Bitter Wash Road

Thursday, 14 November 2013


With Wyatt seemingly taking time out to recuperate and plan his next job and Hal Challis and Ellen Destry on hiatus it’s good to know Garry Disher is still churning out quality fiction.

I’ve tended to stick to series once I find one I like, and both the above mentioned are right up there with the best of them, but based on what I read here I was straight out chasing the other titles lurking under the General Novels for Adults heading on the Bibliography page.

I couldn’t find Play Abandoned in iBooks or Kindle, so it’s off to the Libraries to chase them up, but Two-way Cut has duly been downloaded and added to the Read These list. The problem, based on the Bitter Wash Road experience, is that I’m likely to sit down to it one afternoon, have it finished before I go to bed that night and be up in the morning looking for another helping of tautly written, immaculately plotted quality crime fiction.

Set in the isolated South Australian wheatbelt, an hour or so north of Clare, Bitter Wash Road runs with a fairly limited focus through the eyes of Constable Paul “Hirsch” Hirschhausen, a former Adelaide detective who has been returned to the uniformed branch and exiled to a one-man police station in the middle of nowhere in the wake of a corruption scandal. He’s a city cop pushed into a country lifestyle where his colleagues have their own way of running things and regard him, thanks to his involvement n the corruption case, as as a whistleblower, dog, and maggot. 

As things turn out, rather than being a whistleblower committed to justice Hirsch is a decent bloke who has chosen not to do the wrong thing, been caught on the edge of the investigation, which is on going through the plot line and adds a further degree of tension, and is being made to pay in much the same way as he would have been if he’d turned the wrongdoers in himself.

That’s a distinction his small town colleagues aren’t inclined to make, so things work out the same regardless of whether he actually blew the whistle.

Three hours north of Adelaide, Tiverton is a townin the wheat and wool country south of the Flinders Range that’s doing it tough. Forty kilometres closer to the capital, Redruth is slightly larger, and boasts a three man one woman police operation with Hirsch’s boss Sergeant Kropp and his male offsiders having carved themselves a nice comfortable niche, going about what they see as their duty with the casual arrogance of people who know and get on with everyone who matters.

The rest of the population, ground down by isolation, lack of opportunity and shrinking incomes won’t get in the way,

Or rather, they won’t, if they know what’s good for them.

It’s a community of haves and have nots, and if you’re one of the latter you don’t want a ticket for speeding, driving under the influence or (believe it or not) jaywalking.


© Ian Hughes 2012