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)

The most impressive Australian crime fiction in 2011

It’s list making time of year so here at Fair Dinkum HQ we’ve each made a list of the five Australian crime fiction titles that impressed us most this year. Not all are 2011 publications and some have yet to be released beyond our shores but this mixture of new titles by favourite authors and outstanding debuts is a cracker of a collection if I do say so myself.

Kerrie speaking here…

I’ve only read 16 Australian titles this year, and am already formulating New Years Eve resolutions that I will do better in 2012. Nevertheless the problem in picking my top reads is that so many of them were so good and it was difficult to draw a cut off line. Not all of the titles were 2011 publications either.

So here are my top 5.

My top pick was THE WRECKAGE by Michael
Robotham, published in 2011, in which our old friend Vincent Ruiz teams up with a new character, investigative journalist Luca Terracini. THE WRECKAGE is a contemporary thriller set against the background of both the world financial crisis and the attempts to build Iraq in the face of both greed and terrorism. It reflects both Robotham’s meticulous research, and his ability to create great fictional characters. He describes the main characters in a way that makes you really care about what happens to them.

I really can’t choose between the other four, so the order in which they appear is not preferential.

In Katherine Howell‘s COLD JUSTICE, published in 2010, paramedic Georgie Riley and Detective Ella Marconi are travelling similar paths, returning to work after traumatic incidents that resulted in hospitalisation and being off work for some months.  Katherine Howell has used a formula similar to the one she used successfully in both THE DARKEST HOUR, and her debut novel FRANTIC: parallel plots that advance in tandem, each generating their own sense of suspense. The link between the two plots is Detective Ella Marconi. Again the paramedic characters are new, while Marconi provides the common thread from one novel to the next.

WHISPERING DEATH, published in 2011, affirms that Garry Disher is a master storyteller, a tight and consummate plotter, a writer who could sit on any international podium along with richer and more famous crime fiction writers. This is #6 in Disher’s Hal Challis series, firmly bedded in the 21st century, and reflecting on the problems of maintaining a strong police force, chasing rapists, armed robbers, and home invaders, in the face of diminishing funding and stretched resources.

Set in post-war Australia, this time post World War Two, with a policeman returning to work in a world that will never be the same, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL by Geoffrey McGeachin, published in 2011, reminded me a lot of the Charles Todd series. Like Ian Rutledge in that series Charlie Berlin was in the police force before the war. Although the police force was an exempt trade he volunteered for service and was posted to the RAF in Britain. He took off on 30 missions over Germany, but, in his words, landed only 29 of them and ended up in a P.O.W. camp. For me, Geoff McGeachin has hit on a winner with this new series and I hope we see more of Charlie Berlin. It appealed to me on several fronts – historical, crime fiction, Australia.

My final choice is FINAL CUT by debut West Australian author Alan Carter, also published in 2011.  What makes this novel remarkable is the way the author ambitiously forwards two plot strands in tandem. It took a bit of getting used to at first. There is little to tell the reader that you’ve changed from one plot to another, just a change of characters. Often, but not always, the plots are basically at the same point, like the interviewing of a suspect.

But there’s much more than that to keep the reader involved. There are prior links between some of the characters which are gradually teased out for us. There are genuine murder mysteries with lots of attendant red herrings. There’s a good feel for the climate in Western Australia, both physical and economic. And there is some excellent characterisation.

And now it’s Bernadette’s turn

So far I’ve managed to read 35 books by Australian crime writers this year. I’m about half way through another one which is enjoyable but I already know it’s not quite good enough to nudge any of these off the list so I don’t feel too concerned about finalising the list a few days before the end of the year.

Y.A. Erskine’s debut novel THE BROTHERHOOD absolutely blew me away. Partly this is because I had no expectations when I opened the front cover (I knew nothing about the book other than it was written by an Aussie woman) but mostly it’s because it’s bloody brilliant. A Tasmanian policeman is shot while on duty and the events of the day are recounted from different points of view – his rookie partner, the Police Commissioner, his estranged wife, the culprit etc – who each get a single chapter from which a whole picture of the leadup to and ramifications of the shooting emerges. I loved everything about this book – the structure, the flawed but believable people, the way the story kept surprising me, the themes that Erskine explored. This book is vying with one other title for the very top spot on my favourite books of the year (Aussie or otherwise) and my only complaint is that is hasn’t gotten the wide attention it so richly deserves.

Like Kerrie I’m not going to list the rest in order of preference, they’re all worth your attention.

Kathryn Fox‘s DEATH MASK was one of the first books I read this year and it ended up being the book I voted for in the reader’s choice category of this year’s Davitt Awards. It starts out simply enough with a young woman testing positive for a sexually transmitted disease that she cannot understand how she contracted given her sexual history and so she assumes there has been some mistake at the clinic. The story’s dark turn reveals the betrayal that led to her contracting the disease which in turn prompts the protagonist of the series, Dr Anya Crichton, to study the psychology of male sporting teams. It’s a topical storyline but tackled intelligently and without the moralising, quick-fix answers that mainstream media devotes to the subject and it reminded me that the best crime fiction always examines some aspect of our society or collective behaviour in addition to telling a jolly good yarn.

Australian-born, Scotland-living Helen Fitzgerald‘s THE DONOR tackles the simple but hideous premise of what a single father is to do when his twin daughters both develop a genetically inherited kidney disease. Perhaps a life of crime wouldn’t be everyone’s choice but hapless Will Marion seems somewhat short of options to save the daughters he loves. The book is both darkly funny and almost unbearably sad but not remotely maudlin which is, I think, a remarkable achievement. The father in this story is a wonderful creation: the type of person you want to slap for being so inept one minute but the next moment you want to wrap him in a giant bear hug for trying so hard.

Sulari Gentill‘s A DECLINE IN PROPHETS is the second novel set in 1930’s Australia to feature world-wandering dilettante Rowland ‘Rowly’ Sinclair and I adored it. Rowly and his friends start the book on board a cruise liner where a grim murder occurs and by the time all the players are in Australia things look very rocky for poor Rowly who unwilling caught up in an odd spiritual movement and may end up being considered an unsuitable role model for the young members of his conservative family. Whenever I talk about this book or its predecessor (something I do as often as I can) I break out in a wide grin as there is something quite joyous about the amusing, life-embracing characters that inhabit Gentill’s world, which is full of sumptuous details of the period. But there is sadness in Rowly’s life too and it’s this juxtaposition with his fun-loving ways that provides the spark of something special to the book. I am lucky enough to have an advanced copy of the third book in the series awaiting my perusal in early January and I am already grinning at the prospect. This book also wins my award for best cover of the year.

LINE OF SIGHT by David Whish-Wilson is another superb debut, this time set in Perth in Western Australia. It is a fictionalised account of the real life murder of a local brothel owner in the 1970’s and focuses on the struggle by one good cop to uncover the truth about the crime which appears to have been perpetrated by his fellow officers. What impressed me most about this book was its perfect capturing of the time and place (it really does feel like another country which is not surprising as the state has flirted with secession more than once). The characters stand out too, especially the man who was charged with heading up a Royal Commission into the case and who slowly came to realise that he’d been set up to find nothing at all. It was a somewhat brutal but entirely credible characterisation and I have thought about Justice Partridge many times since finishing the book.

Did you read any Aussie crime fiction that impressed you in 2011? Do share.

Review: WHISPERING DEATH , Garry Disher

  • Publisher, Text Publishing Melbourne 2011
  • ISBN 978-1-921758-59-1
  • 330 pages
  • Source: borrowed from a friend

Publisher’s Blurb

Hal Challis is in trouble at home and abroad: carpeted by the boss for speaking out about police budget cuts; missing his lover, Ellen Destry, who is overseas on a study tour.

But there’s plenty to keep his mind off his problems. A rapist in a police uniform stalks Challis’s Peninsula beat, there is a serial armed robber headed in his direction and a home invasion that’s a little too close to home. Not to mention a very clever, very mysterious female cat burglar who may or may not be planning something on Challis’s patch.

Meanwhile, at the Waterloo Police Station, Challis finds his offsiders have their own issues. Scobie Sutton, still struggling with his wife’s depression, seems to be headed for a career crisis; and something very interesting is going on between Constable Pam Murphy and Jeanne Schiff, the feisty young sergeant on secondment from the Sex Crimes Unit.

In his sixth Peninsula murder mystery, Garry Disher keeps the tension and intrigue ramped up exquisitely on multiple fronts, while he takes his regular characters in compelling new directions. Disher is a grand master of the police procedural, operating at the peak of his craft.

Read the first chapter on the author’s website.

My take

WHISPERING DEATH affirms that Garry Disher is a master storyteller, a tight and consummate plotter, a writer who could sit on any international podium along with richer and more famous crime fiction writers – and thank goodness he is going to be at Adelaide Writers’ Week in March 2012.

There are some interesting pictures of Australian lifestyles

… this morning Grace was in Hobart, strolling through a well-heeled corner of Sandy Bay… a land of two-car households, two adults working nine to five in well paid jobs. No shift workers here.

and then later

Today she had a clear run on the toll road between Melbourne airport and the city, and again when she headed over the West Gate Bridge, high winds buffeting the little car, and down into Williamstown, where the mean grind of old Melbourne co-existed with bright young mortgages. Factories and workshops sat next to pastelly little townhouses with cute, candy-coloured cars in the driveways. Grace wound down her window. The air, dense and still, was faintly salted from the Bay. The trees, branches barely moving, seemed dazed from years-long drought.

Several elements of Hal Challis’ life seem to come to an end in WHISPERING DEATH. He decides to sell his restored 1930s Dragon Rapide that he has worked on for the last 10 years. He sees this as representing a phase of his life that has come to an end. He decides also to sell his elderly Triumph TR4, this time because it needs a lot of work done on it, and he no longer has the time or motivation.

And then he voices criticisms of the resourcing problems Peninsula policing is experiencing, to local reporter, and it seems that his time on the Peninsula may be coming to an end too. He seals his fate when he rushes out of an interview with his boss and a couple of other big-wigs to answer his mobile phone.

His mobile phone sounded in his pocket. He checked the screen, saw McQarrie’s name on the screen and knew he couldn’t keep avoiding the man. 

He answered and McQarrie said, ‘What possessed you, Inspector, walking out on – ‘ 

Challis overrode him. ‘A home invasion and then a murder, that’s what possessed me.

Silence, and he found himself adding, ‘Doing my job, in fact,’ guessing he was driving another nail into the lid of his coffin.’

So, if you are looking for some quality Australian crime fiction, here is another title, another author to add to your list. You won’t be disappointed.

All the titles in the series are available on Amazon for your Kindle too.

My rating: 4.8

Read Bernadette’s review on Fair Dinkum Crime

The Challis & Destry novels

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

Somehow I have missed reading BLOOD MOON but here is my database record of CHAIN OF EVIDENCE:
#4 in the Hal Challis and Ellen Destry series. Hal Challis has returned to South Australia – his father is dying- leaving D. S. Ellen Destry in charge of both his house and Mornington Peninsular East’s Crime Investigation Unit. And suddenly now in Waterloo a 10 year old girl is missing, feared abducted. Katie Blasko went missing after school but her parents did not realize it until the next morning. Filling Challis’ shoes is not going to be easy – Destry’s colleagues expect her to fail. But Ellen is in constant contact with Hal, both her friend and her mentor. At Mawson’s Bluff in South Australia, Challis is not only helping to look after his father, but trying to find out what has happened to his missing brother-in-law. A satisfying read.