Sunday, June 29, 2014

HELL TO PAY by Garry Disher

One of Australia's best known novelists with more than 40 books under his belt Garry Disher is a writer who wastes not a word, and vividly, relentlessly paints pictures of his native Australia. In this case the scene is Tiverton, a hardscrabble bush town in South Australia suffering from a teetering economy, isolation, police corruption. The one-road town struggles to survive as do its inhabitants. It is here that a recently demoted detective, Paul Hirschhausen known as Hirsch is sent from Adelaide. This is punishment or penance with the latter winning out.

Hirsch is a disgraced cop and no one is about to let him forget it, least of all his bullying boss, Sergeant Kropp. The Sergeant is a man surrounded by mates who never do anything wrong because Kropp easily turns a blind eye to their follies, and perhaps even participates in crimes with them. Alone and friendless Hirsch is by turns bitter, paranoid and determined. The internal investigations bureau is breathing down his neck, eager to convict him of something by any means. And, as if it wasn't already clear that he wasn't welcome in Tiverton a pistol cartridge is left in his mailbox.

When the body of a sixteen-year-old local girl is found by the highway Kropp is quick to label it a hit and run and quickly move on. Hirsch doesn't believe that is the case but just let him try to gain access to forensics or interview subjects.

Hell To Pay has been called Australian crime fiction at its best - I'd simply call it crime fiction at its best. Disher's plotting is deft, his words economical but completely telling as he carefully builds to a smash finish. Wouldn't have missed this one!

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