A Hal Challis Mystery by Garry Disher
Review: Melbourne police inspector Hal Challis has plenty to keep him busy after his lady friend leaves to attend a two month training course in London, what with a serial rapist on the loose and a mysterious series of burglaries that have little in common other than a prominent size eleven shoe print left at the scenes in Whispering Death, the sixth mystery in this series by Garry Disher.
The rapist has either gotten sloppy or has decided to escalate the severity of his crimes: his latest victim is dead. The bodies are all thoroughly washed, leaving virtually no forensic evidence to find. But what may be most troubling to Challis and his team is that the women who survived claim it was a police officer who raped them, a man in uniform and driving what appeared to be an unmarked cruiser. Separately, there is a rash of burglaries to investigate, all apparently professionally done with few clues to go on except for the appearance of an identical shoe print at each of the sites, a man's shoe and yet the only person anyone can remember being in the area around the time of the crime was a woman. Both cases seem to be moving forward hardly at all, a fact that Challis's superiors are not shy about reminding him.
Whispering Death is, for the most part, a police procedural that spends much of the early going simply setting up the crimes and introducing the large cast of characters. It's slow going at times. The rape investigation takes center stage for much of the first half and is really not all that interesting. It's a whodunit with little foundation and when the attacker is finally identified it is as much a relief for the reader as it is for the police investigating the crimes. Indeed, this whole investigation could have been excised from the book with absolutely no loss of continuity. The burglary storyline, on the other hand, is absolutely riveting. It's known whodunit from the very beginning, but the character involved — it's not a spoiler to say it's a woman — is so well drawn and creatively developed that it completely captures the reader's imagination. And the best part is that as the plot unfolds, it gets better and better and ends on a remarkably high note. It's not at all clear why the author chose to interweave these two investigations into a single book, but it is definitely worth putting up with the tedium of the rape investigation in order to follow along with the master thief as she goes about her business.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of Whispering Death for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Port Vila Blues
Soho Crime (Hardcover), August 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616951016; ISBN-10: 161695101X
Location(s) referenced in Whispering Death: Melbourne, Australia
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Whispering Death by Garry Disher — A Hal Challis Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: December 2012
List Price: $25.00