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    Review of THE DRAGON MAN by Garry Disher


    Soho, 1999 (2004 in the US)

    When a woman is abducted from the side of the road, Detective Inspector Hal Challis is called in. Another woman, a hitchhiker on the same highway, had recently been found murdered and Challis suspects a serial killer may be on the prowl. But the man is being careful, using gloves, condoms, and being careful to use no physical evidence behind him. Challis has little to go on, and a police force that seems filled with problems.

    Although the murder(s) occupy much of Challis's time, everyday police work continues. A pair of firebugs who also burglarize homes becomes part of the plot as does a convicted sex offender who just might be the man they're looking for.

    Author Garry Disher does a fine job setting the scene--in the Peninsula area of Australia, near Melbourne. Girls talk back to their mothers, female cops take surfing lessons and lust after their teenaged surfing instructor, a police Sergeant's marriage crumbles under the pressure of the police job, and a couple of cops decide to become more aggressive, looking at everyone as a criminal who just needs to be pushed to find the crime. His writing is smooth and manages just enough of the Australian dialect to have an exotic appeal to the non-Australian reader without being overwhelming.

    The mystery, however, was a bit disjointed. The eventual resolution came about through multiple incredible coincidences rather than through police work, which weakened the story for me. Real-world policing does rely on luck and coincidence, but Disher carried things too far. Oddly, Hal Challis, the primary protagonist, was the least interesting of the major characters. Perhaps Disher would do better having surfer Pam Murphy as the protagonist of his next novel.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 11/12/04

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