The Dragon Man

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by Garry Disher

Detective Inspector Hal Challis has a good life on Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne. The ex-wife who had an affair and tried to have him killed is in jail now. When is has the time to relax, he’s restoring a World War II era de Havilland DH184.

His job as a homicide detective suits him. Although he has an office in regional headquarters, he spends most of his time in various Peninsula police stations working with local investigative teams solving homicide cases. The job is part diplomacy and part lead investigator.

 What a reader gets with this classic murder mystery is equally satisfying: the solving of a string of abductions and murders, complicated by community crime issues – arson, burglary, drunk driving and assault – investigated by an all-too human group of police officers facing their own burn-out, fizzling marriages, ambition and frictions with the community they are trying to protect.

After two women – Kymbly Abbot and Jane Gideon – are abducted along the Peninsula Highway, the heat is on to find a killer who seems to pick his victims at random, with no witnesses and leaving no clues.

When a bungled burglary turns into an assault, car theft and the burning of the get-away vehicle police find the first clues that ultimately lead them to a resolution. This is not a plot that breaks new ground, but the likeable Hal Challis, the realistic juxtaposition of unrelated events and the mingling of excellent investigators with bent ones creates an absorbing book. 

The scorching heat and drought of southern Australia adds to the atmosphere of the book. The location, at least to an American reader, is an interesting change from American big city crime novels. This is a book to put on your summer reading list.

Other books in the Inspector Challis and Destry series are:

  • Kittyhawk Down (2003). Hal’s friend and fellow aircraft restorer is murdered in a beach resort town. Complicating the investigation is the discovery of an unidentified corpse in the bay, stolen and torched cars and a missing toddler. Hal must sift through the clues to find which are relevant to which crime.
  • Snapshot (2005). Hal investigates the death of Australian social psychologist Janine McQuarrie, who is shot after she finally bows to the pressure of her husband to attend a spouse-swapping party. She also happens to be his boss’s daughter-in-law.
  • Chain of Evidence (2007). Hal returns to his boyhood home in Australia’s Outback, where his father is dying. Events from his past come back to threaten his life. Meanwhile, Sgt. Ellen Destry  is left to head the Peninsula’s Crime Investigation Unit and must find a little girl abducted from the fair grounds. This book was listed as a Best-Book-of-the-Year by Kirkus Reviews magazine.
  • Blood Moon (2009). Hal becomes romantically involved with his colleague Ellen Destry just as summer break hits and the community of Waterloo becomes a hotbed of petty crimes. A well-connected chaplain of a prestigious school is brutally beaten and a local official turns up dead. Will romance take their eyes off the job?  Will the job kill the romance?
  • Whispering Death (2011). Hal must capture a rapist who wears a police uniform, a serial armed robber and a female cat burglar. He is missing Ellen, who is on an overseas study tour, and his team has romantic and career struggles of their own.

The Author: Garry Disher

Born on a farm in South Australia, Garry Disher knew at an early age that he wanted to become a writer.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from Adelaide University and worked and travelled in the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa after graduation. When he returned to Australia, he earned a master’s degree in Australian history at Monash University in Victoria.

At the same time, he was writing short stories for competitions and literary magazines. On the basis of these,he was awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University.

A full-time writer since 1988, he has published nearly 50 books. His crime novels have earned an international reputation. He has done author tours in Germany, where he twice won a major crime fiction award and was a guest at the Munich and Cologne writers festivals, and in the United States in 2009.

In addition to the Challis and Destry series, Disher has written a series featuring Wyatt, a stand-along crime novel Bitter Wash Road; young adult fiction, children’s fiction; short-story anthologies; handbooks for writers; Australian history textbooks; and literary or general fiction novels for adults.

He, his partner and their daughter live on the Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne.


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