Bitter-Wash

The press release promised a new Rebus: quite something to live up to. The classic ‘cop who wants to do the right thing but never follows orders’ character is frequently done, but personally I can’t get enough of protagonists who endanger their careers, and sometimes lives, for the sake of doing the job well.

Hirsch is a whistle-blower. Formerly a promising metropolitan officer, now hated and despised. Exiled to a one-cop station in South Australia’s wheatbelt. Threats. Pistol carriage in the mailbox.

So when he heads up Bitter Wash Road to investigate gunfire and finds himself cut off without backup, there are two possibilities. Either he’s found the fugitive killers thought to be in the area. Or his ‘backup’ is about to put a bullet in him.

He’s wrong on both counts. But the events that unfold turn out to be a hell of a lot more sinister.

Hmm, an intriguing storyline. Dude who’s been exiled by his colleagues fights against police corruption. One of my favourite tropes.

It wasn’t bad, by any means, but somehow it read like a debut novel. Apparently it’s not, though. I felt that if the storyline had just been a little tighter, the characters fleshed out a little more, this could have gone from being a book I put down three quarters of the way through and then couldn’t remember whether I’d finished, to being a tense joyride. Or maybe more of a car chase.

The story has potential, the character could be interesting, but he’s no John Rebus. Still, I’d be interested to see what Garry Disher publishes in the future; I have a feeling this author’s works are going to get better with time.

Watch Your Back by Karen Rose
Watch Your Back by Karen Rose

I love Karen Rose’s books because you always know what you’re getting. Strong woman who’s having a really crap time meets strong man who wants to help her, won’t let him, they both get injured (literally and metaphorically) in the process, and eventually end up together.

Nice, easy books. Thick but quick (didn’t sound quite so euphemistic in my mind…), unchallenging, loveable characters and gripping plotlines.

Watch Your Back sounded pretty much the same as all the rest:

Stevie Mazzetti knew she would never get over the murder of her husband and son. But with their killer behind bars she was able to move on with her life, if only for her daughter’s sake.

Now, eight years later, the Baltimore detective always fights for the victims she meets and when she learns that her ex-partner may have miscarried justice, Stevie’s determined to right the wrong, even if it means she is in danger.

Clay Maynard has always wanted Stevie and he believes that protecting her may give him the chance to keep her in his life forever. With a vicious psychopath on Stevie’s tail, can they stay alive long enough to find the happiness they deserve?

…but it wasn’t, it was better. Because of the twist.

I don’t generally expect huge twists from Rose’s books, just good solid action-thrillers, so when the police sketch artist finally got around to drawing the victim’s interpretation of the person behind the whole setup, I thought I knew who it was and was ready to not be surprised. This wouldn’t have made the book disappointing at all, because I wasn’t expecting it in the first place. But Rose drew out the suspense for a couple more chapters, until I actually quite wanted to find out, just for the pleasure of scratching that itch, even though I knew who’d be on the piece of paper.

It wasn’t, though. I’d guessed wrong. As a veteran crime fiction reader, this almost never happens. I actually looked up from the book for a moment, raised my glass and toasted the author from afar: “Karen Rose, you have surpassed yourself”. And I found myself a little choked up, because it was just so horrible, but so realistic.

I love realistic horrible things. Not when they’re really horribly happening to me, but when they’re happening in books.

Ms. Rose, thank you for this book, it’s excellent. I’m now looking forward to your next one even more than I already was.

Verdict: