Inspector Hal Challis has been summoned to Mawson's Bluff, his childhood home in the Australian Outback where his father is dying. Sergeant Ellen Destry is left to head an investigation into a ring of pedophiles which has descended on the peaceful Mornington Peninsula, a resort community near Melbourne. A little girl has been abducted from the fairgrounds at the annual Waterloo Show; it takes her mother twenty-four hours to report her missing. By then, hope is slim that the police will find the child before it is too late. Challis's sister's difficult husband disappeared from the Bluff four years ago; since then Meg has received nuisance mail that she assumes comes from him. While Challis is in town, an extra buried body is discovered when a new grave is dug in the local graveyard. A black plastic bag containing the corpse of Meg's husband is found on top of a coffin that was interred four years earlier. With two very different crimes to solve, Challis and Destry have their work cut out for them.
Australian Disher's fine fourth novel to feature Insp. Hal Challis, head of Peninsula East's Crime Investigation Unit in Waterloo, Queensland (after 2005's Snapshot), opens with the kidnapping of 10-year-old Katie Blasko. In Challis's absence, Sgt. Ellen Destry leads the investigation while her boss visits his dying father in the South Australia sheep-farming village he came from (and does some unofficial sleuthing on the mysterious disappearance of his brother-in-law five years earlier). When the girl is discovered, viciously abused, Destry's supervisors are a bit too eager to close the case as the inquiry widens into something much larger. Disher deftly weaves in layers of complexity, particularly the resentful antagonism that separates Waterloo's lower-middle-class families from the town's power structure. A compelling mix of procedural detail and action round out a fully credible plot and characters. Though some of the multitudinous subplots dilute the novel's overall impact, it's nonetheless a deeply satisfying read. (July) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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June 30, 2008
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