Port Vila Blues
A Wyatt Wareen Mystery by Garry Disher
Review: It's an easy job: stealing a $25,000 cash kickback to a local politician from a safe within her home. But when Wyatt sees a valuable brooch inside the safe, he figures it's a bonus, taking it as well … setting off a chain reaction that leads to a showdown on the island of Vanuatu in Port Vila Blues, the fifth mystery in this series by Garry Disher but only the second to be published in the US.
The fence his partner chooses to handle the brooch happens to be an insurance company go-between. It turns out that the brooch, a rare Tiffany piece, was recently stolen and the insurer would rather pay a "finder's fee" than pay out the insured value. But the fact that the brooch has surfaced is noted by the thieves, who stole in the first place. Since they haven't been paid by their handler yet, they assume they've been cheated … and make plans to get their fair share. They don't know Wyatt's role in all this, but assume he's better off out of the picture than in it … and take steps to make that happen, too.
There are no distracting backstories, no narrative-filling side trips, nothing here but a straight-to-it caper-style crime novel. And it's a very good one, indeed. As good as the story is, however, it is really the character of Wyatt himself that makes it all work. He is looking to retire from the business, but needs the money to help support his partner in crime, who is dying. He also laments the new generation of thieves, who lack style: The old ways were gone, it seemed. Men like him — private, professional, meticulous — were anachronistic in a world given over to impulse and display. The irony is not lost on the reader here, as it was the impulsive act of Wyatt taking the brooch in the first place that got him into the present situation.
If there's anything amiss here, it is a sense that these books should be read in order. Port Vila Blues can readily be enjoyed as a stand-alone, but there seems to be an overall character arc that suggests there is more — far more — to Wyatt than what is shown here. Just one of many reasons, perhaps, to look forward to the next book.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of Port Vila Blues for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Soho Crime (Hardcover), August 2011
ISBN-13: 9781569479629; ISBN-10: 1569479623
Soho Crime (Hardcover), December 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616951740; ISBN-10: 1616951745
Location(s) referenced in Port Vila Blues: Australia; Vanuatu
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Port Vila Blues by Garry Disher — A Wyatt Wareen Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: August 2012
List Price: $25.00