Kittyhawk Down - Garry Disher
Second in the Hal Challis series, Kittyhawk Down is an extremely busy book. Firstly there's the upper class sort of "gated" housing area, the farming area and the housing estates. There's a sinister South African living in one of those big gated houses. There's Monroe, the farmer, who is under increasing financial pressure and a bit of a hot head. There's a local busybody who spends his life reporting people to the relevant authorities and writing snippy letters to the local paper, earning himself the nickname of The Meddler. There's the unemployed, drug using sisters with their deadbeat boyfriends - one boyfriend suspected of being behind the disappearance of one of the sister's toddler daughter. There's the lawyer that acted for the farmer. Then there is the fellow pilot, sometime aerial photographer who hangs out at the same airfield as Challis and her reclusive, internet stock dealing husband. Finally there's the editor of the local paper and her on / off relationship with Challis.
Add to that Pam Murphy, Constable at the Waterloo police station getting herself into a spot of bother, John Tankard (another Constable) still lurking around not doing anything terribly well, Ellen Destry with her family problems and Hal's crazy, jailed, soon to be ex-wife and things start to get messy. Even more messy when the farmer does a runner on the local police, shotgun in hand, and people start turning up dead from shotgun wounds and everybody automatically assumes that Monroe is settling some old scores.
This complicated cast of characters and events does add a certain level of excitement and tension to the book, although it also means that things can get pretty complicated pretty quickly. It certainly adds a level of reality as I'm not sure that police stations anywhere just deal with one crime at a time.
There are a couple of minor quibbles with police procedure and the reasons for Hal being on the spot as a Homicide Investigator, there are some loose ends and weird things in the resolutions, and there's a more than large dollop of personal story woven into the actual crimes.
For some reason best known to the author the location for these books is the real place of the Mornington Peninsula that he then liberally sprinkles with fictitious towns and locations. Only they are only fictitious to a certain point and it's not too tricky to pinpoint possible "role models" for these locations. This does mean that for a reader who knows that location, I do spend a lot of my time mentally trying to orientate myself. Now why I do this with these books I've no idea, I think possibly because of the obvious juxtaposition of the fictitious into the real - I don't think I'd mind so much if he's swapped Rosebud and Mt Martha around or stuck them totally in the wrong location, but masquerading Rosebud as Waterloo really stumps me. It's me I know it's me, I don't know why I'm doing this.
Blurb from the book An unidentified man is fished out of the sea with an anchor strapped to his waist. And for Detective Inspector Hal Challis, this sparks the beginning of a chilling series of shotgun killings. As Challis investigates, a farmer on the peninsula erupts into violence and is the target of a massive manhunt. Meanwhile Challis's own emotional life is strained, and some of his police colleagues have allowed their public and private responsibilities to blur. And then Challis finds some aerial photographs in the possession of his friend Kitty that link her to the murders. Kittyhawk Down is the second in the Hal Challis series of novels. After it was published in German, Disher topped (in July and August 2005) the KrimiWelt-Bestenliste voted for by 17 specialty crime booksellers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, commissioned by Die Welt , Nordwest Radio and Arte, the arts TV channel.