Consolation by Garry Disher [9/10]

Crime writer Garry Disher is a consummate craftsman and all his series have blessed the genre. His latest police procedural series, featuring hardworking, earnest country policeman Hirsch (aka Constable Paul Hirschhausen), transcends the usual narrow field. Set in the rolling hills and wheat fields and bleak terrain north of Adelaide, on the way towards the Flinders Ranges and thence the great inner deserts of the Australian outback, it’s a small-time world with everyday rural folks, and it could have been boring as shite. Instead, the first of the series, Bitter Wash Road, got me hooked and the follow-up, Peace, complexified and deepened the body-strewn tales. “Consolation” is even stronger. Disher is a master at spooling out plots fit to baffle even the most conscientious mystery reader, while at the same time enriching the read with a huge cast of absorbing characters, an immersion in the rich setting, and his muscular, almost poetic prose. Let me not spoil the plot beyond tantalizing you with the dust jacket crumbs: Hirsch receives a query about a possibly mistreated schoolgirl while hunting a snowdropper (someone stealing women’s underwear off clotheslines), then an irate father blows off steam, then … then Consolation takes off. The finest mystery I’ve read this year.

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