The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher

The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher
Publisher: The Text Publishing Company
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Set in a beach-shack town an hour from Melbourne, The Way It Is Now tells the story of a burnt-out cop named Charlie Deravin.

Charlie is living in his family’s holiday house, on forced leave since he made a mess of things at work.

Things have never been easy for Charlie. Twenty years earlier his mother went missing in the area, believed murdered. His father has always been the main suspect, though her body was never found.

Until now: the foundations are being dug for a new house on a vacant block. The skeletal remains of a child and an adult are found—and Charlie’s past comes crashing in on him.

Twenty years ago, Charlie Deravin’s mother went missing. His family was already in the middle of a divorce with clear lines drawn in the sand, yet this shattered what remained of the relationships between himself, his brother and his father. Now, on an enforced sabbatical from his own work in the Police force, Charlie has moved back into their old beach shack and had endless time on his hands and the threads of the past have come calling once again.

I really enjoy most of Garry Disher’s works – and am a huge fan of his Wyatt series. A strong Australian mystery writer I’ve seen him reviewed as “Rural Noir” and have to agree with this assessment. Disher writes exceptional mysteries – often set within small coastal Australian towns or the more rural outer reaches of civilization. I thoroughly enjoyed this stand-alone story and found it captivating almost from the first page. With a definite coastal/beachy feel and a good blend of rural and city life this book was really well balanced to my mind.

I enjoyed Charlie’s character, burnt out and mature enough to be relatable and realistic yet not gritty enough to be off-putting or depressing, I found myself enthralled. There were two very strong and well written plotlines – Charlie’s career and association with the Police, and Charlie slowly unpicking the events of the past that led to his mother’s disappearance. I strongly feel each aspect was well handled and both were given a good amount of attention so neither plot felt like it had been tacked on or not given proper attention.

Readers looking for a light or “happy” style of story probably won’t find themselves satisfied. While not dark or overly gritty I felt this book was definitely leaning more to the noir/harder side of mystery rather than a cozy or lighter piece. That said I in no way found this to be dark or true noir – this isn’t some moody or depressing mystery, but a really good balance between reality (the timeline goes until late February 2020 when Covid really began to get its grips in Australia) while maintaining an air of hopefulness. This is definitely Australian enough that while the plot is fully resolved there are – as there often is in British and Australian stories – a slight question mark left at the end as to which direction, exactly, our protagonist is going to take now the mystery is resolved.

I absolutely enjoyed this story and will be re-reading it again in the near future. It goes onto my keeper shelf, and I am very excited for what Disher might have in store for readers next. Recommended.

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