Whispering Death - Garry Disher

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Put a book with Garry Disher's name on the cover down on the table at our place and there's bound to be a bit of sighing from certain quarters.  Fair enough, it normally means that all forms of communication will cease until the book is finished.  Whilst I will admit a slight preference for the Wyatt series, the Challis and Destry books are getting better and better with each outing.  I particularly like the way that the focus is switching between the two main characters, and their romance is developing but not taking over from what is, after all, an excellent police procedural.  I've even forgiven Disher from moving Waterloo from Central West Victoria to way down on the Peninsula!

In WHISPERING DEATH there's a lot happening on the Peninsula.  A rapist in a police uniform, a serial armed robber and a very talented cat burglar.  There's also Ellen Destry's trip overseas, the problems of a classic sports car finally starting to fall apart, disposing of a now restored airplane, the bikie's living next door to Destry's new house, and how her daughter is handling her mother's growing relationship with Hal Challis.  There's also the little matter of his major spray to a journalist about Government funding of the police service in an area where the population is rapidly expanding.  Which does not go down well with his bosses.

Whilst the main investigation - into the rapist wearing a police uniform proceeds, there's a cat burglar working her way around Australia.  Normally she does not work in her own state - keeping her backyard clean.  It's particularly important on the Peninsula as she keeps a safety deposit box down there.  Cautious, she's also one step ahead of her old mentor who is very very keen to even some scores.  The fact that an armed robber seems to be heading in their direction just adds to the increasing workload that Challis is already less than happy about - especially as the station is desperately short of resources.  So short of resources even investigating the rather creative graffiti showing up on large gateposts is a bit of stretch.

WHISPERING DEATH is written in that beautifully dry, laconic style that Disher has bought to these police procedurals.  He also does such a great line in caustic social commentary - be it in Challis having a go about politicians or to the nature of the graffiti showing up on those enormous (perfectly ridiculous really) property entrances that seem to have become the scourge of the tree / sea change areas.  Graffiti with a social conscience and a particularly fine sense of the humour.

WHISPERING DEATH, as in earlier books, also gives the supporting cast of characters a bit of time in the limelight.  The idea that the book's have central characters that have lives alongside the jobs, that the supporting cast are people in their own right and stuff happens to them, and that there's never just one thing at a time going on in any district really works.  Without giving too much away, there's even a series of coincidences in the resolutions which are just delicious - there's nothing contrived about the way that everything eventually sorts itself out.  

The one thing that really stands out after reading WHISPERING DEATH is just how deftly the complicated storylines were interwoven with the character's own stories (police and crooks), with no loss of pace, and no chance that the reader would be bamboozled.  I was particularly struck by just how cleverly this plot was put together, the way that each particular divergence was timed nicely.  

There is simply no better way to spend some time ignoring everything and everybody around you, than reading the latest offering from one of the best writers of Australian Crime Fiction around.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

A rapist in a police uniform is stalking Inspector Hal Challis's Peninsula beat, a serial armed robber is headed his way, and there is a very clever, very mysterious female cat burglar who may or may not be planning something on his patch. On top of all that, Challis has been carpeted by the boss for speaking out about police budget cuts. Meanwhile, at the Waterloo Police Station, something very interesting is going on between Constable Pam Murphy and Jeannie Schiff, the feisty young sergeant on secondment from the Sex Crimes Unit.

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Karen Chisholm
Thursday, June 30, 2011
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