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The Dragon Man (Inspector Challis #1)

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  538 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
Meet Hal Challis, Detective for the Mornington Peninsula police force in Southeast Australia, in the first investigation in this prize-winning crime series

A serial killer is on the loose in a small coastal town near Melbourne, Australia. Detective Inspector Hal Challis and his team must apprehend him before he strikes again. But first, Challis has to contend with the edi
Paperback, 239 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Soho Crime (first published 1999)
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Australian Crime Fiction
8th out of 200 books — 96 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,226)
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Detective Inspector Hal Challis was finding the drought tiring – not a lot of water left in his rainwater tanks, almost none in his underground tanks; he didn’t want to buy water again. But the musings on his water problems were soon drowned out by his concern over the latest abduction. A second young woman had been taken and his feeling was that there was a serial killer in their area – they hadn’t linked it to the first one yet, but he didn’t like coincidences…

His small town of Waterloo, not a
May 26, 2015 Trish rated it really liked it
This first novel of the Hal Challis series by Garry Disher is disturbing. The setting is The Peninsula, a spit of land on the outskirts of Melbourne in Victoria State. It is described as dry, perhaps even a little barren, and susceptible to drought and fire. Paradoxically it is surrounded by water on three sides--the kind of environs that gives us, in this age of global warming and extreme weather, immediate pause and a sense of foreboding. It is near a major city but removed from its hustle. It ...more
Oct 18, 2013 Maddy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2004-reads

Garry Disher is an extremely talented author who has not received nearly the acclaim that he should outside of his native Australia. Nominated for the Ned Kelly Award and the Booker Award, Disher has written 32 books. He is best known for the "Wyatt" crime fiction series. With the publication of THE DRAGON MAN, Disher may finally see his fine work acknowledged. The first in a new series, the book is a police procedural that completely engages the reader.

Detective Inspector Hal Challis
Apr 02, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it
I've been stocking up on Aussie mystery/crime novels in order to get a different feel. I've read so many American and English that I almost know where they're going before they get there. So the other countries' writers are alluring. And since I have a couple of Aussie mates, my current focus is there.

Gary Disher is one Aussie author that is readily available in the US. There were seven of this Hal Challis series at the bookstore I bought this one at. And I'm really glad they are (and that I bou
Jun 30, 2015 farmwifetwo rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery-various
Too many characters and I don't care about any of them. DNF
Oct 18, 2012 Abbey rated it really liked it
BOTTOM LINE: #1 Inspector Hal Challis, The Peninsula, Australia; police procedural. A serial kidnapper/killer, a series of arson fires during wildfire season, a lady in Witness Protection who’s being hunted (maybe), office politics, his suicidal wife (in prision), and a couple of loose cannons cum burglars, whose crimes appear to be escalating - things are never dull for Hal and his mates in the CIB.

Everything is nicely woven together and the pacing is excellent, never sticking to one viewpoint
Jul 01, 2014 Chris rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery
This book isn’t bad. The writing and mood are good.
The characters are very uninteresting however. It’s been there and done that.
I wish my local PBS would reshow Water Rats.

Crossposted at Booklikes.
Sep 12, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the Detective Inspector Hal Challis police procedural series by Australian author Garry Disher. The book is set in Victoria's Mornington Peninsula and revolves around the happenings of a police station in the fictitious coastal town of Waterloo.

Amidst the usual summertime madness of small town petty crimes and vandalism, there is a killer on the loose. So far, two Peninsula women have been abducted, raped and murdered and indications are that the killer will not stop at
Kristian Olesen
Jan 19, 2013 Kristian Olesen rated it really liked it
The titular "Dragon Man" is Hal Challis, a well-read, emotionally-stunted criminal investigator. But Challis is no Philip Marlowe. Instead, Garry Disher's protagonist is Marlowe stripped down to his essentials and rebuilt along Australian lines. In fact, it's not only Challis who gets the full Antipodean treatment - the narrative itself is sparse, dry, and unmistakably Australian. This is why I was hesitant to give The Dragon Man the full five stars; I was concerned that nostalgia and homesickne ...more
Feb 11, 2012 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery
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, crim
Apr 29, 2016 Kaisu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ein Krimi, der vor allem dadurch überzeugt, dass jeder ein Gesicht bekommt und man spürt, wie neben einer Ermittlun der normale Alltag weitergehen muss.
Mar 26, 2015 pdxmaven rated it really liked it
A new detective SERIES -- set in another country (Australia) and a complex enough plot and characterizations and yet I can keep track of everyone -- oh happy day!

Set in a small coastal Australian town (Note to self: look at map of Australia to get clear the geography here), you've got the burdened Detective Inspector with a borderline wife now in prison for hiring someone to kill him,and the beginnings of a new relationship for him plus his troublesome neighbor; the barely contained racist cop a
Dec 12, 2014 Ed rated it really liked it
#1 in the Inspector Challis series. Finalist 2000 Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel. This 1999 Australian police procedural proceeds with multiple points of view. In the beginning of the novel Challis is directed to head a task force at one of the stations in his district - this leads me to wonder if the ensemble cast will change with succeeding series entries. BTW, the Dragon refers to the antique plane Challis is restoring as a hobby. An enjoyable read, I look forward to further books in the seri ...more
Jp Born
Jun 06, 2014 Jp Born rated it it was amazing
This is the second book I've read by Disher, and I'm extremely happy I've discovered him. This book is very understated and very good. I like how the focal point jumps around to a bunch of different characters while at the same time focalized more or less on Challis, but you never get overwhelmed by his own story, you're in fact kept guessing about several things or they are obliquely introduced. A metaphor of this is the character of Clara, who you never really hear anything specific about her ...more
Laura Ogrody
Jun 12, 2014 Laura Ogrody rated it liked it
The story and plot were interesting, but the author's habit of changing characters and location without even starting a new paragraph ( or indicating any names) made the book very confusing. The writing was good, but that one flaw was so egregious that I would not read any other books by this author
Feb 07, 2015 CarolineFromConcord rated it liked it
This Australian writer is new to me, and I like him so far. I think I read all the Arthur Upfield Australian mysteries about the aboriginal detective Napoleon Bonaparte. I don't find Garry Disher as informative about that part of the world as Upfield, but many of his characters are quite strong. In this novel, a serial killer is snatching young women, and an almost divorced detective works with an array of colleagues, some good and others bent, to identify the perp while unrelated mayhem is mudd ...more
Aug 20, 2014 Monica rated it really liked it
Disher's beachside southern Australian setting is hot, dry and rural. There are wonderful descriptions of the impact of the lack of water in a surfing community. The undefunded little police department has its hands full - there are a series of arson fires and a couple of kidnappings along the Peninsula Highway that turn out to be murders, with another one promised if the police can't stop them.

The ensemble cast of Inspector Hall Challis, Ellen Destry, Pam Murphy and the two wannabe alpha males,
Dec 19, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it
This was a really good story. I hesitate to call it a murder mystery, because at least for me the author tipped his hand a little to early and I was able to figure out who the killer was less than a third of the way through the book. The story takes place in an area south of Melbourne Australia and the police procedures are vastly different than those in the USA, which help to make the story interesting. The other nice thing was there were a few side story/crimes going on and for once an author ...more
Apr 03, 2012 Spuddie rated it really liked it
First book in a series featuring Detective Inspector Hal Challis in the peninsula region southeast of Melbourne, Australia. A series of killings of teenaged girls first raped and then brutally killed, their bodies dumped in various locales near the Old Peninsula Highway has police baffled, and it's Challis's job to work with the local force to see the killer behind bars. The killer is also taunting them, sending letters to a local journalist denigrating the police.

A good first entry in a promis
Charles Kerns
Pretty close to 5 stars. Disher throws characters at you, but they are not difficult to keep straight. Sometimes you think half of Australia is going to show up. Even with all the folks running around in the book, it feels like it was plotted on a logic map. I didn't mind that, but I like the more loosey-goosey plots that wander around, somtimes without a purpose. This writer always has a purpose. And so do most of the characters. And the links between everyone would keep the FBI jumping. I like ...more
P Seeley
Sep 04, 2014 P Seeley rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
The author's website lists this as the first book in "The Challis and Destry novels," those being the two main characters in this mystery. While they are certainly the most central characters, they are hardly the only ones whose actions we follow and whose point of view we see through. Half a dozen police personnel and a number of civilians contribute their stories and their version of events.
Oct 12, 2011 Shannon rated it really liked it
I enjoy finding stories that take place in lands other than the one I know. This series is set in Australia and this first in the series book introduces you to several characters. The lead, Detective Challis (aka the Dragon Man) doesn't seem to be as developed in some ways as the other characters. While not completely predicable, I do like the way Disher crossed the story lines a bit and kept true to them while not convoluting them too much. Yes, they are a bit convenient in some ways and clearl ...more
Sep 26, 2015 Francis rated it really liked it
Dark times in Australia. The book had an excellent moody start. The author's description of the landscape and the local inhabitants gives you a sense of foreboding contained in the best of noir novels. As the book progresses it doesn't quite maintain the stark, lonely feel of the opening chapters but you will keep turning pages, wondering ...what's next?
Ed Mckeon
Feb 07, 2015 Ed Mckeon rated it really liked it
Gotta say that Soho Crime usually gets it right. This crime novel, set in Australia, bounces from character within each chapter, but those characters are inextricably interlinked. Fine writing, and fast-paced, but one might have guessed the ID of the killer simply by eliminating the only character not linked directly to the crime action.
Virginia Walter
Aug 25, 2015 Virginia Walter rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
In this first book about Inspector Challis, he is trying to catch a serial killer who is targeting young women in this Melbourne suburb while dealing with occasional phone calls from his wife who is institutionalized because she tried to kill him eight years ago. This is a competent police procedural with an interesting protagonist.
Mar 30, 2014 Ellen rated it liked it
I'm really getting into this series. I love the setting and find the characters to be really interesting. I read one of the books in the middle of the series first and had to go back to this one. Knowing something of the "future" of these characters didn't spoil this mystery for me at all. Good, solid police mysteries!
Oct 30, 2014 Nancy rated it liked it
It was good to read a more than competent crime thriller set in Australia, but for some reason I found myself being quite frequently confused as to location and/or character which somewhat compromised my overall enjoyment. I would read more Disher but I can't say I shall be rushing to seek him out.
Eric Eden
Mar 17, 2014 Eric Eden rated it really liked it
I really like this off-beat (from the American perspective) series following Australian police detective Hal Challis. As usual for Disher, this book interweaves several stories--the principal one concerns a serial killer on the peninsula north of Melbourne.
After having read "Bitter Wash Road" I have started Disher's earlier series based in the Mornington Peninsular. He writes a good crime story and spent a lot of this book in building the characters that I suspect will be the main players in the rest of the series.
The story is about a series of women being murdered, a local couple of violent criminals who are committing a series of burglaries, arson and attacks. Easy to read and a good page turner.
This book was written in 1999 and has a couple of
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Garry Disher was born in 1949 and grew up on his parents' farm in South Australia.

He gained post graduate degrees from Adelaide and Melbourne Universities. In 1978 he was awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, where he wrote his first short story collection. He travelled widely overseas, before returning to Australia, where he taught creative writing, finally becoming a full
More about Garry Disher...

Other Books in the Series

Inspector Challis (6 books)
  • Kittyhawk Down (Inspector Challis, #2)
  • Snapshot (Inspector Challis, #3)
  • Chain of Evidence (Inspector Challis, #4)
  • Blood Moon (Inspector Challis, #5)
  • Whispering Death (Inspector Challis, #6)

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