Friday, December 29, 2017

Backstory #2: Criminal Masterminds Cut Loose in SIGNAL LOSS, by Australian Author Garry Disher

Garry Disher lives on Australia's Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne, and his Challis and Destry police procedural series often takes place right there. The seventh book in the series, SIGNAL LOSS, came out in late 2016 in Australia, reaching American readers via Soho Crime in late November. Now that the holiday season is wrapping up, it's a great time to treat yourself to a copy of this well-written and lively traditional crime investigation -- with the wry, dark twists of humor that are particularly Disher's own.

The book opens with an intro that could have come from that classic wisecracking mystery master, Donald E. Westlake himself:
Lovelock and Pym. They sounded like some kind of show-business duo -- magicians, maybe; folk singers.

In fact they worked for Hector Kaye, who used to run the Finks out of Kings Cross. That was before he set up as a legitimate businessman and started importing crystal meth from China. They didn't come cheap, Lovelock and Pym. Kaye paid them well and he'd bought them each a house and a car in the past year.
When the pair tackle a murder-for-hire and get overly ambitious, though, their fumbles turn deadly for more than just the intended victim. Add to this chaos the more dangerous threat of an Australian bush fire, and "mistakes are made." The kinds of mistakes that, for investigating Inspector Hal Challis, crack open the past conflicts of a crime ring and turn a small case into major impact.

Meanwhile, Challis's lover Sergeant Ellen Destry -- recently made the head of her department's sex crime unit -- realizes her own investigations are revealing a serial rapist with more skills than most. She and her team tug at each loose thread, working the details until they develop into solid leads. But Destry's distracted at times by another ambitious woman in the force, Sergeant Coolidge (Destry names her Sergeant Cleavage at one point!), who's trying to lure Hal out of Ellen's circuit.
They looked at each other, faintly challenging, bringing back old academy memories to Ellen but probably nothing at all to Coolidge.

"Haven't seen you for ages. You're sex crimes now," Coolidge said, as if that were a side path to nowhere in policing terms.

"And you're drugs," Ellen said.

Coolidge gave her a slow-burning smile and Ellen wondered at the intent: to tease me, unsettle me. She returned the smile, a quick hard nastiness in it, and opened the door of the car. "Good luck," she said and got in and drove out of there. Not much of a victory -- not much of anything -- but why get bogged down fighting the woman? 
As it turns out, Hal is the one who'll get bogged down by Coolidge's interference, but that's jumping a ahead some. Pick up this fast-paced investigation and you'll get the details quickly, because even though it would be great to have a Disher crime novel last a long time, the tension pushed the page turning. In fact, clear the schedule if you can -- here's your winter vacation between the covers in a 345-page "Down Under" romp through twinned cases that are hard to control, and incredibly satisfying to solve.

This is Disher's more accessible, easy-to-enjoy series (read chapter 1 here if you like); his other is the Wyatt series, darkly reminiscent of the Dexter mysteries yet somehow likeable (but, please note, very very dark). He also offers occasional stand-alones and "young adult" (YA) books, which Soho Crime doesn't yet bring across. Check the Soho website for the American releases of Disher's books. So far, I've appreciated all of them (Disher reviews here).

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

No comments: