Garry Disher's Blood Moon is worth reading for a number of reasons. How many crime novels have you read lately set in Australia? How many of them have a well-developed cast of police in a modern police procedural? How many of those books are written by the winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best Australian Crime Novel?
Even if you haven't read the four novels that preceded Blood Moon in the series, you can pick the storyline up easily. It doesn't take long to like Detective Inspector Hal Challis. He and Sergeant Ellen Destry just started living together. Since he's her boss, they are not yet sure what problems they'll face.
But, for the police department in Waterloo, on the Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne, the first problem they face is Schoolies Week. It's similar to our spring break, but students who just finished their twelfth year exams take off to the coastal communities to party. As students converge, the force tries to help with all of the typical crimes associated with students and townspeople, including date rape.
At the same time, they have a case that catches the attention of the press and politicians when the chaplain at a prestigious school is found beaten, in a coma, on his front lawn. The case of a missing woman seems minor, but the small force may find themselves with murder on their hands.
As in all good police procedures, the police deal with a number of crimes at the same time. As Disher tells of those stories, he skillfully develops the characters of different officers. And, he does an excellent job revealing Hal Challis' past and his character, in short glimpses. Challis didn't like attention. "He liked to slip through life unnoticed." And, his thoughts about his work are interesting. "The job promised continued human misery and droning days." Then there's the comment about "Paperwork that swamped his days and gave him a permanent low-level sense of anxiety and aggravation." But, maybe this is the most insightful comment that Hal was a private man whose "Daily work demanded that he uncover people's secrets."
Blood Moon is all about secrets. It's about Ellen Destry's secrets that might shock the reader. Other officers have secrets that are revealed in the course of the book. Then there are all the little secrets in people's lives that lead to violence. It's a powerful book about secrets that come to light under Australia's, and Garry Disher's, Blood Moon.
Garry Disher will appear at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona on Tuesday, May 19 at 2 p.m. at part of the Authors @ The Teague series.
Blood Moon by Garry Disher. Soho Press, ©2009. ISBN 9781569475638 (hardcover), 386p.