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FALLOUT
by Gary Disher
Soho Crime, July 2013
250 pages
$25.00
ISBN: 1616951036


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Gary Disher is one of those crime writers who seem able to produce one book after another that is full of smooth writing and fast action. Known best in the US for his Hal Challis police procedural series, he began his life of crime with a series about a cold-hearted career criminal named Wyatt. (He has also published literary fiction, non-fiction, and children's books.) American readers were introduced to the series in the roundabout way series from other countries wash up on our shores. Wyatt, winner of the Ned Kelly award for best Australian crime novel and the first to be published in the American market, was actually the seventh in the series. Soho has gone back to publish the fifth (PORT VILA BLUES) and now the sixth, FALLOUT. This can be a little dizzying particularly in the way it affects the relationship between Wyatt and a police detective, Liz Redding, for whom the status "it's complicated" is an understatement.

The book opens with a daring, cool-handed bank robbery, the latest in a series committed by a polite man with a gun dubbed "the bush bandit." His real name is Raymond and he keeps clippings about his exploits, wanting to be just like his uncle, the legendary thief Wyatt.

While Raymond gets a lead on some criminal possibilities, Wyatt is having problems of his own. He's decided he can't have a long-term relationship with a police officer, so he drugs Liz Redding, takes the jewels they stole, goes to fence them, and finds himself in the middle of a stakeout. He gets out of the scrape and is working out his next moves when he hears something utterly unexpected: "Uncle Wyatt!"

Raymond wants to impress his uncle and longs to work with him. Wyatt has always been a loner and isn't sure what to make of the grown child of his no-good brother and the feelings he stirs up. We get glimpses of Wyatt's past something he has done his best to leave behind.

There's a lot going on in this short book, including diving for treasure, planning the jailbreak of a violent criminal, a complicated art theft, and a lot of double-crossing. The plot (or plots) are all over the place, but the heart of the story in many ways is Raymond's need to be respected by his uncle, Wyatt's uncomfortable brush with human relationships, and how the choices these men make define their identity and place in the world. It's a clever, bleak look at how men who don't want to be entangled in social convention set up endless snares for themselves.

The heart-in-your-mouth conclusion is reminiscent of a John D. MacDonald adventure, men brutishly stalking one another in a fight to the finish, reduced to their elemental masculine nature. Though Wyatt is a cool and clever anti-hero, it's hard escape the conclusion that being a criminal is an awful lot of work.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, July 2013

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