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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a Find!
This is an excellent police procedural written by an Australian author of whom I'd never heard. His main character, Challis, is the classic haunted, somewhat melancholy, yet very-advanced-in-rank-for-his-age detective. In spite of loneliness, a barren, dry summer, and a milktoast superior, he treats his fellow officers, witnesses, and suspects with respect and...
Published on October 16, 2004 by A Discerning Reader

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good sense of Australia, but too much coincidence
When a woman is abducted from the side of the road, Detective Inspector Hal Challis is called in. Another woman, a hitchhiker on the same highway, had recently been found murdered and Challis suspects a serial killer may be on the prowl. But the man is being careful, using gloves, condoms, and being careful to use no physical evidence behind him. Challis has little to go...
Published on November 12, 2004 by booksforabuck


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a Find!, October 16, 2004
By 
This is an excellent police procedural written by an Australian author of whom I'd never heard. His main character, Challis, is the classic haunted, somewhat melancholy, yet very-advanced-in-rank-for-his-age detective. In spite of loneliness, a barren, dry summer, and a milktoast superior, he treats his fellow officers, witnesses, and suspects with respect and understanding.

The setting is different from the NYC- or London-based crime thrillers--and the change in atmosphere is refreshing and adds to the atmosphere as both the summer heat and the townspeople's anxiety over a serial killer in their midst intensifies. The characters are carefully drawn and unique, ignoring the temptation to toss us the usual typecasts in a novel of this kind. Those who enjoy this genre will be happy to discover a great veteran author to explore.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich and complex, but no whodunit, June 13, 2005
The beachside town of Waterloo, Australia (just outside Melbourne) is in fear due to a rash of abductions and murders. Inspector Hall Challis and his band of stalwart, or rather somewhat self-seeking and leaning toward the corrupt, coppers must try to find the killer. Meanwhile, a rash of fires and burglaries complicate matters. This is not so much a police procedural as an ensemble piece, with rich, fully realized characters and strings of interconnecting plots and subplots. Each character, criminal and cop, has his or her own motivations and musings, and Disher creates a community that draws the reader in. As I said, it's not so much a whodunit - if Disher thinks the killer's identity, "revealed" abruptly in a two-page chapter, is meant to be a surprise, he's a bit off. But my pleasure in reading this book was not abetted one whit by the easy and early deduction of who the killer was; the real strength of this complex, captivating crime novel is its setting and sympathetic characters.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Mystery, Good Characters, Some Comedy, September 27, 2004
Detective Inspector Hal Challis and must find a serial killer. His task is being complicated by the letters the killer is sending to the local newspaper, which publishes them. These letters contain information that the police would rather keep confidential.

His personal life is being interrupted with phone calls from his ex-wife who through long distance phone calls is trying to put their marriabe back in place. She's calling from the sanitarium where she has been imprisoned for the past eight years for attempted murder -- his.

To 'help' him, Detective Challis has a crew of helpers. It's not at all certain that they are more help or trouble. You kind of think that some of them might do better if they were to join his ex in the loony bin. ==A good mystery, characters with depth, a moving plot line, with some comedy thrown in. A good read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great thriller to read during rainy weather, September 3, 2004
Gary Disher is a native Australia and presently lives on the Victorian Coast. A lifetime writer, he was a fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford in 1978. He has written and published novels, short stories, writing how to's, the Wyatt crime thrillers, the Personal Best anthologies, and children's books. He has been short-listed for several awards and was nominated for the Booker Prize in England.

Detective Inspector Challis lives a modest life, but is known as the "Dragon Man" to his officers. His "beat" is the Peninsula, a piece of seaside land east of Melbourne, and he is a veteran homicide investigator. He has a thing going with Tessa Kane, the local newspaperwoman, and they both wonder if they even like each other. As the tale begins two girls are found murdered, a week apart. Someone is torching mailboxes, and it seems that there is human misery all around, from the cop who has been seduced by a woman in the Witness Protection Program to the new female cop who has a crush on a surfing instructor. It seems that all involved are only human, even Challis himself:

"It was a clumsy insult, delivered with a grin of Christmas cheer. Challis wanted to say that some people had all the luck but let it go. People underestimated him, he knew that, and didn't care. They thought that a policeman who liked to restore old aeroplanes and had a wife who'd tried to have him shot was a man who would allow things to happen to him. A man destined to remain stuck where he was in the force, detective inspector, no higher."

The Dragon Man is a character-driven psycho-mystery that is as much about the policemen and policewomen themselves as it is about a murdering psychopath. Challis is an every man type of character who is likeable because of his expertise and self-knowledge. He keeps his crew calm, even as they each go through life's tribulations. He certainly has much to contend with, but the little mini-vignettes that Disher throws out intertwine with a plot that has many tentacles. Disher bites off a lot with this dark mystery, but manages to pull everything around to a great denouement and satisfying conclusion. This tale is a great thriller to read during rainy weather all wrapped up in a blanket by the fire with a dog or kitty nearby to render comfort.

Shelley Glodowski

Senior Reviewer
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine new Australian procedural, August 30, 2004
By 
In this series debut Australian Detective Inspector Hal Challis finds the dreaded Christmas season complicated by a serial killer arriving in the vanguard of the usual tourists on this coastal peninsula near Melbourne. A loner restoring a vintage "Dragon" airplane in his spare time, Challis endures almost daily phone calls from his disturbed wife, imprisoned after conspiring with her lover to murder him. A police officer doesn't have the luxury of screening his calls.

Point of view, while centered on Challis, shifts quickly among members of his team, as well as a local boy caught up in a crime spree, his pyromaniac bruiser of a mate, a New Zealand woman hiding from her past, and the killer.

The serial killer taunts the police in messages to the local newspaper. Challis' team, running down their few slim leads as well as handling the usual - from vandalized mailboxes to burglary, assault and arson - is a varied bunch. A brute-force constable is paired with a young woman whose ambitions he disparages; Sergeant van Alphen steals drugs to buy sex from the New Zealand woman, Sergeant Destry fends off her husband's bitterness and eyes the air-conditioning man, earnest Scobie Sutton worries about his daughter, and the boss, McQuarrie, sticks his nose in where it's least welcome. Challis, a newcomer to the Peninsula, a beautiful, insular place with the usual tensions between newcomer and native, has embarked on a touchy romance with the newspaper reporter.

The novel's character-driven pace moves along at a good clip as the cops become mired in red herrings, stumble over new information in unlikely places and keep on top of the normal mayhem. Award-winning author Disher makes his characters as interesting as his plot and the Australian setting is well realized.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down-under on top, July 31, 2006
This review is from: The Dragon Man (A Hal Challis Investigation) (Paperback)
Garry Disher has brought a colorful, atmospherically dense, thriller

to the bustling world of books of that genre.

The description of police procedures, everyday life in Victoria, combined with the haunting presence of a serial killer who seems to be breathing down everybodys' necks, distills down to a gripping read.

My first Australian thriller, my first Disher, and, on both counts, certainly not my last.

Great book !
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good sense of Australia, but too much coincidence, November 12, 2004
When a woman is abducted from the side of the road, Detective Inspector Hal Challis is called in. Another woman, a hitchhiker on the same highway, had recently been found murdered and Challis suspects a serial killer may be on the prowl. But the man is being careful, using gloves, condoms, and being careful to use no physical evidence behind him. Challis has little to go on, and a police force that seems filled with problems.

Although the murder(s) occupy much of Challis's time, everyday police work continues. A pair of firebugs who also burglarize homes becomes part of the plot as does a convicted sex offender who just might be the man they're looking for.

Author Garry Disher does a fine job setting the scene--in the Peninsula area of Australia, near Melbourne. Girls talk back to their mothers, female cops take surfing lessons and lust after their teenaged surfing instructor, a police Sergeant's marriage crumbles under the pressure of the police job, and a couple of cops decide to become more aggressive, looking at everyone as a criminal who just needs to be pushed to find the crime. His writing is smooth and manages just enough of the Australian dialect to have an exotic appeal to the non-Australian reader without being overwhelming.

The mystery, however, was a bit disjointed. The eventual resolution came about through multiple incredible coincidences rather than through police work, which weakened the story for me. Real-world policing does rely on luck and coincidence, but Disher carried things too far. Oddly, Hal Challis, the primary protagonist, was the least interesting of the major characters. Perhaps Disher would do better having surfer Pam Murphy as the protagonist of his next novel.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dreary..., September 29, 2004
By 
Reader (CT, United States) - See all my reviews
This book should have been good. There are several separate story lines interwoven around the main one which I expected would add depth, complexity and interest. Disher has the potential to paint a vivid picture of small town Australia. But somehow - for me, at least - it just never picked up any momentum. Many of the characters were under-developed and one- dimensional and some of the situations described were just implausible to me. It was obvious from quite early in the story who the serial killer was (there was no other convincing suspect!)and there was a total lack of suspense or tension for much of the narrative. The action did pick up a litle towards the end, but that didn't compensate for the dreary plod through the rest of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Dragon Man, August 29, 2013
FAST moving detective story set in a beach side Australian community, where young women start disappearing along Peninsula Highway. The lack of funds have cut back police staffing, the characters are well developed, for this small under-funded district. The regular coppers reflect the variety of people you would find in any company; the diligent, the incompetence, the less than moral and those who strive to be their best.
This was my first Inspector Challis Mystery, and certainly won't be my last. Well developed a plot that keeps you turning pages: I had no idea who the perpetrator was until the last pages. Good read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A book for the beach or holidays, January 6, 2003
By 
saliero (NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
Mildly diverting, a quick read. I picked the culprit from the first page of his appearance. Lots of read herrings - but you KNOW the characters with the records are the red herrings - don't you?
Some nice character development, but I am afraid the denoument lacked any surprise for me.
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The Dragon Man (A Hal Challis Investigation)
The Dragon Man (A Hal Challis Investigation) by Garry Disher (Paperback - July 1, 2005)
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