Gary Disher is one of Australia’s foremost crime novelists. His assured mastery of language together with driving plots that never skimp on those layers of complexity so important in a thumping good thriller, make reading Disher a treat. And his new stand-alone crime novel, Under the Cold Bright Lights, is exactly that – Disher at his classy best.
Set in Melbourne, Under the Cold Bright Lights boasts an outstanding cast of characters ably led by Acting Sergeant Alan Auhl. When Auhl rides the tram into work, ‘generalised anxiety’ rides with him. He still lives with his ex-wife off and on and the chill between them is all the more arctic for occasional moments of warmth.
After more than half-a-decade sabbatical, Auhl has rejoined the force, taking over the Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit. While he may be just a ‘retread’ to his colleagues, the old cop who’s always free to back up young detectives for more urgent cases has a wealth of knowledge that makes him the perfect candidate to work on unsolved crimes and come up with new leads.
He may be burnt-out. He may be troubled. He may be old. But one thing’s for sure, Auhl will stick to these cases until justice is done. One way or another.
Today he received his annual call from the Elphick sisters. It was October 14, the anniversary of the death of their father, John Elphick. And this morning Rose Elphick had made it clear that she wanted the cold case reopened.
There’s the skeleton found under a concrete slab, there for who knows how long? And the doctor who appears to have murdered again and again, and gotten away with it.
Cold crimes though they may be, Disher imbues Auhl’s relentless hunt for the truth with suspense and immediacy. Writing with a spareness associated with the finest crime prose, his descriptions make you shiver. Take this passage where the bare landscape becomes at once eerie and threatening:
‘They found themselves in a land not quite flat, the horizon barely decorated in any direction. Two extremes of human habitation: older gum trees, broad paddocks and cypress hedges marked the original farm homesteads.’
Disher has been credited with redefining Australian crime fiction and Under the Cold Bright Lights – with well-heeled gumshoe Auhl on the case – only adds to his already remarkable reputation.
‘Gary Disher has been giving us highly intelligent literary thrillers for decades and he gets better and better.’ the Australian newspaper.
‘A top-class writer.’ The Times.
About the author
Gary Disher is a talented and versatile writer, with almost 50 titles published. They include fiction, children’s books, anthologies, textbooks, the Wyatt thrillers and the Peninsula Crimes series. He has won many awards, including the German Crime Prize (three times) and two prestigious Ned Kelly Best Crime Novel awards.