Chain of Evidence

Monday, 11 July 2011

One of the attractions about reading a series in sequence lies in the speculation regarding future directions the interpersonal relationships between the key players is going to unfold, and having scanned the blurb on the back of the local library's copy of Blood Moon (purely to check where it fitted into the sequence, you understand) I knew that Hal Challis and Ellen Destry were due to become an item, though that hasn't quite transpired yet. At the same time you can see Disher setting things up so they'll end up there.

Chain of Evidence opens with Challis off the scene called to his ailing father's bedside and finding some family history to keep him occupied as the inevitable decline takes its toll.

That leaves Ellen Destry in charge of the Peninsula East CIU. After the  breakup of her marriage, with the daughter away at University and Challis away there's a certain logic in having her house sit his temporarily vacant home. After all, she needs to live somewhere, and it gives her an excuse to be there when Challis gets back.

Along the way, with the daughter on site after breaking up with the boyfriend and freaking out in the pre-exam swot vac, Disher has the ex-husband arrive on the doorstep, taking daughter Larrayne out for a Thai dinner where he breaks the news that Dad's got a girlfriend.

It's a case of removing the obstacles one by one, after Challis' ex-wife's suicide in prison and the death of newspaper editor Tessa Kane at the hands of Snapshot's hitman and although those matters remain unconsummated at the end of Chain of Evidence the reader gets the feeling that it's only a matter of time before they are.

But that's very much a side issue as Challis delves into his brother-in-law's disappearance and Ellen Destry is faced with the abduction of ten-year-old Katie Blasko. Katie has, however, been known to wander, but having the benefit of inside information the reader's fully aware that there's a paedophile on the loose, and there are early clues that he's part of an organized ring.

Disher works this kind of thing well, with the reader knowing enough of what's going on to appreciate touches like Scobie Sutton's growing awareness of how close his adored daughter may have come to sharing Katie's fate while still leaving room for a sting in the tail of the tale as police corruption issues rise to the surface.

That's because we've actually got three intertwined plot lines here.

There's Challis, at Mawson's Bluff in the back blocks of South Australia with time on his hands and an unexplained family mystery. His brother-in-law, a warden with the RSPCA has disappeared in circumstances that would suggest suicide if it wasn't for the fact that his assumed widow has been receiving unexplained items through the mail.

Destry has the Blasko abduction to pursue, and is forced to do that in an environment where the operational budget is being closely monitored by  Detective Superintendent McQuarrie and the forensic work has been outsourced to a privately operated laboratory where careless procedures leads to contaminated evidence.

And there are other issues within the Waterloo police station, apart from the third element, an on-going frustration at their inability to come up with a conviction that will start to break up the malevolent influence of the Jarretts, a family of petty criminals terrorising their neighbourhood.

Throw in significant professional jealousy in an environment where the uniforms aren't impressed by the rise of the female detectives and each officer has their own personal agenda and, in most cases, some long-simmering resentment against one or more of their colleagues. Those issues aren't helped when details of the Blasko case are leaked to a TV current affairs show, which the reader knows is due to cash-strapped Constable John Tankard's discovery that his dream car is an unroadworthy lemon that'll cost an arm and a leg to fix up and has already produced a hefty hire purchase debt.

All in all, while we're looking at a police procedural much of the difficulty in the course of the multiple investigations stems from the inability of those involved to follow the appropriate procedures in an environment where personal agendas get right in the way of team cohesion. 

© Ian Hughes 2012