldn’t have approved of what she was doing, if I’d known.’

‘She talked to me, though,’ said Mrs Ford. ‘She was very happy over there.’

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene five

According to the brief the police had given Maggie, Ellen Ford had shared an apartment in Stanley Street, North Adelaide, with Sally Gretchen, who also worked in the brothel.

I drove to North Adelaide and knocked on Sally’s front door. I was about to leave empty-handed when the door opened.

‘Hello, gorgeous. What are you selling?’

She was all legs, and her parts that weren’t, were barely covered by a large white T-shirt. It was just as well Miranda wasn’t there to witness my reaction. I had to remind myself she was a potential source of information to get my mind to focus.

‘Are you Sally Gretchen?’ I managed to ask.

‘Who wants to know?’ she said, with a smile designed to melt hearts.

I handed her one of my cards. ‘My name’s Ryan Parish, I’m a private investigator working for the lawyer defending the man charged with killing Ellen.’

Her face lost its welcoming smile. ’What are you doing here?’

‘I’d like to ask you a few questions about Ellen,’ I said.


‘Is there any possibility she was in trouble before she was murdered?’

‘You’re not a policeman, are you?’

‘No, I’m a private investigator.’ I showed her my licence.

‘Oh, sorry, you already told me that, didn’t you?’

‘That’s okay.’ I slipped my licence back into my pocket. ‘Will you answer some questions for me?’

‘Why don’t you come in?’ She stepped back and held the door open for me.

I brushed past her and stepped into a dimly lit corridor. She opened a door and flicked on a light, and ushered me into a sitting room with heavy drapes drawn across the windows.

‘This is the tidiest room in the house,’ said Sally. ‘I haven’t had time to clean up since the police were here last week.’

‘Did they ask you questions about Ellen?’ I said.

‘Not really. They just wanted to look through her stuff so they could contact her parents.’

‘Was Ellen from Adelaide?’

Sally shook her head. ’She was from Hamilton, in Victoria.’ She sat on the arm of one of the chairs. ‘Why do you want to know about Ellen?’

I did my best to keep my eyes from straying to the two brown circles pushing through the fabric of her T-shirt.

‘Our client claims he’s been framed for her murder,’ I said.

‘Do you believe him?’ said Sally.

‘To be honest, I have no idea whether he’s telling the truth or not. But, if he is, someone else must have killed Ellen. My job is to find out if that’s a possibility or a pipe dream.’

‘Fair enough. What do you want to know?’

‘Was she in any sort of trouble?’

Sally crossed her arms in front of her breasts. ‘She came here to get away from the abusive bastard she’d lived with in Victoria.’

‘Do you know his name?’

‘Mick Daley. He’s lives in Hamilton.’

‘Did he ever come here and threaten her?’

‘I don’t think he knew where she was,’ said Sally, ‘but he called her a few times. She was always in tears after he called.’

‘Did she ever say why?’

‘Said it bought back memories of what he’d done to her.’

I wondered why Ellen hadn’t changed her number but it was too late to ask her now.

‘Did she have any problems at work?’

Sally slipped into the seat of the armchair and crossed her legs. ‘You mean with the other girls?’

I nodded.

’Nah, we all look out for each other. We have more than enough problems with the punters to be fighting between ourselves.’

I couldn’t really imagine what it must be like to be a sex worker but it obviously had its dark side. After all, her friend had been murdered on the job, if the police had it right.

‘Were you there the night Ellen was killed?’

‘Yeah. We worked in adjoining rooms.’

‘Hear anything unusual?’

‘Those rooms are soundproofed, Mr Parish. Nobody who’s paying for a good time with somebody like me wants to hear what’s going on in the room next door.’ She smiled.

‘So, you wouldn’t hear someone walking past your door, for example?’

‘They’d have to make a hell of a lot of noise.’

‘Have you ever opened one of those doors that leads out onto the balcony, Sally?’

‘I stopped doing fire drills when I left school, Mr Parish, but a couple of the girls that smoke go out onto the balcony. They’re not allowed to smoke in the building. You know, occupational health and safety and all that shit.’

‘Does anyone check those doors are locked?’

Sally shrugged. ‘I don’t know. They always look locked to me.’

On my way back to the office, I offered a silent prayer of gratitude for Miranda. Having her in my life had stopped me from giving in to temptation and doing something I knew I would live to regret.

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene four

When I stepped onto the stairs to head down to the ground, a woman dressed in a business suit appeared at the bottom of the staircase. ‘Can I help you, young man?’

I bounded down the stairs and introduced myself. I showed her my PI licence and told her I was working for the lawyer defending the man charged with the murder of Ellen Ford. She told me her name was Heather Knight and that she managed the brothel. I gave her one of my business cards.

‘What are you doing here, Ryan?’ she asked.

‘Having a look to see how many ways someone could get into your building.’


‘Our client reckons he’s been framed.’

Heather raised an eyebrow. ‘The police think he did it.’

‘I know, and they might very well be right.’

‘But?’ said Heather.

‘This place has a lot of doors, doesn’t it?

She nodded.

‘How many of them are covered by a security camera?’

‘Is that why you were up there?’ She pointed towards the balcony.

‘I was looking to see if there were any cameras on the balcony.’

‘We keep those doors locked.’

‘Any cameras?’ I asked.

‘We only have a camera covering the front of house in case we have to call the police,’ said Heather.

‘Could you show me where that camera is?’ I asked.

Heather led me across the back of the building to the rear entrance. ’Ever been into a brothel before, Ryan?’ she asked, as she opened the door.

‘This is my first visit.’

‘I hope you’re not disappointed.’

I followed Heather into the bowels of the building. The interior looked nothing like how I had imagined a brothel. In fact, it looked like an old hotel desperately in need of a facelift.

When we reached the hallway inside the front door, Heather pointed out the security camera above the reception desk and then took me into an office back along the corridor, where a monitor on the wall displayed a black and white image of the reception area.

‘Which entrance do your clients use?’ I asked.

‘We only open the back door you came through and that front door,’ said Heather. ‘Either way, they have to come through reception and pay before we let them upstairs, unless they’re coming to the bistro.’

‘Bistro? I didn’t know guys came here to eat.’

Heather laughed. ’Not everyone’s after sex, Ryan. A lot of older men just want to spend time with a woman in a safe setting. It can get pretty lonely living on your own, you know.’

I filed that for later and got back on task.

‘What about the doors upstairs that open onto the balcony?’

‘We keep them locked at all times.’

‘So, if anybody was to come in through a door off the balcony, someone inside the building would have to let them in?’

‘All those doors have sensors on them,’ said Heather.

‘Are those sensors active all the time?’

‘Only when the alarm is turned on.’ Heather’s eyes widen as she realized the implication of what she’d just told me. ‘That would mean one of the girls could let someone in from the balcony without anyone knowing, wouldn’t it?’

‘Did you tell the police that?’

‘They didn’t ask,’ said Heather.

Obviously, the police didn’t think the possibility of someone coming through one of those doors was relevant. After all, they had their man, and a pile of statements from the other women who had been working in the brothel that night claiming they hadn’t seen or heard anybody besides Clive.

‘What can you tell me about Ellen Ford?’ I asked.

‘What do you want to know?’

‘How long had she worked here?’

‘A couple of years.’

‘Was she any trouble?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Was there any friction between Ellen and the other girls that work here?’

’Not that I know of,’ said Heather.

‘Do you think they’d talk to me?’

‘I’ll ask them, if you like.’

I gave her a few more of my business cards.

‘Thanks for showing me around.’

‘Come back and see us sometime, Ryan. I’m sure we can do something special for you.’

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish Short Story-scene three

I decided to visit the brothel to get a feel for Ellen Ford’s world. Well, I went to have a look at the building. It was ten in the morning when I parked in the street in front of the building housing the brothel and got out to have a look around.

The brothel was closed. A sign on the wall in the shade of the front veranda informed me the establishment opened nightly at six, and advised potential patrons to make an appointment online. I snapped a photo of the sign with my phone.

The place looked like it had once enjoyed a life as a pub. It was a two-storey bluestone building, with an impressive wrap around balcony, dating back to the early days of the twentieth century, when there was a pub on every corner that closed at six.

All of the ground floor windows were protected with iron bars. The main front door facing the street was locked. I counted four more doors as I walked around to the car park behind the building, where I spotted a staircase leading down from the balcony into the car park. The car park was deserted.

I looked for a security camera over the rear entrance. I couldn’t see one. I assumed, if they had one, it must be inside the building. I wondered which entrance Clive had used, and if every entrance was covered by a security camera during operating hours. A negative answer to that question would give a jury that little bit of wriggle room Maggie was looking for.

I knew from the police file that the room where Ellen’s body had been found was located on the second floor. I walked up the stairs and along the balcony past the rooms that opened onto it. There were no iron bars on the windows and glass-panelled doors. I peered through one of the doors and read a sign telling guests to use the outside stairs if there was a fire.

I tried one of the doors. It was locked.

A little voice in my head told me if they were using the balcony as a fire escape, those apparently locked glass-panelled doors would have to be easy to open from the inside to comply with fire regulations. That meant someone could easily let an accomplice into the building, if there were no security cameras covering the numerous doors that opened onto the balcony.

I peered into the recesses of the balcony’s ceiling. I couldn’t see any cameras covering the balcony and wondered how serious the owners were about securing the building.

As I walked back towards the stairs at the rear of the building, I noticed a sticker on a window. In bold letters, it alerted would-be intruders to the presence of an electronic security system monitored by Suburban Security Services. I stopped and snapped a photo of the sign with my phone.

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish Short Story-scene two

The folder Maggie gave me was full of information on Clive. He’d told her his life story and named everyone he’d ever had a relationship with: business and otherwise. He’d even confessed to being abusive towards his ex-wife, and claimed she’d alienated his children from him.

Maggie had interviewed his brother, Charles. He’d told her Clive was a hard-headed businessman who’d upset a few people but no-one had ever threatened him, apart from his ex, who’d actually carried through with her threat and divorced him.

The police had interviewed his ex. She had an alibi for the night in question and no obvious motive. She’d received a generous settlement. His kids weren’t old enough to be visiting a brothel to strangle someone their father was paying for sex.

The more I read of Maggie’s notes, the less confident I felt about uncovering anything in Clive’s life that would explain why someone wanted to frame him for murder. And, every time I read the police report, I couldn’t help thinking he’d done it. But, he was paying me good money to come up with something to suggest otherwise.

When I got home, I ran the details of the case past Miranda while we were eating.

‘What do you know about the woman he’s supposed to have killed?’ said Miranda.

‘She was twenty-six, a sex worker, her name’s Ellen Ford, and she’s dead,’ I said.

‘A twenty-six-year old could be mixed up in a lot of things, Ryan,’ said Miranda. ‘I know I was when I was that age.’ Her face morphed into one of those smiles that warned me not to go there. ‘If your client thinks he’s being framed for her murder, don’t you think it might be a good idea to find out what this Ellen was up to when she wasn’t working?’

I knew she’d say something like that.

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene one

I spend a lot of time watching people cheat on their spouse or insurance company. Sometimes, I get involved in looking for missing persons. This assignment, though, wasn’t going to be anything like my usual cases.

Clive Richards had been charged with murder. According to the charge sheet, he’d strangled a young woman named Ellen Ford, a sex worker, after an engagement with her in a brothel in Brompton.

The police had lifted Clive’s fingerprints from the crime scene. They had a DNA sample extracted from semen left in a discarded condom found next to the body, which matched Clive’s DNA profile, and CCTV footage of him entering and leaving the brothel.

And, just to top off the case against Clive, his bank had confirmed he’d paid for services at the brothel on the night of the murder with his credit card.

It looked like a watertight case with precious little wriggle room for a jury to give Clive the benefit of the doubt.

But, Clive was protesting his innocence and insisting he’d been framed. The police weren’t buying his story, given the pile of evidence they had stacked against him.

Miranda’s friend, Maggie Clark, was defending Clive, which is why I was sitting in her office. You can probably guess how I got roped into finding out if Clive was telling her the truth or not.

‘What do you think, Maggie? Do you believe him?’

Maggie twisted her hands together and shrugged. ‘I really don’t know, Ryan. He’s an arsehole, if I’ve ever met one, but I can’t let that get in the way of his defence. I owe it to him to at least find out if there’s a possibility he’s telling the truth.’

I picked up the folder she’d asked me to read before our meeting. ‘The police case looks pretty convincing to me. We could be wasting our time,’ I said.

‘He’s got plenty of money,’ said Maggie, ‘and it would be nice to stick one up the police, especially if they haven’t done their job properly.’

That turned it into a bit of a challenge, and I liked a challenge, especially one that could expose a case based solely on the obvious. And, even if I wasn’t convinced of Clive’s innocence, I was willing to take his money.

‘What’s Clive’s story?’ I asked.

‘He’s in the import business. Fairly successful from what I can tell,’ said Maggie. ‘He’s in business with his brother, Charles.’

‘How long?’

‘They started in ninety-eight,’ said Maggie. ‘They have a warehouse on Norwood Parade.’

‘C and C Imports?’

‘That’s it.’

Small world. I’d bought stuff from them. ’What’s his version of what happened?’

Maggie looked at her notes. ‘He doesn’t deny going to the brothel. Claims he’s a regular, but he denies killing the girl. Says she was alive when he left.’

‘We know from the police report he was at the brothel the night she was killed,’ I said.

‘Yes. The CCTV confirms that.’

‘Have you seen the footage?’

‘Yes, but it only covers the area in front of the reception desk. There are no other cameras inside the brothel, according to the police,’ said Maggie.

’So, we know he went in and came out?’

‘Yes, and that he left before the girl was found dead,’ said Maggie.

‘How long before?’

Maggie looked at her notes again. ‘About twenty minutes.’

‘Doesn’t look good.’

‘But that’s enough time for someone else to act,’ said Maggie, ‘if Clive’s right about being framed.’

She had a point, but that someone either wanted Clive out of the way or was organised enough to capitalise on his presence in the brothel to terminate Ellen Ford for some other reason.

To be continued…

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Writing Mystical Journey

The initial working title for this book, when it was still an idea, was Field Notes for Pilgrims. At that stage, I thought I’d be taking a similar approach to sharing information as I’d followed in Field Notes for Writers. 

But, as the idea transformed into the book and the content started to fall into place, the title morphed into A Mystic’s Toolkit before finally becoming Mystical Journey: A Handbook for Modern Mystics.

By the time I’d finished writing, the book was more than a collection of tools for modern mystics. It told the story of how I became a mystic and explained how being a modern mystic was different to how mystics were in the past. That required a few reflections and a modern definition for the mystical journey.

When I first started looking into mysticism, I was under the misapprehension that mysticism was a special kind of calling to devote your life to God. That’s how the ancients saw it, and they often removed themselves from the world and retired into seclusion in monasteries, ashrams or the hills.

There are still people who do that, but I discovered mysticism is no longer restricted to such people. And, that’s what I wanted to share with you.

We are all called to be mystics, people who make space for the divine in their lives, but it’s often a difficult call to hear.

In the West, we are living in what are called secular times, where the influence of the major religions is falling away. Our churches are mostly empty and, yet, people are still searching for something that will give their lives meaning. They feel a yearning, a restlessness. They know they are missing something but they’re not quite sure what it is. 

That’s how the call often first shows up and, when we hear it, some of us throw ourselves into changing the external world. We seek our fulfilment through saving the planet, alleviating poverty or fighting corruption. 

Others stumble upon the inner, mystical journey and come to realise they first have to remember who they are, before they can effectively change the external world in which they are living their human lives.

And, let me warn you if you’re tempted to think being a modern mystic is a form of escapism – it’s also a call to change the world. Modern mystics are called to engage with the world; not hide away in sacred seclusion.

Mystical Journey: A Handbook for Modern Mystics is for those of you who have stumbled upon the inner way. Reading it will help you navigate your way along the path to self-discovery and wholeness. 

BUY from:

AMAZON Choose Your Store Other Online retailers

Your Local Bookshop

Reading Twisted Justice

There are times when it feels like taking the law into your own hands is the only option you have for obtaining justice. Fortunately, most of us resist the temptation to act on that impulse and put our trust in the justice system. Sometimes, though, people take the other option.

The opening story in Twisted Justice explores what happens when Trent Mitchell takes that option and administers the justice the system refused to give him. 

I’m sure very few people take that option lightly, and Trent is no different. He’s agonised over his decision for years but there are only so many sleepless nights and tormented dreams a man can endure.

If you keep going over the same story in your head, it’s like reliving the story every time you tell it. If you blame someone else for what happened, you can come to believe you must take action so they pay for your loss. This is where Trent Mitchell is when we meet him. He’s planning his first execution.

If you’ve read the earlier books in this series, you’ll know there will be more than one crime story and the stories will somehow be connected. The second story involves car thief, Ian Holden. I think you’ll like the way I introduce him into the story.

Ian’s a man with a different problem. He’s part of a car-stealing gang and he’s just been caught with the goods. There may be honour among thieves but that doesn’t always translate into trust, and this is where Ian Holden’s real problem lies.

When Twisted Justice opens, DI West’s team is investigating a car-stealing racket that seems to be doing the impossible. Then, Trent Mitchell strikes, and Carl has to divide his attention and resources to solve both cases.

This is a bit of a different read, where you know who the killer is right at the start and get to ride along with the team as it works out who he is.

You also get a look into how the team uses incremental steps to build the case against the mastermind of the car-stealing gang. Wayne seems a little obsessed with this one.

And, of course, there are a few twists and turns. Let’s face it, logical people often make irrational decisions – and that’s what makes crime so interesting.

Twisted Justice is available from a range of online retailers.

Choose Your store