Disher is a new author for me, and this is his latest book and winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction 2010.
The book’s opening sets the scene – “Wyatt was waiting to rob a man of $75,000.” – and it is through this bungled heist that we meet the protagonist, a fearfully calm and reassured man called Wyatt. What we come to learn about him, we gather only from his actions as he is as illusive and mysterious a character as I have ever encountered. He is swift, invisible, a chameleon and incredibly readable!
Wyatt encounters a range of people in this book, some more interesting than others. There is a prostitute, a thug, a police detective and a Frenchman who is a worthy opponent. Of course, there is also the necessary love interest.
However, while this tale could read like trashy crime fiction, it is actually brilliantly written and filled with a dynamism that I have rarely encountered in this genre. Disher does a magnificent job of describing Melbourne and clearly has a keen sense of the place. He takes us through her streets, down her dark alleyways and into her parks. It is a fascinating journey, impeccably narrated and wonderfully layered.
Obviously, the book is filled with the obligatory crime action of sex, drugs and a series of murders and this ensures that the plot is fast paced and quite twisted (I mean this in a positive way!)
The Australian says that Wyatt “simply has to be read in one sitting” and I can certainly attest to that (although it took me two sittings). I normally enjoy a good crime thriller, but this one has far exceeded my expectations and I dare confess that I might be a new Garry Disher fan … Is there going to be a sequel???
The premise of this book fascinated me: an insight into the lives of the writers and readers of an international newspaper based in Rome. The novel is structured across two histories. Firstly, the personal history of each of the characters, all somehow connected to the newspaper. These chapters are then interspersed with the history of the newspaper itself, which we find out was founded by a multi-millionaire as a statement of love for a woman he couldn’t have.
Rachman’s intention here is noble, huge, in fact and I am not sure that he entirely succeeds. The newspaper is fascinating and the history of its creation and creator very readable. Likewise, each of the characters is well constructed, realistically confounded and very worthy of the readers’ empathy.
However, each of these strands of narrative is left hanging, readers unsure of the outcome of the individual stories. While this is clearly partly Rachman’s purpose to unsettle the reader, it leaves an unsatisfactory taste of transitoriness in the reader’s mouth. There were moments in this book where I felt somehow cheated by this author, robbed of some need to know what happened to these partly developed characters and narratives. Indeed, there were things that I didn’t appreciate; moments where I felt that Rachman had stolen part of the joy of reading from me.
This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book, because I did. I was captivated by Abbey and Herman and Lloyd and Winston and Craig and Kathleen and the Ott empire – just to mention a few! I desperately wanted to know more, wanted to read further into their lives and experiences. I think it is was the fact that I was actually enjoying Rachman’s world that lead me to feel disappointed by this book. Perhaps, had it been a series of short stories my expectations would have been different.