Bitter Wash Road

The way things work these days – if you are on social media and you use sites such as Amazon, all sorts of stuff comes your way based on what you apparently showed preference for in some purchase or response to. I ignore most of it, a lot is of no relevance to me, but with somethings I do take a second look. I read all sorts of different books, factual, fiction, classic, trashy, and so all sorts of different recommendations come through, some of which appeal, most of which I ignore. An Australian crime writer I really like is Jane Harper, whose first book, The Dry was a great success. Recently I read her latest which was set in Tasmania, a place I have family connections to and am fascinated by. I recently read her most recent novel, The Survivors, and wasn’t surprised when I received a slew of other Australian crime books, including Scrublands by Chris Hammer, which I wrote about here – as I had with Jane’s latest book. I think I saw a recommendation for Chris Hammer (on social media of course, but from an actual person not an algorithm or whatever sends out promotional stuff) The latest Australian author which came my way was Garry Disher.

I’m happy to discover that Garry has written quite a few books, so I look forward to catching up with them because the first book I read, swiftly followed by the next in the series was so well written, so intriguing, so gripping that I can’t wait to read more from him. Like the first Chris Hammer book I read, ‘Bitter Wash Road’ is set in the middle of absolutely nowhere in the red hot roasting outback of Australia. The main character, policeman Paul Hirschhausen arrives in a small town as a result of his involvement in some dodgy doings which led to his demotion. His back story isn’t completely explained at first, we learn it as the other storylines progress, it’s woven into the narrative so the reader isn’t slowed by a great chunk of exposition. This works in two ways, it speeds up the beginning of the book so the reader is drawn in and carried along, and also, because what has happened in ‘Hirsch’s past impacts on a later storyline so it makes it easier to understand the complexities of what’s happening. Skilful! The characters are believable, good bad, significant and walk-ons, the descriptions of the area ae brilliant – I have been to Australia once but never to this remote and inhospitable place, but I can imagine it so clearly because of the way Garry writes.

As soon as I finished ‘Bitter Wash Road’, I bought the second book, ‘Peace’, and if anything it is better than the first. Different in a way because Hirsch is now settled into the area and is leading a more ordinary life of the only policeman in the small town, dealing with small town crime. He is beginning to feel settled and beginning to enjoy his simple life; of course because we’re reading a crime novel we know the peace leading up to Christmas is about to be disrupted, and of course it is. There’s a grass fire, possibly arson, possibly carelessness, a dramatic car crash in which fortunately no-one is hurt, and a couple of lads stealing a car – and then horror, a nasty attack on domestic animals belonging to a popular member of the small community. I raced through the book again, almost absorbing it, so good, so pacy, so interesting – complex but not impossible to follow and an ending I really didn’t guess.

I’m very happy to be waiting for the third in the series, ‘Consolation’ to be published, some time next month! I have it ordered!

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