- Consolation, by Garry Disher. Text Publishing, $29.99.
Disher has created many memorable characters but says his favourite is his most recent creation, Paul Hirschhausen, who first appeared in Bitter Wash Road (2013). Hirsch, who found himself in a corrupt Adelaide CIB Squad, became a whistleblower and was "busted" back down to uniform and sent to an isolated, one-officer police station in Tiverton in the north of South Australian. Consolation is Disher's third Hirsch novel.
Disher grew up in the mid-north of South Australia, the setting for the three novels. Even though he left at 17, he says "it still exerts a pull on my imagination, I still call it home".
The landscape comes to life as a result. As Consolation begins, it's winter in Tiverton with "frost dusting the grass, blades of ice reaching down from dripping garden taps, frost and ice splitting into prism and diamonds as the sun struck".
Honest and empathetic, Hirsch early each morning walks his town, seeing himself as "protector and enforcer" watching "for stupidity, cunning and plain malice".
Crimes in the area reflect local problems. Hirsch rescues a neglected, underfed child imprisoned in a caravan on a remote property.
There's a snowdropper in town, stealing underwear off washing lines. He's proving elusive even though CCTV cameras had been installed but all they've captured is "a male figure in motorcycle leathers and a helmet".
A local farmer, in financial difficulties, is discovered illegally logging native trees on his property. In fury, he shoots an environmental protection officer and goes on the run with his teenage son, triggering a state-wide manhunt.
Elderly women are being scammed by a gang of Irish roofers and tensions escalate when one of the women is found dead after a house fire.
Disher's crime fiction is far from simple. He admits he has developed techniques to enrich his fiction - "carefully placed turning points, buried secrets coming to the surface, getting the reader to exercise their mind about the wrong issue, delaying and withholding tactics".
As a result, Consolation is rural noir at its best: a lone detective persisting in protecting his community; criminal, evil individuals who prey on the isolated; all set against the backdrop of the dangers of the Australian bush.
In Consolation, Disher focuses on the problems rural communities face when trusted leaders can no longer be trusted.
Disher's delaying and withholding tactics create suspense and the urge to keep reading before finally, he ties up all the loose ends and order is restored.