Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Review: PEACE

PEACE by Garry Disher (Viper Books, 2020)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Constable Paul Hirschhausen runs a one-cop station in the dry farming country south of the Flinders Ranges. He's still new in town but his community work - welfare checks and a light touch - is starting to pay off. Now Christmas is here and, apart from a grass fire, two boys stealing a vehicle, and Brenda Flann entering the front bar of the pub without exiting her car, Hirsch's life has been peaceful.

Until he's called to an incident on Kitchener Street, a strange and vicious attack that sickens the community. And when the Sydney police ask him to look in on a family living on a forgotten back road, it doesn't look like a season of goodwill at all...

While several fresh antipodean voices have recently garnered global attention and accolades for their outstanding tales set in rural Australia - from the CWA Dagger-winning novels of Jane Harper and Chris Hammer to even more recently the likes of Gabriel Bergmoser with THE HUNTED - Garry Disher shows once again in PEACE why he’s the master who paved the way. 

Put simply - this is a superb tale where the violence simmers in a small community and the heat haze shimmers from the page. Right from the opening lines its clear you’re in the hands of a consummate storyteller. 

A couple of years ago Disher received the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award, just recognition of a rich crime writing resume, and PEACE shows he ain’t resting on his laurels. It marks the return of likable police constable Paul ‘Hirsch’ Hirschhausen from 2013’s terrific BITTER WASH ROAD, which won the German Crime Prize. 

Exiled from Adelaide to tiny Tiverton, Hirsch’s beat involves a lot of long drives, welfare calls, and dealing with drunken shenanigans. At times his biggest stress may be playing Santa or doing his share at a community work bee. But things take a far nastier turn when someone brutally attacks Nan Washburn’s horses, and then a secretive family on the outskirts of town suffers violence that brings big-city detectives to town. 

Disher delivers dirt-caked authenticity with both the countryside setting and its eclectic inhabitants. Hirsch is an engaging hero full of humanity, juggling small-town politics and trying to handle the nastiest of crimes while being marginalised by colleagues who still blame him for the fall of other cops, corrupt or not. Disher has produced another classic.

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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