The Way It is Now, Garry Disher

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

THE WAY IT IS NOW is another new character from Garry Disher, mining some familiar territory for him, in that we've got a cop who is struggling with his past, present and future. Even for a youngish man, Charlie Deravin has been a cop for years, and there's a lot of backstory to his life. Missing mother for 20 or so years, believed murdered; tricky relationship with his father, and his new wife, the woman who was there at the breakdown of Charlie's parents marriage. A brother who blames their father, but stays close to Charlie. Who now has his own failed marriage, a university aged daughter he loves, he's living alone in the old family beach shack on the Mornington Peninsula. He's also on suspension from the Police Service, after a bit of argy bargy with his boss; exploring a potential new love interest with all the finesse of a hesitant, injured animal.

A solitary man, Charlie Deravin surfs, swims, rides a bike and roams around the area that he grew up, the area that his mother disappeared from. He's never given up digging around in this mother's case, even after being warned off many many times. But the discovery of skeletal remains of an adult and a child are the tipping point, setting off a chain of events that Charlie has to surf like hell to keep up with.

Reading THE WAY IT IS NOW it's clear that the power, and elegancy of Disher's writing often comes from what he doesn't put down on paper. It's more than the gaps between the words, there's something in the way that the controlled, often solitary nature of his characters do, rather than say, that creates a tense, taut atmosphere that says so much, without having to say a single thing. There's such controlled beauty in the phrasing, there's power in the observations, and there's disturbances below the surface that disconcert and wrong foot the reader. Part of this is due to the "ordinariness" of the scenarios, the characters, the situations. Ordinary, day to day lives, tipped upside down by a twist. Ordinary people being brave, crazy, evil, good. Sure there's courage, but there's also that sense that no matter how big a hole you're digging, keep digging until you find the way out, or the whole thing collapses in on you.

Disher's crime writing is a masterclass in that understated, underwritten, exploration of the every day. Of what people pushed to the edges of tolerances will, can and won't do. He writes determination and dedication just as well as he writes evil and dalliance. He writes bitter and twisted as well as he writes hope and longing. His books are mesmerising, extremely readable, and atmospheric, and he's as assured in the settings of beach, surf and Peninsula as in THE WAY IT IS NOW, as he is in the hot, dry dust of the farming regions of the Mallee and beyond.

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Set in a beach-shack town an hour from Melbourne, The Way It Is Now tells the story of a burnt-out cop named Charlie Deravin.

Charlie is living in his family’s holiday house, on forced leave since he made a mess of things at work.

Things have never been easy for Charlie. Twenty years earlier his mother went missing in the area, believed murdered. His father has always been the main suspect, though her body was never found.

Until now: the foundations are being dug for a new house on a vacant block. The skeletal remains of a child and an adult are found—and Charlie’s past comes crashing in on him.

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