Consolation by Garry Disher was the first book I’d read by the respected and renowned Australian author. It was the third book in his Constable Paul Hirschhausen (Hirsch) series and had won the 2021 Ned Kelly award for Best Crime Fiction in 2021. Disher came highly recommended, as did Consolation. And though I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it. I suspect my expectations were a tad high and though really liked Hirsch, it featured one of my pet hates – having multiple plots that don’t mesh or otherwise merge conveniently (though not logically) at the end.
Nevertheless, I very happily dug into Day’s End, the fourth in the series and enjoyed it more than its predecessor.Day's End
by Garry Disher
Series: Paul Hirschhausen #4
Published by Text Publishing
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Hirsch’s rural beat is wide. Daybreak to day’s end, dirt roads and dust. Every problem that besets small towns and isolated properties, from unlicensed driving to arson. In the time of the virus, Hirsch is seeing stresses heightened and social divisions cracking wide open. His own tolerance under strain; people getting close to the edge.
Today he’s driving an international visitor around: Janne Van Sant, whose backpacker son went missing while the borders were closed. They’re checking out his last photo site, his last employer. A feeling that the stories don’t quite add up.
Then a call comes in: a roadside fire. Nothing much—a suitcase soaked in diesel and set alight. But two noteworthy facts emerge. Janne knows more than Hirsch about forensic evidence. And the body in the suitcase is not her son’s.
Interestingly, though the disappearance of backpacker Willi Van Sant and his girlfriend opens this book, it’s not revisited again for some time. Even the dead body in the suitcase that briefly distracts Hirsch and his colleagues is handed off to someone else. Instead Hirsch gets bogged down in local politics and the ugly world of extremism. Here in the form of racism and conspiracy theorists. It’s interesting (though makes sense) that COVID deniers and QAnon type players are starting to appear in novels as they reflect what’s happening out there in the real world. Even here in Australia. Chris Hammer’s recent The Tilt also included those who were sure vaccinations were in fact some sort of government surveillance mechanism. I can’t help but wonder how these topics will age – if in decades to come readers have to google “QAnon” and the like (because they’ve been long-forgotten *crosses fingers*), or if they’re perhaps more prominent and insidious.
Though several cases merge into one here, it’s more seamlessly done and makes sense. I was also more conscious Disher’s writing here. Short chapters in conversational style prose that are easy to read and beg you to keep going. And though written in third person from Hirsch’s point of view there’s a real narratorial presence that I often associate with Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy crime fiction series. I should also mention that Disher does an excellent job at sharing the vast but beautiful emptiness of Australia’s outback.
In Consolation I felt as if Hirsch was constantly being put in his place and reminded of the internal affairs-related demotion that landed him in remote Tiverton. Here it’s reflected but he seemed to garner more respect from colleagues. I’m also still enjoying his very pragmatic relationship with girlfriend Wendy and her daughter Kate, so look forward to our next meeting.
Day’s End by Garry Disher will be published in Australia by Text Publishing in early November 2022.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.