Review Blog

Jan 16 2017

Signal loss by Garry Disher

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Hal Challis series. Text Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781925355260
(Age: secondary to adult) Highly recommended. Crime fiction, Victoria. When a bushfire erupts over Mornington Peninsula a burnt out Mercedes is found with two charred bodies, and the remains of a rifle. DNA is the only way to identify them and this leads Challis to Sydney. Just why two professional hit men are sent to his patch is a major cause for concern. Investigating this coincides with the disappearance of a known meth user and dealer, and interviewing his partner they find that her daughter is missing, collateral for a drug debt. But it is schoolies week and with a serial rapist on the move, Ellen Destry leading the sex crimes unit has her work cut out for her. The manager of the local surf shop has been raped by this person the previous year and it is one of Ellen's officers who is able to use her skills to perfection.
Drug dealers, no mobile coverage, professional killers from Sydney, local businessmen using the sadness of meth users to feather their own nests, and a bushfire are beautifully crafted to come together at the end, the reader all the while entranced and wondering how the crimes are linked. And combined with a new drugs unit being imposed upon the station, friction between investigating groups is bound to have ramifications. Destry has her own problem with her sister and her new man, one who she can see is simply out to fleece her. Readers of this excellent series will know and love Inspector Hal Challis and his interaction with lover, Ellen Destry forms a neat romantic interest but when their boss finds out about their relationship this could jeopardise both their jobs.
The background of the story is amazingly real, described in rich detail: the farms and small towns, huge sheds with lots to hide, moneyed properties owned by weekenders from the city, cheaply built forests of satellite suburbs, the wealthiest and the strugglers are all here, making this a read that gets under your skin. Disher handles the theme of ice and its impact upon small rural communities with fascinating insight, one which will inform and sadden all of his readers, but cheer as Hallis and co are able to stamp out a small part of the syndicate causing chaos for those least able to cope.
Fran Knight

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