Garry Disher has been writing crime, along with kids books, thrillers and a host of non fiction, for a while now, but Whispering Death is my first foray into his world. A little brave of me, one might think, to leap into the sixth novel of the DI Challis series without having read the preceding five, but Disher has managed that difficult task of making the book as welcoming to a newbie as to an old hand. There are no barriers to first time readers coming on board at this stage of Challis’s career, and plenty of back story that beckons me to go back to the beginning.
Avoiding all the techno-wizardry of 21st century forensics, sparkling labs and endearing ubergeeks, Whispering Death instead brings you solid, foot-slogging detective work. The characters and the locale are drawn with detail and nuance. Alongside the dependable and likable Challis, Constable Pam Murphy has humour and warmth, as well as a few issues of her own to sort out. I particularly liked the practical, positive and no nonsense way he deals with the consequences of Murphy’s bout of anxiety and reaction to the antidepressants she has been taking. Treatment of common mental health problems should always be dealt with in such a matter-of-fact and non-judgemental manner.
The dual plots, one involving a rapist who dresses as a policeman, the other revolving around the activities and strange past of a female cat burglar, provide a balance between crimes of brutality and of intellect. The two never overlap except that the same police are involved in investigating both crimes, but the disparity between the types of crime allows an intriguing look at how the same type of police work, and a little luck, is effective no matter the crime.
Disher, twice winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction and other awards, has given readers a tight, gripping novel set in a distinct Melburnian landscape. Even if you’ve never read the Peninsula murder mysteries before, this isn’t a bad place to start.