2003, 288 P.
Is a steady diet of Wallander, Scott and Bailey, The Bridge and -sheesh- even Midsomer Murders softening me up for detective murder mysteries? Stranger things may have happened. Whatever: I found myself quite engrossed in this Australian crime story chosen by someone in my face-to-face book group.
As with the above-mentioned television crime series, this book is just as much about the interactions and messy personal lives of the police investigators as it is about the crime. Although the book is subtitled ” A Detective Inspector Challis murder mystery”, Detective Inspector Hal Challis is only one of an ensemble of police characters. There’s Detective Sergeant Ellen Destry, whose 17 year old daughter is recovering after almost falling victim to a rapist and serial killer in an earlier book. There’s the sleazy Constable John Tankard who hits on his female colleagues and who doesn’t seem far removed from the criminals he is chasing. Detective Constable Scobie Sutton bores everyone rigid yabbering on about his daughter, while Constable Pam Murphy has waded in over her head financially.
In many ways this book is a snapshot of the paradoxes of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. There’s the affluent and often absent population up in the forested mountainside (think Red Hill) and the financially straitened underclass in ‘Waterloo’ (Hastings, perhaps? It overlooks Phillip Island, but it felt more like Rosebud to me). An immigration detention centre has opened up nearby, and the reactions of inhabitants remind me that we haven’t moved far in the 13 years since this book was published. There’s drugs, crime and unsavoury connections among the underclass where boyfriends and broken families criss-cross each other. As the police note in one of their briefings, criminals often announce themselves through their defiance of small things like parking in the disabled bay. Rings true to me.
Disher’s chapters are only short and they rotate in their attention from one police officer to another. Too much, perhaps, and there does not seem to be one main character in the book which feels as if it’s leaving itself open as the springboard for another book in the series.
But- and this is important- I actually knew who’d done it in the end, even though not all the ends were tied up. And, as someone who’s not normally a fan of crime fiction, that’s a good thing!
Sourced from CAE bookgroups
My rating: 8/10