Sunday, 10 July 2011

Given the fact that the Inter-Library Loan turned out not being an option, and with no visit to the Gold Coast with the subsequent opportunity to check whether there's a copy in the library there, reading the Challis and Destry novels in sequence meant I was going to have to buy a copy, and a visit to Fishpond produced a US hardback copy from the Soho Crime imprint.

After The Dragon Man and Kittyhawk Down there are a couple of developing inter-personal loose ends that need tidying, and while Snapshot doesn't quite deliver Inspector Challis and Detective Sergeant Ellen Destry into a relationship you can see that's where they're going to end up eventually. Whether that'll be an on-going concern is anybody's guess.

Snapshot starts with a rather clever bit of reader manipulation, with psychological counsellor Janine McQuarrie generating a fair degree of reader sympathy as we learn that having succumbed to her husband's pressure and joined in the erotic adventures on the Mornington Peninsula swingers' circuit she's apparently found the prospect of true love elsewhere.

She's driving her seven-year-old daughter around with her on a pupil-free day as she muses on these matters, before being shot in an obvious contract hit outside a rundown weatherboard house on a quiet country road near Penzance Beach. The daughter would have died as well, but the hit man's pistol misfires.

You get an inkling that she's not quite the assassinated innocent from the fact that she has just posted off some photos from the most recent orgy to several male participants, including her husband. Police inquiries reveal she's not that popular with colleagues or clients either, so there are plenty of possible motives for the hit.

There's also an additional complication since she's the daughter-in-law of Hal Challis' boss Detective Superintendent McQuarrie, who's inclined to meddle even when he's not personally linked to a case. His son, of course, has to be a prime suspect, but he's hardly the only one, and Dad seems more interested in protecting the son than finding the killer.

The reader already knows who carried out the hit, so there's the regular challenge of spotting the way Disher's going to line things up for a solution as the hit man receives frequent instructions via text messages from an anonymous employer and goes about removing various figures around the periphery of the case whose continued existence could prove problematic.

Along the way, as things unfold there are the interpersonal dynamics that drive a good series, both inside Waterloo Police Station and among the officers' nearest and dearest.

Detective Sergeant Destry's marriage continues to disintegrate. Well-meaning Sergeant Scobie Sutton continues to extol the wonders of his ten year old daughter to an uninterested audience while his wife gets the chop from her welfare job with the notification arriving via email. Constables Pam Murphy and John Tankard still manage to only just tolerate each other as they drive a sports car around the district in a public relations exercise, rewarding courteous drivers with bags of goodies.

As has been the case through the other Disher titles I've read, the author integrates these elements seamlessly, switching perspective adroitly and sketching in any relevant details where they need to sneak in without disrupting the flow of the on-going narrative. That means you can read his work out of sequence, handy in a world where some of the earlier titles might not be that easy to track down in your local bookshop, though it also means you aren't going to get the unfolding interpersonal dynamics in quite the same way.

That's a significant consideration because it's the characters as much as the deftness with which Disher manipulates the elements in his plot line that are likely to bring the reader back to line up for the next one in the series. 

Disher's success in that regard can be gauged from the fact that within twenty-four hours of finishing Snapshot I had borrowed Chain of Evidence from the local library, knocking it over within a day, and if it's more than twenty-four hours before I'm queueing up for their copy of Blood Moon that'll only be because I've got a Shane Maloney Murray Whelan trilogy and another title I borrowed at the same time as Chain of Evidence.

© Ian Hughes 2012