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The Dragon Man


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The problem with reading lots of crime fiction is that, after a while, plots are easy to anticipate, murderers can be identified early in the text and protagonists often conform to the same character profile. This makes for frustrating reading, even if the avid reader has an enjoyable time setting `personal best' targets for how early in the text he or she guesses whodunit. Gary Disher's latest offering is one of these titles. This is unfortunate, as Disher is a classy writer whose prose deserves a better plot and whose main character deserves fleshing out. Set on Melbourne's Mornington Peninsula, The Dragon Man covers the investigation of a series of murder-rapes. The bodies of two young female victims have already been found and Detective Inspector Hal Challis and Sergeant Ellen Destry are out to find the person responsible before he strikes again. With a number of subplots, including the ubiquitous marriage on the rocks and a threat to one of the copper's loved ones, The Dragon Man keeps, rather than grips, the reader's attention. The first in a new series from the author of the Wyatt thrillers, let's hope that the Dragon Man's next case holds at least a few surprises. Virginia Maxwell is a Melbourne-based reviewer. C. 1999 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

Australian author Disher delivers an intelligent, atmospheric police procedural, the first of a new series. A serial killer targeting young women along the isolated Old Peninsula Highway has baffled Detective Inspector Hal Challis and his staff. Himself a resident of the Peninsula, as the locals call the sleepy "comma of land hooking into the sea south-east of Melbourne," Challis leads a solitary life. We soon learn that his wife Angela has spent the last seven years in prison for conspiring with her lover to murder him. Nicknamed "the dragon man," Challis in his spare time obsessively restores a vintage airplane, a Dragon Rapide. Indeed, as we meet the other police officers, it becomes clear that they're as interesting, not to mention as complex and morally ambiguous, as any of the criminals they seek. Pam Murphy, for instance, is an idealistic young constable recovering from a car crash and a nervous breakdown, and Sergeant Kees van Alphen raids the evidence locker for cocaine, which he trades for sex. Fans of such gritty yet cerebral crime novelists as Ian Rankin and Jack Harvey should be well pleased. (Aug. 15) Forecast: Disher's literary standing (his novel The Sunken Road was nominated for the Booker Prize), Soho's reputation for quality (a Soho title won the Edgar for Best First Novel this year) and increasing U.S. interest in foreign crime writers all bode well for sales. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

In small-town, southeastern Australia, Detective Inspector Challis and cohorts investigate a serial murderer preying on single women. Before the most recent victim is found, a local reporter receives a letter alluding to her death and to an expected next killing. The usual departmental complications ensue: public resentment of a hard-nosed constable, a problematic investigator who steals drugs for a new-found lover, a resident sex offender, and youngish vandals/burglars. Disher's solid prose connects the fascinating subplots, all centered on the fair-minded, airplane-restoring protagonist. A new award-winning Australian series for all collections. [Previewed in Mystery Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.] Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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