Review: KILL SHOT, Garry Disher

  • this edition published by Text Publishing 2018
  • ISBN 9-781925-773224
  • 242 pages
  • Wyatt #9
  • source: my local library
  • for US readers: available on Kindle

Synopsis (Good Reads)

The latest gripping story in the popular Wyatt thriller series kicks off in Sydney and then unfolds on the beaches of Newcastle.

Some people just work better alone. Wyatt’s one of them. He’s been getting by on nice quiet little burglaries—one-man jobs—when he gets wind of something bigger.

A corporate crook, notorious Ponzi schemer, set to face court and certain jail time. He’s about to skip bail the old-fashioned way: on a luxury yacht with a million dollars in cash.

Wyatt thinks it sounds like something he should get into.

He’s not alone.

My Take

Most of Wyatt’s recent jobs have been brokered by a day-release prisoner named Sam Kramer. Through his daughter Kramer passes on information he has gleaned from other prison inmates.  As a result Wyatt relieves people of their valuables, mainly through burglary, passes them on to a fence, and puts a commission into an safety deposit box for Kramer, keeping the remainder for himself. Periodically Kramer’s daughter contacts him to let him know the family needs some money. It works well.

Wyatt is a cautious, yet confident man, careful to remain anonymous, leaving nothing his victims can identify him by, and watchful for signs that he has been noticed. He thinks back over what he’s done, looking for errors.

The weak link in the scheme is Kramer’s son who passes Wyatt’s name on to someone else who like to cash in on the jobs that Wyatt is doing.

There are a couple of linked stories in this novel: a Ponzi scheme operator planning to skip the country with about a million dollars, and a couple from South Australia who’ve stolen a luxury boat.
Wyatt gets information about the first from Kramer. Looks like it might be easy pickings if he can work out where the Ponzi scheme money is.

There definitely an Australian flavour to this novel. And some how you forget that Wyatt is on the wrong side of the law.

My rating: 4.7

I’ve also read (not all are Wyatt series novels)
4.7, WYATT
4.8, WHISPERING DEATH
4.7, BLOOD MOON
4.2, THE HEAT
4.5, SIGNAL LOSS
4.7, HER
4.9, UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS

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Review: UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS by Garry Disher

Garry Disher’s latest novel is a standalone story (at least for now) set against the backdrop of greater Melbourne, occasionally stretching as far as Geelong. UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS opens in a small town on the urban fringe. A dangerous snake has hidden itself under an old, unused concrete slab in the backyard of a young family’s home. When the slab is dug up as part of snake catching efforts a skeleton is found. We meet the book’s central character, Alan Auhl, when the cold case squad he works with is called in. At first they must identify the person, not easy due to the house’s history as a rental home, before moving on to discovering what led to their death and burial. The process the team has to go through is well depicted, giving a good sense of how painstaking it must be to investigate cases from even the relatively recent past.

Several other strands play out alongside the story’s main plotline. Auhl is contacted for news each year by the daughters of a man killed some years ago whose murderer has never been caught. Then there’s the tangled case of the doctor who alerts the police that his wife might be a murderer. Auhl is skeptical because he believes the doctor has killed two of his previous wives but was clever enough to get away with it. And we haven’t even gotten to Auhl’s personal life yet. He lives in the big old house he inherited from his parents and rents rooms out to a mismatched collection of waifs and strays. These include Neve Fanning and her daughter Pia who are trying to escape the clutches of Neve’s abusive ex husband who has the money and connections to use the legal system to his advantage.

These days picking up a new police procedurals is a bit risky as the trend for damaged central characters can make for repetitive reading. But Disher is a true master of his craft so manages to make Auhl stand out from the pack without using tired tropes such as the almost ubiquitous addiction. That doesn’t mean he’s all sweetness and light though. His nickname in the office is Retread because he’s returned from retirement and is the oldest person in the team by quite some years. I can attest personally to the authenticity with which the complexities of being an ‘older worker’ in a workforce entranced by youth is depicted. His marriage is…awkward to say the least and at one point he crosses a behavioural line that will surely haunt him but all this just makes for an interesting character that doesn’t feel like a rehashing of all those who have come before him.

And the story itself is a ripper. Disher juggles all the threads expertly and maintains just the right levels of suspense and heart. Readers aren’t led to believe that strange cold cases can be solved in a moment but nor are we bored to tears by too much detail. There is a good mix of the personal and professional too with Auhl’s home life offering lots of interest.

It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Garry Disher has produced another fantastic book but when someone is as consistently good as Disher it can be easy to take them for granted. UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS could easily be the start of a new series but stands equally well as a single novel, and is highly recommended for fans of top notch procedurals. It’s fast paced, sparsely written and genuinely surprising.


Publisher: Text Publishing, 2017
ISBN: 9781925498882
Length: 285 pages
Format: paperback
Source of review copy: Borrowed from a friend

Review: SIGNAL LOSS, Garry Disher

  • This edition from Text Publishing, 2016
  • #7 in the Peninsula Crimes series
  • ISBN 9-781925-355260
  • 320 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Text Publishing)

A small bushfire, but nasty enough for ice cooks to abandon their lab.
Fatal, too. But when the bodies in the burnt-out Mercedes prove to be a pair of Sydney hitmen, Inspector Hal Challis’s inquiries into a local ice  epidemic take a darker turn. Meanwhile, Ellen Destry, head of the new sex crimes unit, finds herself not only juggling the personalities of her team but hunting a serial rapist who leaves no evidence behind.The seventh instalment in Garry Disher’s celebrated Peninsula Crimes series sets up new challenges, both professional and personal, for Challis and Destry. And Disher delivers with all the suspense and human complexity for which readers love him.

Garry Disher has published almost fifty titles—fiction, children’s books, anthologies, textbooks, the Wyatt thrillers and the Peninsula Crimes series. He has won numerous
awards, including the German Crime Prize (twice) and two Ned Kelly Best Crime novel awards, for Chain of Evidence (2007) and Wyatt (2010). Garry lives on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

My Take

An impressive police procedural in an Australian rural setting, the Mornington Peninsula, depicting Victoria Police facing modern issues that are facing police the world over: the impact of ice on local communities, sex crimes, theft, and gangs. The plot strands are woven together with human interest stories, and keep the reader connected to the very end.

Within, the Victoria Police faces other issues too: an aging police force, the importance of technology, the use of DNA, competition between various police departments for the “final kill”,  and the possibility of burn out when the job takes on a 24/7 aspect. Disher presents well the aspects of modern life that confront ordinary civilians.

A recommended read.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
4.7, WYATT
4.8, WHISPERING DEATH
4.7, BLOOD MOON
4.2, THE HEAT

More awards news in Aussie crime writing

InTheMorningIllBeGoneMcKintyAdrian McKinty’s IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE was announced last night as the winner of this year’s Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime novel. It is a brilliant novel about which I have previously banged on at some length so all I will say at this point is congratulations to Adrian. While I am sure it is enjoyable to win any award, I imagine it is all the sweeter when you know you have triumphed in a seriously strong field.

Head over to the Australian Crime Writers Association site to read the judges’ comments and see who won in the other categories last night, then read Adrian’s thoughts about his win. After you’ve done that make your way to your favourite purveyor of literature and snag copies of IN THE MORNING and all the other shortlisted titles to your shopping basket. It’s an excellent collection of contemporary Australian crime writing.

  • Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD (a whistleblower cop’s punishment is duty in rural South Australia where corruption looks like allowing the murderer(s) of a young girl to walk free)
  • Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT (a local forensic procedural that outshines many of its international competition)
  • PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING (if The Wire were a book and set in Australia it would be this one; a more harrowing depiction of modern policing you are unlikely to read)
  • Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING (a missing child in small-town South Australia fails to generate the usual media frenzy but does attract the attention of one jaded but doggedly determined cop)
  • Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (as above…a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

Awards news in Aussie crime writing

While I was busy being knocked flat by a killer virus (OK it didn’t actually kill me, I just wished it would for a while) in the past few weeks both our major awards for crime writing announced their shortlists and one of them has even announced its winner. So, a belated congratulations to all the nominees.

Davitt Award for best crime novel by an Australian woman

◾Honey Brown, DARK HORSE (a compelling suspense novel with a genuinely surprise ending)
◾Ilsa Evans, NEFARIOUS DOINGS (a funny light-hearted tale about the mysteries beneath the surface of small-town Australia)
◾Annie Hauxwell, A BITTER TASTE (a dark tale of desperation set amidst modern London’s underclass)
◾Katherine Howell, WEB OF DECEIT (a classic procedural which keeps a frenetic pace while managing to depict the real impact of crime on all who are touched by it)
◾Hannah Kent, BURIAL RITES (a haunting work which the author calls speculative historical biography about the last woman hanged in Iceland)
◾Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

DarkHorseBrownHoney21306_fThough I’m not quite convinced Burial Rights really belongs in the crime genre, this is an exceptionally strong field showing the depth and diversity of Aussie women’s crime writing. The winner of this award (announced last weekend) was Honey Brown’s DARK HORSE and it is a superb novel so congratulations to Ms Brown but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you rush out and procure all six novels. For pictures of the awards night and information about winners in the other categories head over to the Sisters in Crime website.

Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel by an Australian writer

The winners of the 2014 awards will be announced this coming Saturday as part of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. The shortlisted books in the best novel category are

  • Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD (a whistleblower cop’s punishment is duty in rural South Australia where corruption looks like allowing the murderer(s) of a young girl to walk free)
  • Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT (a local forensic procedural that outshines many of its international competition)
  • Adrian McKinty, IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE (a darkly funny locked-room mystery set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland’s troubles)
  • PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING (if The Wire were a book and set in Australia it would be this one; a more harrowing depiction of modern policing you are unlikely to read)
  • Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING (a missing child in small-town South Australia fails to generate the usual media frenzy but does attract the attention of one jaded but doggedly determined cop)
  • Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (as above…a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

I didn’t manage to write reviews of all this list either (note to self: must try harder) but again this is a terrific lot of books and I have no hesitation in recommending them all. For judges comments about the shortlist and information on the nominees in the other Ned Kelly Awards categories head over to the Australian Crime Writers Association website

For once I have read all the books on both the ‘best novel’ shortlists for the country’s major crime writing awards and find myself able to sincerely recommend each and every book. Yay for Aussie crime writers.

Review: BITTER WASH ROAD by Garry Disher

BitterWashRoadGarryDish21151_fI suppose the noticeable lack of crime fiction set in my home state has the advantage of not making me peer worryingly around every corner lest the figments of imagination come to life but it can make a local fan feel like a poor relation with nothing to bring to the feast that is Australian crime fiction. So I was particularly thrilled to learn that one of the country’s best crime writers, South Australia’s own Garry Disher, was publishing a new crime novel set right here. The wait, as is so often the case, was worth it: BITTER WASH ROAD is about as good as it gets.

It is the story of Tiverton, a tiny scrap of a town several hours’ drive north of Adelaide, and the policeman posted to its one-man station as his punishment for being mixed up in a corruption scandal at a suburban station. Paul Hirschhausen, inevitably known as Hirsch, displays a complex mixture of bitterness, pragmatism, paranoia and determination as he settles uneasily into the role of general fixer, father figure and upholder of those laws it suits the locals to uphold that is the lot of a country cop. Those locals are wary of Hirsch unless they want something of him; the cops from the nearest town are overtly antagonistic to someone they view as a traitor and Hirsch is looking for a place he can call home without having to sleep with one eye open.

He does so against the backdrop of a deceptively simple case in which a teenage girl’s half-naked body is found by the side of the road. Hirsch is the only person willing to treat it as anything other than the hit and run first appearances suggest, and he fights an uphill battle to gain access to forensics and interview subjects. But fight he does…slowly building up a picture of who has power in the area and what sinister uses some of that power is put to. It is a worryingly plausible depiction of the narrowness of the margin that separates good people from bad ones; and even more disturbing is the sense that the bad guys look just like everyone else.

Hirsch’s first encounter with the book’s eponymous road is just the first of many examples of Disher’s skill at drawing the reader in, making it impossible not to imagine the places and people he has created

Five kilometres south of Tiverton he turned left at the Bitter Wash turnoff, heading east into the hills, and here there was some movement in the world. Stones smacked the chassis. Skinny sheep fled, a dog snarled across a fence line, crows rose untidily from a flattened lizard. The road turned and rose and fell, taking him deeper into hardscrabble country, just inside the rain shadow. He passed a tumbled stone wall dating from the 1880’s and a wind farm turbine.

When her turns his keen observation skills to people it is, on more than one occasion, enough to make me squirm. There is, for example a passage of no more than 10 or so lines about half-way through the story that made me put the book down in something akin to horror. As Hirsch dozes in the back seat of a car the two constables up front chat breezily about their new female colleague and what they’d do to her in a heartbeat that is repugnant in its contempt for her particularly and women in general. So much so that I can’t even bring myself to quote it here to illustrate my point. But for days afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about these lines and their realism; wondering how many men there are in the world who think like constables Nicholson and Revell.

For all its darkness BITTER WASH ROAD does not leave its readers in complete despair and some moments of redemption come from pleasantly surprising quarters. Even so it is the harsh landscape and tough people that linger in my mind. That and the fact this is probably the best book I’ve read all year.


Publisher: Text [2013]
ISBN/ASIN: 9781922079244
Length: 325 pages
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: BITTER WASH ROAD, Garry Disher

My Take

BITTER WASH ROAD is set smack bang in the present day; more than that, in a South Australia I recognise: fragile economic climate, police corruption and whistleblowing, small rural communities struggling to survive, reduced resources, drought – you name the issue, it’s there.

Until I did a bit of research I thought Tiverton, South Australia, the wheat belt town near the Barrier Highway where Paul Hirschhausen is posted, was fictitious. But it exists all right. Garry Disher seems to me to have played a little with the geography, but the flavour of the setting rings true.

This is Australian crime fiction at its best. A body is discovered but Hirsch is frustrated when his local boss Sergeant Kropp seems determined to keep him away from any real action. Hirsch faces real issues of getting himself established in the small town. The cops in nearby Redruth where Kropp is have a reputation for being bullies, mates with every one and turning a blind eye to what their mates get up to, perhaps even participating in crime themselves.

I absolutely loved this book.

Read an extract on Amazon.

My rating: 5.0

I’ve also reviewed
4.7, WYATT
4.8, WHISPERING DEATH
4.7, BLOOD MOON

Review: WYATT by Garry Disher

Wyatt (Wyatt, #7)Garry Disher’s Wyatt character is the Australian equivalent to Richard Stark’s (Donald Westlake) Parker – a resourceful and methodical professional thief who will stop at nothing to obtain the object of his desire. In this latest series instalment, WYATT, Disher not only re-establishes his most renowned character but also introduces new readers to the violent world of Aussie noir. Despite being the seventh book in the series (and the first I’ve read), WYATT reads extremely well as a standalone. Disher provides enough back-story to make the characters actually mean something while throwing references to past jobs undertaken by the professional thief. Conceptually, this hit all the targets solidifying Disher as a rare and top talent in Australian crime/noir fiction.

Wyatt’s latest job presents him with a unique opportunity to target a French jewel smuggler (Le Page) who just happens to be carrying a small fortune by way of bank bonds. An acquaintance in Eddie Oberin and his former wife Lydia convince Wyatt that the score is worth the risk despite overseas heat by way of a murdered courier Le Page may have been responsible for. What follows is a pure adrenalin soaked noir brimming with tension, violence, and a smattering of dark humour.

As my first exposure to Wyatt (apart from a short story in the Crime Factory anthology HARD LABOUR), this was a winner on all fronts. Disher mixes dark humour, violence, and engaging characters to create a truly entertaining and realistic Aussie noir that not only draws comparisons to the greats (ala Richard Stake) but supersedes them (a big call, I know, but justified in my eyes).

As a somewhat obsessive fan of noir and in more recent time an Aussie crime fiction convert (thank you Luke Preston, Andrew Nette, David Whish-Wilson, and Paul Anderson amongst others), I’m surprised it took me so long to delve into the world of Wyatt. Now that I’ve dipped my toes it’s time to get completely submerged in Disher’s work.

Links:

Just A Like That Likes To Read

Garry Disher website

Review: THE DRAGON MAN, Garry Disher

Cover image, THE DRAGON MAN, Garry DisherThis review was first posted on Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan and is republished here with the author’s kind permission.

The Dragon Man by Gary Disher (1999) – The first Hal Challis mystery is set in the Peninsula on the edge of Melbourne at Christmas time. It is hot and dry and young women are being sexually assaulted and killed.

Detective Inspector Challis has few clues. The killer wears latex and does not leave his vehicle to dump the bodies. The victims have no connections. No one has seen anything.

Uncommon tire treads are a slender lead. As the only real clue the police make a major effort to track down sales of these tires.

Within the local police station few of the officers are looking forward to the holiday. Strained or broken relationships have left them with more dread than joy of the year’s greatest family celebration.

The solitary life of Challis is punctuated by calls from his wife in jail. She has been imprisoned for attempting, with her lover, to murder him. The calls are as sad as any I have read in fiction.

Christmas arrives in the midst of the investigation. It proves a difficult day for the police and their families. It is a blue Christmas on the Peninsula.

Aggravating the police and frightening the public are a series of letters from the killer to the local newspaper mocking the police investigation.

While police resources are concentrated on finding the killer they must still deal with the continuing local crimes.

Unlike most crime fiction involving the police there are multiple detailed police characters. Sgt. Ellen Destry, Sgt. Kees Van Alphen, Const. Scobie Sutton, Const. Pam Murphy and Const. John Tankard all have extensive roles in the book. The police station comes alive through their portrayals. Each of them has significant personal issues.

With the investigation stalling pressure builds upon the police. Superintendent, Mark McQuarrie, more skilled at detecting political currents than solving crimes, presses for results.

Challis keeps his men and women searching but clues remain elusive. When the break comes the book builds to a dramatic conclusion.

The Dragon Man, written over a decade ago, is an impressive debut mystery. I appreciate Kerrie from her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, and Bernadette at her blog, Reactions to Reading, for their recommendations of Disher.

Disher does an excellent job of the setting on the Peninsula. The semi-rural area adjacent to the big city has a varied population of working class people and the well-to-do. All are coping with the draining heat of Christmas in Australia. Just as Canadian writers know real cold Disher convincingly writes about real heat. (Feb. 22/12)

Review: BLOOD MOON, Garry Disher

  • published by Text Publishing 2009
  • ISBN 978-1-921351-87-7
  • 314 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • #5 in the Challis & Destry series

Synopsis (Amazon)

When hordes of eighteen-year-olds descend on the Peninsula to celebrate the end of exams, the overstretched police of Waterloo know they can expect party drugs and public drunkenness.

What they don’t count on is a brutal bashing that turns political. The victim is connected. And for Detective Inspector Hal Challis, newly embarked on a relationship with his sergeant, Ellen Destry, this is not the best time to have the brass on his back. Especially when a bludgeoned corpse is found outside town and it becomes clear something much darker than adolescent craziness is going down.

My take

When I recently read WHISPERING DEATH (#6 in the Challis & Destry series) I realised that I had somehow missed reading #5, BLOOD MOON.

The setting of BLOOD MOON is Schoolies Week, a week at the end of the school year when those finishing their schooling cut loose in various resorts all over Australia. There is an unbelievable level of tension as local residents hold their breath, waiting to see what damage the teenagers cause, how many of them are charged with drug abuse or drunkenness, how many clashes there are with the authorities. The events in BLOOD MOON align well with what the public “knows” can happen in Schoolies Week.

BLOOD MOON is a very authentic feeling police procedural with a number of concurrent investigations balanced against the personal relationships of the members of Hal Challis’ team, including his own with Ellen Destry. The investigation into the bashing of a school chaplain moves into the background with the murder of a female worker in the Planning Office whom we already know quite a bit about: that she is constantly stalked and watched by her husband, that she has been a leading participant in an attempt to preserve an old beach front house against demolition.The reader already feels well equipped to leap into this new investigation.

Domestic happenings and small town politics in an Australian setting make for an excellent crime fiction outing.

My rating: 4.7

Other reviews to check:

Other reviews of Garry Disher titles on MiP
4.7, WYATT
4.8, WHISPERING DEATH

The Challis & Destry novels
The Dragon Man (1999)
Kittyhawk Down (2003)
Snapshot (2005)
Chain of Evidence (2007)
Blood Moon (2009)
Whispering Death (2011)