'A straightforward police story with a terrific plot, nuanced characters and solid procedures, served up on refreshing new turf. Done with smooth, assured mastery.' - New York Times
'Not much needs saying about Garry Disher's The Dragon Man, except that, if you like police procedurals at all, you'll love this one. Set in the heat of a rural Australian Christmas, it sees DI Hal Challis and a large but completely individualised cast of coppers investigate crimes major and minor. It's not far from perfect--I just hope that publishers Bitter Lemon have bought the sequel.'- Morning Star
'Challis is a fine creation: strong and resourceful, yet with enough human frailty to satisfy the tastes of readers raised on Connelly, Rankin or Patricia Cornwell. This is intelligent, well-crafted fare, enlivened by a sharp awareness of society and the dark undercurrents beneath it.' - West Australian
'From the brilliant Bitter Lemon Press a new detective-Hal Challis. The first one, drunk, half-drugged and hitch-hiking, hadn't been a challenge at all. At least tonight the killer had to use his head a little, his headlights probing the darkness as he carried her away. It's summer on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne and the holiday madness is building. And now Detective Inspector Challis has a serial killer to catch. As fear hangs over the area, the media demands answers…and Challis's sleepy beat explodes. Cerebral crime fiction.'- Belfast Telegraph
'An intelligent, atmospheric police procedural...Fans of such gritty yet cerebral crime novelists such as Ian Rankin and Jack Harvey should be well pleased.' - Publishers Weekly
'It's nearly Christmas and small-town Australia definitely isn't the place to be. The weather is sweltering, the police are an unpopular bunch - and they don't seem to be able to stop young women being abducted on a remote country road. Inspector Hal Challis has the dubious honour of heading this motley crew of cops. He's a gloomy sort of chap, living out by himself and keeping clear of his neighbours where possible. We soon find out that it's quite reasonable for him to be a little less than chipper as his wife tried to have him killed - and she's now in prison and rings him somewhat too often for chats. His sergeant, Ellen Destry, isn't a bundle of laughs either. She's got a grumpy traffic cop husband who resents the fact his wife's career is advancing quicker than his, a sulky teenage daughter and a sweltering house.
So that nice air-conditioning engineer looks attractive on several fronts! Meanwhile, Constable John 'Tank' Tankard enforces the law rather too enthusiastically, and now has the residents of the Peninsula baying for his blood. And dour sergeant Kees van Alphen finds himself in deep trouble with a mysterious femme fatale (or as near as you'll get to one in rural Oz!) The townspeople aren't what you'd call charmers either. There's the obligatory 'print and be damned' journalist, a sex offender, a snooty solicitor, some dregs of the gene pool arsonists and petty criminals, and a mysterious Kiwi woman with a new identity.
THE DRAGON MAN - the title comes from Challis's sideline of restoring an old aeroplane - is high on atmosphere, if low on characters you'd want to spend any time with. Challis is an honest and persistent cop, but any sympathy for Ellen goes out of the window when she commits a stupid act at a crime scene. And spotting whodunit isn't exactly strenuous. But that said, THE DRAGON MAN is a tightly-written and engrossing book, with an intense and claustrophobic feel to it, and it's good to see that the series is finally available in the UK.'- reviewingtheevidence
'None for some time - and then two come along together. Australians of course. Unlike Peter Temple however, Mr Disher is on a return trip. Perhaps best known in the UK for his series of Richard Stark-inspired Wyatt novels (or for his wonderfully titled collection of crime short stories Straight, Bent and Barbara Vine), this one is rather different. It's the first in a series featuring Detective Inspector Hal Challis and Sergeant Ellen Destry, and it's a serial killer novel.- Tangled Web
Yes, I know. But this was first published in Australia back in 1999, so perhaps he can be forgiven. Besides there are none of the excesses and few of the clichés of the genre. Taunting notes to the police do feature (as in many a real-life case) as well as an opening chapter in italics (a device thankfully used only twice more). Instead we get a beautifully plotted police novel, atmospheric, packed with incident and awash with living, breathing characters.
It's Christmas on the Peninsula, an area south east of Melbourne, slowly changing under the impact of tourism. In Waterloo, one of the main towns in the area, local hoods amuse themselves with low-level burglaries and by setting mail-boxes on fire. Hal Challis is a CIB senior homicide investigator (presumably the Criminal Investigation Bureau - it is never explained), assigned to the local uniformed branch to investigate an abduction. It is he who is the Dragon Man, so-called because of his obsessive if therapeutic restoration of a de Havilland Dragon Rapide, a short-haul passenger aeroplane of the 1930s (cf the part-time cabinet-making of Peter Temple's Jack Irish). Ellen Destry is the CIB local officer. And can that abduction be connected to the recent rape and murder of another young woman in the area?
Disher is a class act. The cops are a varied and well-characterised bunch: one a bully, for instance, another a philanderer, another teaching herself surfing as therapy after an accident. Disher's female characters (Pam Murphy the fledgling surfer amongst them) in particular are deftly and effectively evoked. Plotting and pacing are top-notch. This book won the 2002 Deutsche Krimi Preis, one of Germany's major crime awards. It is well worth seeking out.'
'The Dragon Man is unquestionably Disher's masterpiece, an astonishingly told caper that's tough, tender, poignant and totally captivating.' - Age