I love his work and think his books are getting better and better.
If you want proof, check out his latest novel, Bitter Wash Road.
Unlike Disher’s other crime fiction, the Wyatt series and the Challis and Destry police procedurals, Bitter Wash Road is intended as a stand alone.
The story is told from the perspective of Hirsch, a whistle blowing cop, him self under suspicion of corruption, who has been exiled to a one-man police station in the small town of Tiverton, located in dry wheat and wool country south of the Flinders Ranges, South Australia.
The first few chapters are a master class in class in how to write a tense, atmospheric crime thriller.
Called out to investigate a report of shots being fired on Bitter Wash Road, Hirsch ends up being the first cop on the scene of a terrible crime, a young local girl found dead in a ditch.
The dead girl had a reputation for being a bit wild, a taste for hitch hiking, with all the innuendo that goes with it. Everyone, including his boss, an old school cop called Kropp, thinks it is a hit and run. Hirsch is not convinced.
Kropp wants Hirsch investigating stolen sheep and house break-ins, not poking his nose in where it is not wanted by looking into the girl’s death. But Hirsch won’t be deterred.
Is Kropp just being antagonistic because of Hirsch’s reputation as a whistle blower or is he hiding something?
There are so many things I liked about this book. The central crime and its perpetrators and complex, real and brilliantly revealed.
Hirsch is a great character, tough, solitary, a touch of the mongrel about him. He’s not particularly sympathetic and it is unclear whether he’s not also guilty of some of the very corruption he’s denounced in other police.
Disher has also excelled at creating a menacing air of paranoia resulting from his status as an outcast from the rest of the police due to whistle blowing.
Last but not least, is the terrific writing, both descriptions of physical location and of people and situations.
It was late in the afternoon before the accident investigators arrived. Hirsch wanted to hang around and talk about what he’d been thinking but they ignored. Two men and one woman conscious of the dwindling light, the sun smearing itself across the horizon, long shadows playing visual tricks. They took their photos, measured distances, crouched and poked and grid-searched and marked up their diagrams.
‘You’re blocking the light,’ the female officer said. Her tone indicated she knew exactly who Hirsch was.
Bitter Wash Road is a complex, slow burn thriller from a writer at the top of his game. It’s one of Disher’s darkest books yet and, in my opinion, one of his best.