Thursday, October 18, 2007


There are two scenarios which seem to appear repeatedly in recent crime fiction. Two detectives, who are almost equal protagonists, investigate different crimes which are usually found to have some kind of link, or alternatively a lone protagonist goes back to their home town and solves a crime from the past.
This formulaic approach does not worry me in the slightest, because Harry Bosch or Alan Banks can delve into as many cold cases as they want as far as I am concerned.
But would this apply to an author I had never read before, or even heard of until I looked at the 2007 Ned Kelly winners?
Gary Disher’s Chain of Evidence does follow both these proven formulas but succeeds in putting a slightly different slant on this well worn trail.
Inspector Hal Challis returns to his hometown of Mawson’s Bluff in the South Australian outback where his father is dying.
A few years before his brother in law Gavin Hurst had disappeared and some locals suspected suicide. However Meg Hurst Hal’s sister had been receiving strange mail as if Gavin were still alive and Hal decides to investigate. Then Gavin’s decomposing body is discovered while a new grave is being dug in the town’s cemetery.

Meanwhile back on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne, Sergeant Ellen Destry is coping with the abduction of Katie Blasko by a gang of disgusting paedophiles. Ellen’s team of cops is a disparate group ranging from the bribable through the mildly incompetent to the totally unprincipled. Of course she lacks resources, has an obnoxious superior and works in an environment where the prosecutors must prove guilt beyond the faintest glimmer of doubt and then some more.

“We had a good case.”
“He had a good lawyer.”

Her investigations are complicated by the activities of two old style cops Van Alphen and Kellock, and by the Jarretts. This is an Australia we don’t hear about very often, and the Jarretts and their extended family would be equally as home in the Ozarks or Peckham’s tough estates in South London.

….pretty well summed up the Australian national character, which is not fine and egalitarian but grovelled at the feet of men who’d gone to private schools or could kick a football or had become billionaires by being allowed to evade tax.

Chain of Evidence does follow a formula, but the flawed main protagonists with all their traumatic past history contribute to making this book a prize winner. The supporting police characters John Tankard, Pam Murphy and Scobie Sutton have a integral part to play in the plot and also have their share of problems. Is Guido Brunetti the only fictional policeman with a happy family life?

Once again a crime fiction writer has discussed the difficult social problems of both isolated rural communities and the burgeoning suburban underclass with skill and flair. Some of the book is a harrowing read as it deals with the activities of paedophiles, but Gary Disher keeps you guessing with some unexpected plot twists right up to the exciting climax and that make this a very satisfying police procedural.

Scobie searched his memory. “There’s a kind of spa room in his house. Spa bath and toys.”
“Toys? Does he have children?”


Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

….pretty well summed up the Australian national character, which is not fine and egalitarian but grovelled at the feet of men who’d gone to private schools or could kick a football or had become billionaires by being allowed to evade tax.

Sounds as if he joins that line of crime writers disillusioned with his country's economic boom or reputation for egalitarianism, a list that includes writers fron Ireland and Sweden, off the top of my head.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

10:41 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

These economic booms are usually based on other peoples hard work for very low wages.
I must read some more Irish crime fiction but in real life the Celtic Tiger economy seems to have left many behind.
Luckily in England we don't have a reputation for egalitarianism therefore our crime writers are less disillusioned.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, agree economic booms based on hard work by others for very low wages.

I read a piece in the NY Times once about India's "economic boom," which affected only 2% of the population. Meanwhile there are still children dying of starvation and living in horrid slums, people without homes or jobs or in horrible debt and still dowries and 2nd dowries.

I'm still reading another book by Disher in this series. It's a tidy police procedural with some good political points.

8:28 PM  

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