When Hirsch heads up Bitter Wash Road to investigate the gunfire he finds himself cut off without back-up. A pair of thrill killers has been targeting isolated farmhouses on lonely backroads, but Hirsch's first thought is that 'back-up' is nearby—and about to put a bullet in him.
That's because Hirsch is a whistleblower. Formerly a promising metropolitan officer, now demoted and exiled to a one-cop station in South Australia's wheatbelt. Called a dog by his brother officers. Threats; pistol cartridge in the mailbox.
But the shots on Bitter Wash Road don't tally with Hirsch's assumptions. The truth turns out to be a lot more mundane. And the events that unfold subsequently, a hell of a lot more sinister.
Disher does not disappoint
Bitter Wash Road is the eighteenth stand-alone novel by popular Australian author, Garry Disher. It has also been published under the title Hell To Pay. Not long after Constable Paul Hirschhausen has been banished to the small South Australian wheatbelt town of Tiverton for the unforgiveable (being a whistle-blower), he is called to attend an apparent hit-and-run. But, despite the scorn of his superiors, to Hirsch, something feels not quite right. And when, a few weeks later, he discovers the body of a woman who has committed suicide, he is again plagued with doubt.
In Hirsch, Disher has created a central character who is both likeable and believable, flawed yet principled. Disher expertly conveys the atmosphere of the outback town with evocative descriptions that will have the reader tasting the dust in the back of the throat and feeling the boredom and despair. His cast of townspeople will be familiar to anyone who has visited such a place.
Disher gives the reader an original plot that somehow realistically includes a network of paeophiles, a wind farm, an inheritance, some subtle (and not so subtle) threats, pair of fugitive murder-rapists, planted evidence, domestic violence, a pair of cops who delight in harassment of old people, young girls and aborigines, adultery, jealousy, football, drinking and brawling, and a red herring or two to keep everyone guessing. While this is a stand-alone novel, Hirschhausen is an appealing character of whom readers are bound to want more. Once again, Disher does not disappoint.