Thursday, June 24, 2010
Review of Blood Moon by Garry Disher (Soho Crime, 2009)
It’s the time of the year when hordes of high school seniors descend on Waterloo to have a blow out and the local police swap into community mode to manage them. To add to their caseload is a violent assault that leaves a chaplain from a local boarding school in a coma and the death of a planning enforcement officer who has been making a nuisance of herself by actually trying to regulate planning laws. The chaplain has political connections that bring added pressure and it’s clear that the planning officer was being stalked by her own husband. Whilst one case looks relatively straightforward, the other has seemingly few clues. In addition, a local girl seems intent on taking revenge on a schoolie that raped her the previous year. Inside the police team there are also issues – Inspector Hal Challis is sleeping with his sergeant, Ellen Destry; Pam Murphy has been transferred to CIU and separated from her former partner, Tank, and now has her eye on his new sidekick, Andy Cree; and Scobie Sutton is aware that he’s losing his wife to the fundamental church headed by the assaulted chaplain. Dealing with external pressure and internal politics, Challis and this team work to resolve the cases and their various personal entanglements.
I started Blood Moon three times and on the third go I still put it to one side twice to read other books. I tend to read fiction exclusively, so this is a clear sign of ambivalence. I did, however, eventually get to the end. It’s a book that I should have liked – a relatively big cast of actors, multiple story lines, police procedural bleeding through into everyday lives of coppers – but I just never really connected with the story. I’m not really sure why – the writing was competent although not sparkling, the plotting was process-driven without loose ends or snags and kept the various strands sufficiently knotted, and the characterisation was well developed. I just never warmed to the various, intertwining stories or the lives of the characters; I felt there was a general lack of pace and tension; and the ending felt contrived, closing with two melodramas, at least one of which it could have done without. The result was, for me at least, a competent police procedural that lacked enough bite to get me hooked and to care about the characters. Having scouted around a little and read other reviews (such as at Amazon, Goodreads, and International Noir) it seems that’s a minority view. Sometimes perfectly good books just don’t click at a personal level.