Tuesday, November 24, 2020


CONSOLATION by Garry Disher (Text Publishing, 2020)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Winter in Tiverton. Constable Paul Hirschhausen has a snowdropper on his patch. Someone is stealing women’s underwear, and Hirsch knows enough about that kind of crime—how it can escalate—not to take it lightly.

But the more immediate concerns are a call from the high school, a teacher worried about a student who may be in danger at home. Another call, a different school: a man enraged about the principal’s treatment of his daughter.

A little girl in harm’s way and an elderly woman in danger. An absent father who isn’t where he’s supposed to be; another who flees to the back country armed with a rifle. Families under pressure. And the cold, seeping feeling that something is very, very wrong.

Outback Noir’ became a hot commodity thanks to the global success of Jane Harper (THE DRY), Chris Hammer (SCRUBLANDS), and the Mystery Road films and television drama. But long before any of them hit the crime scene, there was the brilliant storytelling of Garry Disher. A couple of year's back, Disher deservedly received the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award for three decades of storytelling excellence,

Judging by the high quality of his new novel CONSOLATION, there's been no resting on his laurels. Many authors plateau, taper, or wane with long-running series or crime writing careers in general. Disher has shown with CONSOLATION, like he did with PEACE, that he's among the few who keep raising the bar, decades in.

The third outing for Paul ‘Hirsch’ Hirschhausen sees the likable rural police constable now settled into life in tiny Tiverton, South Australia, wearing out the tyres on his 4WD as he patrols the surrounding ‘wheat and wool’ landscapes. While there's not the buzz and busyness of city life, that doesn't mean nothing happens.

Hirsch is on the trail of a 'snowdropper', someone who's been stealing old women's knickers. Is it just a prank, or could it be a dangerous sign of much worse to come? Meanwhile a teacher worries for a home-schooled student who may be getting neglected, and a furious local confronts a principal at another school about publicly shaming his daughter. Women old and young are in danger, then the angry man violently confronts an officious council worker trying to enter his property, before going bush with his son and a couple of rifles. While all this is going on, 'tradesmen' are conning older folks out of their savings, and there's a suspicious death.

With plenty on his plate, Hirsch tries to keep the peace and put a lid on simmering tensions threatening to boil over, while dealing with city detectives investigating various incidents, plus his own personal stalker. Not to mention he has to step into a leadership role, temporarily, when his own boss gets injured on the job.

Disher adroitly brings many threads together into a cohesive whole while giving readers a deep look at a rural community and the people who live there and pass through. CONSOLATION is a sublime tale that flows so well it'd be easy to overlook just what a triumph of a novel it is. Disher shows once again that he's a consummate storyteller, the kind who makes the difficult seem oh-so-easy, like watching a talented guitarist launching into a spine-tingling solo live onstage. While the third in a series, CONSOLATION could be read as a standalone.

Whether this is your first taste of Disher's crime tales, or you're a long-time fan, you're in for a treat.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

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