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Chain of Evidence by Garry Disher
From the Dustjacket
Ten-year-old Katie Blasko is missing.
Detective Sergeant Ellen Destry, alert to rumours of a paedophile ring operating on the Peninsula, is thinking abduction. Her colleagues are thinking bad family, truancy. Her boss is thinking about the media. And everyone, including Ellen, is wondering whether she is good enough to handle this without D.I. Challis.
But Hal Challis is a thousand kilometres away, watching his father die. Ellen Destry's running the show on her own. And if she's right, Katie Blasko may be running out of time.
Publisher :Text Publishing
First published : 2007
ISBN : 9781921145414
No. Pages : 375 pages
The Peninsula East police station has seen some challenging cases over the years, but each of them have been led by Inspector Hal Challis. In Chain of Evidence the 4th book in the police procedural series Challis is away on extended leave when a case breaks and it's left to Detective Sergeant Ellen Destry to take charge. In a master stroke author Garry Disher has freshened up an already strong series sharing the focus on a character who until now was merely a bit player.
The disappearance of Katie Blasko has the entire Peninsula community buzzing with uncertainty. Did she run away or was she abducted, no one's really sure. As far as Sergeant Ellen Destry is concerned she is leading an abduction investigation her first in the role. With Hal Challis away, she feels the sting of uncertainty with her superintendent counting the pennies and fronting the media at every opportunity and her fellow sergeants waiting for her to make a mistake. Ellen needs every break possible to go her way.
Rumours of a paedophile group operating in the Peninsula region have been floating around for some time and this case causes that rumour to flare up with the hope that Katie's simply a runaway dimming. Haunting Ellen's every decision is the image of Katie Blasko being held and abused while she and her team stumble around.
The floodgates of intrigue and speculation open and it seems that the quiet Peninsula district is about to have all of its scabby sores picked open. The Jarretts, a local family of petty criminals that has been terrorising their neighbourhood make their presence felt with increasing frequency and will prove to become vital to the case, the stink of police corruption will surface and Ellen will understand just how lonely it can be leading a police investigation while weighed down by the burden of expectation.
Her job isn't made any easier thanks to a cost cutting exercise by her superior which has resulted in the forensic work being outsourced to a privately operated forensic laboratory instead of their usual government one. Sloppy procedures leads to contamination of evidence and growing frustration for the rookie team leader.
The major point of interest for followers of the series is the prominent role of Ellen Destry due to Hal Challis' absence. The reason behind his absence is that he has returned to his home town of Mawsons Bluff in South Australia to be with his dying father. But true to his inquisitive nature he manages to become an unwanted participant in his own investigation, this one a murder.
Garry Disher has taken his quality police procedural series, one that has already benefited from a distinctive setting and dramatic characterisations and given it one almighty shake. There is no doubt that the Challis and Destry series has been freshened up by the prominent role given to Ellen Destry here. She has a similar yet different outlook on policing and brings a whole raft of personal issues to the job. Add to that the promise of a growing attraction and there is much to look forward to in future books.
Moving on to the remaining members of the Peninsula East CIU and I was struck by an unusual feature about the station. Usually when reading a police procedural you are impressed by the great teamwork that goes on within the investigative unit as they efficiently go about working the case. This can't be said of the Peninsula East CIU with each officer either more intent on their own personal agendas or harbouring simmering resentments against their colleagues. This is a far from cohesive unit which makes for some very unpredictable results.
As a matter of fact, there is a definite underlying feeling of contempt running right through Chain of Evidence. Sure, there's the usual antagonism between the police and criminals, but it runs even deeper than that with police against police and even police against forensics technicians. It gives the story an edginess, a feeling that we are only moments away from a fearful explosion of emotion. And this feeling even travels all the way to Mawson's Bluff.
What was already a strong series has been even further enhanced by the addition of Chain of Evidence. With its evocative themes, expanded character viewpoints and Disher's wonderfully described settings, the release of each book in the series is becoming an increasingly anticipated event. When Hal Challis returns to the Peninsula he will find things much changed.
Note: Chain of Evidence was awarded the Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel in 2007
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