EXCERPT: Six-thirty. The sun was above the droughty hills and slanting through the trees now, promising another cloudless, windless, stifling day. Time for his shower and shave, his second breakfast. But first he passed by the shop, quickly confirming that it had been a good idea to bring the garbage bag. Bending, pushing against his aches and pains, he scooped up plastic bottles, scraps of wrapping paper, dead sparklers, paper hats, cigarette butts. He moved further up Kitchener Street, hunting and pecking, and came upon a significant pool of blood.
Hirsch froze for a moment, then knelt. Touched his forefinger to it. Still sticky; spilt recently then.
He gazed along the street. Kitchener was a short street, six homes on either side. He ran a mental checklist: who was capable of violence? Who was likely to be on the receiving end?
None of these people.
Movement alerted him. A shape behind a garden hedge, a disturbance in the sparse leaves. The house belonged to an elderly widower named Cromer. Calling, ‘Mr. Cromer?’ Hirsch approached the driveway entrance.
A cry, just as he stepped onto the footpath. A queer, soft, alien cry, not of warning but of distress. And more blood. Spooked now, Hirsch entered the front yard. Blood new and glistening on the couch-grass lawn. A panicked sound, high-pitched, and Hirsch jumped in fright as one of Nan Washburn’s miniature ponies retreated, trembling, into the corner between the hedge and the side fence. He tried to make sense of what he was seeing.
ABOUT ‘PEACE’: 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 the community work-welfare checks and working bees-is starting to pay off. Now Christmas is here and, apart from a grass fire, two boys stealing a ute 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 a strange, vicious incident in Kitchener Street. And Sydney police ask him to look in on a family living outside town on a forgotten back road.
Suddenly, it doesn’t look like a season of goodwill at all.
MY THOUGHTS: ‘That’s all a cop wants at Christmas,’ he thought. ‘Not heavenly peace, just a general absence of mayhem.’
Eighteen months earlier, Hirsch had been unlucky enough to find himself in a corrupt CIB squad. It had been disbanded, but some of the shit had stuck and he was demoted and stationed in the remote one cop town of Tiverton. Sometimes, it seemed, that as a newcomer to the bush, his job was as much probing the landscape as probing the crimes committed in it. He does regular welfare check runs. Some of the people he calls on are lonely, others vulnerable. Some get into trouble through lack of foresight; a handful are actively dodgy. What he loves most is the variety, the different people, experiences, the fact that he never knows quite who or what he is going to encounter.
And he encounters a lot of the unexpected.
I read the first book in this series, Bitter Wash Road, voraciously. I was, when I started Peace, unsure if it would live up to its predecessor. I needn’t have worried. Peace is every bit as good. Twelve months on, Hirsch has settled into his community, he knows people (some he wishes he didn’t, like the overly officious Martin Gwynn), he has forged relationships. He has also found some old journals written by a landowner in the 1800s, and journal entries are interspersed with the text. WARNING: These journal entries contain racist comments. They need to be read in context of the time at which they were written. We cannot change the way people thought and acted at that time. We can learn from it and ensure it never happens again.
While Hirsch may be wishing for a Christmas free of mayhem, it’s not what he is going to get. A local drunk drives into the pub, a ute is stolen, there are fires, burglaries, a missing dog, and a child left locked in a car in the extreme heat. Not to mention a massacre. These last two incidents kick off a media frenzy that results in tragic consequences.
I could never have foreseen where Garry Disher was heading at the beginning of this book, but it was one hell of a ride and I enjoyed every word, every moment of it. I have book #3, Consolation, ready to start.
This is a top crime series set in rural South Australia. It is atmospheric and beautifully written. Disher’s style is descriptive; the smells, the tastes, the feel. His dialogue is natural, his characters exactly who I would expect to find out bush, often people who have been forced there by circumstance, those unable to leave due to family responsibilities, or those who choose to hide there. Disher has captured and conveyed the essence of a small remote Australian town and its inhabitants. I am keen to get back there.
THE AUTHOR: Garry Disher was born in 1949 and grew up on his parents’ farm in South Australia.
He gained post graduate degrees from Adelaide and Melbourne Universities. In 1978 he was awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, where he wrote his first short story collection. He travelled widely overseas, before returning to Australia, where he taught creative writing, finally becoming a full time writer in 1988
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Serpent’s Tail/Profile Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Peace by Garry Disher for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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To all of you still enjoying Sunday make the most of it!