Published by Text Publishing, November 2021 | Fiction, Crime, Australian
Veteran author of more than 20 crime novels since his first 30 years ago, Garry Disher has delivered a nicely paced, well-crafted, keep-you-guessing mystery in his latest, The Way It Is Now.
It’s set in the beachy neighbourhoods along Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, a setting Disher fans will recognise from his previous series featuring D.I. Hal Challis – although, as a standalone novel, The Way It is Now introduces a new lead character, the likeable, yet complex Charlie Deravin.
Recently suspended from his police job – and separated from his wife – Deravin has time on his hands and returns to live in his family’s vacant shack on the Peninsula.
Soon enough, he’s drawn back into an unofficial – and deeply personal – investigation he’d been pursuing for 20 years.
Back in 2000, his mother had disappeared, her car mysteriously abandoned, her belongings strewn on the road, her body never found, leaving his father – also a former copper – under a cloud of suspicion in the tight knit community.
The unexpected discovery of skeletal remains during a neighbourhood home renovation ignites the past for Deravin, putting him on a collision course with characters from his childhood as he searches for answers to his mother’ fate.
The plot’s plausibility is heightened – but not overbearingly so – by a sprinkling of contemporary events woven throughout, like the smoke drift from Australia’s horrendous summer bushfires and the effects of the emerging COVID pandemic on Deravin’s father’s cruise to Japan.
Disher entwines a detailed, multi-pronged plot, along with richly-formed characters, while exploring the complexities of relationships – all while using bare, no-nonsense language.
It’s a style he’s honed over three decades since his first crime novel, Kickback, in 1991, the entry point to Disher’s long-running acclaimed series featuring an enigmatic professional thief known only as “Wyatt”.
While writing with a hint of the hard-nosed, yet heartfelt style of Scottish writer Ian Rankin in his Rebus novels, Disher’s grip on evoking Australia’s landscapes and people is undeniable.
It’s these skills that have earned the South Australian author a Lifetime Achievement Award (among others) in Australia's leading literary awards for crime writing, the Ned Kellys. He’s also attracted international acclaim, having three times bagged Germany’s major prize for crime fiction, the Deutsche Krimi Preis.
But crime is not Disher’s only genre.
Since penning his first novel, Steal Away, in 1987, his 50-plus books have included more than a dozen young adults novels, short stories, literary fiction and writers’ handbooks, during a career that took off after winning a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University in 1978.
The Way It Is Now is another brick in the novelist’s foundational place among the newer crop of contemporary Australian crime writers, such as Michael Robotham and Jane Harper.
Those looking for an easy, fast-paced, entertaining, plot twisty read will not be disappointed.