Thriller slithers into dark territory

Garry Disher's new thriller is a solid page-turner.

UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS
Garry Disher
Text Publishing

BY MIKE CROWL

Garry Disher, the author of about 50 books, fiction and non-fiction, has written a number of thrillers. This latest one concerns a semi-retired cop, Alan Auhl, who comes back to the force to do cold case work. He manages to get tied up in a few current cases as well, for better or worse.

The story begins with a large copperhead sliding across a young couple's property, freaking them out. The snake disappears down a hole in a concrete slab, but its presence there soon leads to the reopening of a decade-old cold case.

Disher gradually adds other plot lines and juggles them without difficulty. The interwoven stories provide plenty of twists and turns, and more than a few surprises.

The author's main characters are usually people of moral integrity, but here, Auhl's vigilante work in the second half of the book may leave the reader with mixed feelings. There's a kind of justification for what he does, as is the case with most of what vigilantes do, but is it the best course of action?

Disher is a master of concise writing, concise but not spare. Unlike the literary work Auhl is reading early in the book, this is not an ''exquisitely written novel in which nothing happen[s]'' but a good solid page-turner.

-Mike Crowl is a Dunedin author, musician and composer.

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