Review: Bitter Wash Road

Bitter Wash Road
Bitter Wash Road by Garry Disher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the first of Disher’s crime novels that I’ve read, and it probably won’t be the last. I’ve enjoyed his YA work in the past, and this very recent publication confirms Disher as one of Australia’s better novelists. What I particularly like about Disher is the way he brings his settings to life – without getting bogged down in tedious description like so many writers. This book is set in rural South Australia, where the author grew up, so it is not surprising that he can describe the harsh surroundings accurately; but it takes great skill to make the reader feel as though they are there.

I’m not going to bother with a plot summary here. It would be difficult to summarise this story without giving too much away – there are a few seemingly insignificant incidents that assume greater importance as the novel unfolds (isn’t that always the case with this genre?) so a summary might spoil the next reader’s experience. The narrative is fast-paced, with a new lead or clue every few pages, but we rarely get the impression that the action is contrived. There were a few incidents that seemed a little too serendipitous, but the explanations are in the end satisfactory. The characters are mostly believable, though a few are one-dimensional (Andrewartha and Nicholson are probably the worst examples).

The language is often very coarse, and some readers may find this a problem, but it is authentic. The conversations would seem unrealistic if sanitised. There is violence, gore, sex, but nothing gratuitous. International readers may be confused by the names of some vehicles, foods and other items well-known to Australians – it will be interesting to see if any of these are changed for editions in other countries.

I read this book as an eBook, thanks to my local library and the Axis 360 lending platform. It’s a great way to read crime fiction. Any time I needed to be reminded where I’d met a character before, I just searched for the name. This didn’t help me solve the mystery of course! Some of my initial suspicions were confirmed, but there were enough twists and surprises to keep me interested until the last page.

View all my reviews

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