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Hirsch #1

Bitter Wash Road

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A modern western set in an isolated Australian bush town with a soaring crime rate, where a local constable with a troubled past must investigate the death of a teenage girl whose murder threatens to set the dusty streets ablaze.

Constable Paul Hirschhausen—”Hirsch”—is a recently demoted detective sent from Adelaide, Australia’s southernmost booming metropolis, to Tiverton, a one-road town in rustic, backwater “wool and wheat” country three hours north. Hirsch isn’t just a disgraced cop; the internal investigations bureau is still trying to convict him of something, even if it means planting evidence. When someone leaves a pistol cartridge in his mailbox, Hirsch suspects that his career isn't the only thing on the line.
 
But the tiny town of Tiverton has more crime than one lone cop should have to handle. The stagnant economy, rural isolation, and entrenched racism and misogyny mean every case Hirsch investigates is a new basket of snakes. When the body of a 16-year-old local girl is found on the side of the highway, the situation in Tiverton gets even more sinister, and whether or not he finds her killer, there’s going to be hell to pay.


Paperback edition found under the title Bitter Wash Road.

325 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 2013

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About the author

Garry Disher

67 books513 followers
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 time writer in 1988. He has written more than 40 titles, including general and crime fiction, children's books, textbooks, and books about the craft of writing.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 421 reviews
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,710 reviews25k followers
March 9, 2020
I don't know how I could possibly have missed this gritty Aussie crime noir series by Garry Disher, featuring the demoted whistleblowing Constable Paul 'Hirsch' Hirschhausen, banished from Adelaide police to the remote backwaters of a small town, Tiverton, with their single officer police station. You might think this means little in the way of crime stirs here, but still waters run deep, where Hirsch, a good natured, compassionate man, with a core of hard steel, finds he has once again stepped into a nest of vipers. His boss, Sergeant Klopp, is based at Redruth, a man who has no intentions of making life easy for a cop who has betrayed his own, an absolute no no, even if those cops are hardened criminals. Klopp's barely educated, brutal, racist and misogynist neanderthal constables, Nicholson and Andrewatha, mean that Hirsch is surrounded by no-one he can trust.

Hirsch remains a person of interest, a 'suspect' in the ongoing inquiries in Adelaide, the repercussions of his actions against his former boss, Quine, continue as he finds himself facing a barrage of efforts to paint him as corrupt, the fallout of which culminate in his parents being harrassed and intimidated. Hirsch finds himself directed by Klopp to make his way to Bitter Wash Road, where a body has been discovered at the side of the road. The victim is 16 year old Melia Donovan, a sweet, if wayward kid, from an impoverished background, rumoured to have a much older boyfriend, her closest friend, the shop assistant, Gemma Pitcher. All the signs point to a straightforward hit and run accident, with Melia notorious for regularly hitchhiking.

However, something about it doesn't sit right with Hirsch, and despite being warned to leave well alone, he cannot stop himself looking deeper. This is followed by the death of Alison Latimer, divorcing her abusive husband, Ray, in what appears to be an obvious suicide, with all the potential suspects with a motive for murder having carefully constructed unbreakable alibis, triggering suspicions that have Hirsch looking more closely at Alison. Hirsch persists in looking into both deaths, each seemingly separate incidents, a slow and laborious process until it emerges there may be connections between them, linking them to a small group of privileged and powerful men.

Disher's plotting is intricate and his descriptions of place bring the small towns of Tiverton and Redruth vividly alive. Hirsch is forced into being a loner, but this is not a state he is comfortable with, but he has to be on his guard at all times, surrounded as he is by threats and danger all around him. Despite the community's distrust of the police, with good reason, Hirsch turns out to be an excellent community police officer who slowly embeds himself in a place that initially seemed so unpromising. I particularly loved his developing relationship with the bright and plucky child, Katie Street. I cannot wait for the next in the series, this is for all those who love their Aussie crime fiction. A brilliant read. Many thanks to Serpent's Profile for an ARC.
Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,049 reviews2,105 followers
December 20, 2020
EXCERPT: She lay as if sleeping, face down, her chest to the ground but her left hip cocked and her legs slightly splayed, one bent at the knee. Her right arm was trapped under her right hip, and her right cheek was stretched out in the dirt as if she were looking along her outflung left arm: looking blindly, Hirsch thought, thinking of the eye socket. Maybe her other eye was intact, tucked into the dirt. There was very little blood.

He took another series of photographs, focusing on the clothes. Tight black jeans, a white t-shirt, a tiny fawn cardigan, bare feet in white canvas shoes. The t-shirt had ridden up to reveal a slender spine, a narrow waist, the upper string of a black thong. Bruising and abrasions. A silver chain around her neck. No wristwatch but craft market silver rings on her fingers, and in her visible ear a silver ring decorated with a scrabble piece, the letter M.

What about ID? Hirsch couldn't see a bag or wallet anywhere. If she was struck by a vehicle, and knocked or carried some distance, then her bag or wallet would be further along the road. Time for that later.

He crouched, peering at the area of waist and spine between the low-riding jeans and the scrap of t-shirt, and saw a small manufacturer's tag on the thong. Her underwear was inside out. He crab-walked closer to the body and lifted the t-shirt: a rear-fastening black bra, fastened with only one of the two hooks.

None of that proved anything. It was suggestive, that's all. He could think of plenty of scenarios to explain it, some of them innocent. For example, she'd dressed in a hurry, she'd dressed in darkness, she was short sighted, she was careless or drunk, she'd dressed in a confined space, like the rear seat of a car.

Or someone else had dressed her.

ABOUT 'BITTER WASH ROAD': Constable Paul Hirschhausen—”Hirsch”—is a recently demoted detective sent from Adelaide, Australia’s southernmost booming metropolis, to Tiverton, a one-road town in rustic, backwater “wool and wheat” country three hours north. Hirsch isn’t just a disgraced cop; the internal investigations bureau is still trying to convict him of something, even if it means planting evidence. When someone leaves a pistol cartridge in his mailbox, Hirsch suspects that his career isn't the only thing on the line.

But the tiny town of Tiverton has more crime than one lone cop should have to handle. The stagnant economy, rural isolation, and entrenched racism and misogyny mean every case Hirsch investigates is a new basket of snakes. When the body of a 16-year-old local girl is found on the side of the highway, the situation in Tiverton gets even more sinister, and whether or not he finds her killer, there’s going to be hell to pay.

MY THOUGHTS: Speechless.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ huge shining outback night sky stars for Bitter Wash Road by Garry Disher. This book has also been published under the title 'Hell to Pay.'

The plot is entirely plausible. Demoted and banished to wheat and wool country, a single officer police station in a blink and you'll miss it one road town three hours north of Adelaide, Hirsch is serving time as punishment for being a whistleblower, for dobbing in fellow officers. He is shunned by his fellow officers, for being a whistleblower is every bit as bad as being a cop on the take. Some people believe he is both.

Tiverton is a place where nothing much ever happens, or nothing much that has anything done about it, until Hirsch arrives.

A few pot shots, a missing girl, and a death ruled suicide are just the start of a chain of events I never saw coming, and that kept me glued to the pages.

I have lived in a few of these towns, not down south, but up north. Disher has described the small town hierarchy perfectly. I have known people like this, probably not bad to the same extent, but with similar senses of entitlement, or disadvantage. The personality types are easily recognizable.

Disher is a master at the art of realistic conversation. Not only could I see his characters, I could hear them. And the realism carries over into his descriptions of the countryside.
'Three and a half hours, 350 kilometres, glued to the speed limit across an ochre landscape, under a vast sky. Eagles, stone chimneys silhouetted, an inclination to stone and grit, not dirt. Stone reefs, smudges of bluebush, saltbush, mallee scrub, and lone demented ewes. A hawk diving, a crow watching. Road trains, trucks, cars, the emptiness ahead and behind and shimmering lakes that dematerialised as the highway slipped beneath him. The land is harsh and unforgiving, but has it's own stark beauty, and Disher paints an honest and accurate picture.

He portrays the hardships faced: the lack of rain, nothing to keep the kids in the towns, the insular relationships, the poverty, even of the supposedly well to do, the racism, the sexism, the abuse. But there is also that small town spirit, where in the face of adversity, everyone rallies around and pulls together.

I loved every word of this book, and already have the other two in this series loaded to read.

THE AUTHOR: 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 time writer in 1988.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Bitter Creek Road by Garry Disher, published by Text Publishing, from Waitomo District Library interloan service. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and my webpage https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,323 reviews2,145 followers
February 6, 2018
I am really enjoying reading my way through this author's work, and luckily there is plenty of it so I will be busy for a while!

Bitter Wash Road tells the story of a whistle blower in the police force who, as he would be in most organisations, is shunned by his colleagues and sent to work in the back of beyond. Unfortunately he ends up in an equally bad scenario where the local police force consists basically of thugs.

Disher writes really well and his descriptions of the locality are spot on. His characters are also well developed and the main character, Hirsch, is very likeable. The story is paced very well and it is too easy to keep on reading and reading right through to the end. And the ending is wonderful particularly the assistance Hirsch gets from an unexpected source.

Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended:)

Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,485 reviews842 followers
March 9, 2021
4.5★
‘You’re lying.’
She ran out. He didn’t follow her. In her departing words was what his life would always be. What people would always believe.”


Disgraced, demoted, but determined to stick to his story, Constable Paul Hirschhausen has been sent to a tiny, one-man cop shop in the middle of rural South Australia because he dobbed on fellow police, and in Australia, nobody likes a dobber. It doesn’t matter how crooked they were or how much damage they caused, he was told they were “colleagues” and he should have been loyal to them.

A tourist reports finding the body of a girl at the side of the road, so Hirsch goes to inspect.

“He removed the phone from his pocket. The shutter sound already muted, he got ready to photograph them. Habit, after everything that had happened to him.”

This is the kind of comment which indicates what he has suffered. He notes and photographs everything. Everybody in the force seems to know his history and enjoys reminding him of it, especially his boss, the unlovely Sgt. Kropp.

“Hirsch waggled his jaw in thought. ‘We’ll need to know if she was drugged or raped or beaten…Maybe some of her injuries aren’t consistent with vehicle impact…Stuff like that.’

‘What, you’re back in plain clothes?’

‘Come on, Sarge.’


And when Kropp discovers he hasn’t had a chance to unpack yet after moving in three weeks ago, he can’t resist another dig.

‘Get your wife to do it,’ Kropp said, and stopped to give his meaty head a theatrical smack. ‘Oh, I forgot. She left you, I seem to recall.’

‘Kind of you to remind me, Sarge,’
Hirsch said, his voice full of light cadences.”


I assume the ‘light cadences’ he manages to use indicate that Hirsch doesn’t bite at the bait. It is ongoing and relentless. He keeps questioning and finds families with abusive parents and delinquent kids. The cops bash the kids up, too. After all, some were old schoolmates with the parents or play footy and drink with them in the pub. Small town.

He discovers a more complicated back story for the dead girl which leads him into treacherous territory. He is the local cop, after all, so people must answer his questions, but they are quick to say how long they’ve known Sgt Kropp and his superiors.

We know he’s lonely and a bit attracted to someone, but we also know he needs to keep people at arm’s length. He’s not been there long enough to be sure who’s who. But it’s a very small town, and when they discover he plays some tennis, he’s immediately added to the club committee! These are the hazards of a tiny community – it’s hard to avoid getting involved, even with his reputation.

“He could have been everyone’s mate, but the secret to being a cop in a small rural community—the secret and the pity—was to get close to the locals but not too close. And it was never close enough.”

I liked meeting him and will be interested to see where Disher takes him, especially when Disher writes so well.

A house.

“Dust balls in the kitchen corners, a cornflakes packet on its side, a tide mark in the sink, newspapers piled on a couple of the chairs, unopened bills tucked between a pair of rotting apples in a cane basket. All of the love had gone from the room, the house, with the death…”

Day trip.

“He drove south along the floor of a shallow valley, undulating and partly cultivated hills on his left, a more dramatic and distant range on his right—blue today, scarred here and there by scrubby trees and shadows among erupted rocks, a foretaste of the Flinders Ranges, three hours further north.”

Night investigation.

“The car climbed out of the main street and up onto one of the town’s little hills, where stone houses slumbered behind oleanders and ghost gums cracked the footpaths. The old copper mine was a dark excavation on the adjacent hill, moonlight flaring on the depthless black water and pushing gantry and chimney shadows down the hill. The wind was higher here, a helpless whine in the pine trees.”

Disher is a first-rate author with a slew of awards, and no wonder. Looking forward to more!
Profile Image for Melki.
6,037 reviews2,387 followers
May 20, 2019
'I don't care if a fellow police member swindles the Children's Hospital and violates a busload of nuns. You do not betray him.'

When Detective Paul Hirschhausen is demoted, and sent to a seedy little back water town, he finds the place even more corrupt than the police department he left behind. There are things happening in Tiverton that many people would kill to keep secret, and now Hirsch's investigations into the death of a teenage girl who was presumably hit by a car threaten to bring those dark dealings to light.

This is a well paced, and well written thriller, gritty and tense, but with welcome bits of comic relief provided mostly by Hirsch's attitude and actions. I'm looking forward to reading much more by Disher. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Carolyn (on vacation).
2,247 reviews642 followers
May 22, 2019
Constable Paul Hirschhausen ('Hirsch') has been banished to a one man police station in Tiverton, a small town north of Adelaide. Is only crime is supplying the police internal affairs department evidence of corruption involving several officers in his unit. Now he is both suspect and still under investigation himself and shunned by his colleagues for bringing down fellow officers. Hirsch soon finds that most of the locals are anti-police as his boss, Sergeant Kropp and his officers in the police station in the nearby larger town are bullies and more interested in protecting their powerful friends than seeing justice done.

Tiverton also proves not to be the quiet little town that Hirsch expected. He soon finds himself to deal with a puzzling 'hit and run' when the body of a young girl is found on the side of the road and then the apparent suicide of a middle aged woman.

This is a really well written gritty thriller with a plot that takes a while to reveal itself and some clever investigative work from Hirsch before what has really been going on in the area is uncovered. Hirsch is a very likeable character and I would be happy to read see him feature in future books.
Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,259 reviews54 followers
December 18, 2020
4.5 stars
Very well written, it felt as if I was watching a film. The half star off is personal, I don't like police bullying. Definitely recommended for the vivid scenes and the tension.
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
283 reviews80 followers
April 5, 2023


"On a Monday morning in September, three weeks into the job, the new cop at Tiverton took a call from his sergeant: shots fired on Bitter Wash Road."

3.5🌟's

Initial Thoughts

I'm always on the hunt for new authors and when a trusted source recommended an Australian crime author I'd never heard of, I was certainly interested. Being an English cop myself, I'm always interested to read stories featuring police investigations in a different backdrop. There's certain dynamics that go on within a constabulary and it's interesting to see the similarities and differences that exist in a foreign country. With Australia currently recruiting British cops who knows where this could lead. So it looked like it was time to throw a shrimp on the barbie, open a tinnie and see how the boys down under get things done.

This is the authors first book in a series featuring the recurring character of Constable Paul Hirschhausen, 'Hirsch' to his friends. It gets described as 'outback noir,' resembling a modern day western. That sounds awesome to me being a fan of crime and westerns. So let's see if this is a series worth some investment.

The Story

Disher starts off smack in the middle of rural Australia and, as we already know, centres around the central character of ‘Hirsch,’ a police whistle-blower. Having experienced corruption of the highest order back in Adelaide, he's suffered a demotion of sorts for reporting it and has been sent packing to staff a one-man cop station in Tiverton.

Despite doing the right thing he's reviled by his nearest colleagues in Redruth who make it very clear how they feel about him. They don't even have the courtesy to do it behind his back with comments like "dog" and "maggot" right to his face.

But despite being short of friends, Hirsch isn't one to let this get him down and is straight down to some old fashioned policing that this branch seems to have forgotten about. That's investigating crime and supporting the community. It isn't long before he's looking into the sudden death of a local teenage girl with a penchant for hitchhiking, found dead in a ditch. A clear case of hit-and-run but Hirsch isn't convinced and treats it as suspicious. An opinion that will lead him down a dark path and leave him further isolated from his prejudiced colleagues.

"The bad guys always got away with it, and the media hammered the cop who took a bribe rather than recognised the one who helped orphans. So why wouldn't you take short cuts. Bend the rules?"

The Writing

Discher has a sparse, workmanlike style of writing that took a little getting used to. Like the Australian outback, his prose can be dry and I'll freely admit that at points it left me wanting more. There wasn't any points were I was blown away by the quality of writing, although I will admit it was certainly readable.

The story makes a slow start as Disher focused on police politics and the residual aspects of the ongoing investigation into corruption back in Adelaide. But once he homed in on the investigation of the teenager's death the stakes certainly shot up along with my interest.

From that point the plot unfolded in a way that kept me glued to the page and toward the end I struggled to put it down. There's some interesting twists and turns along the way, although once I got to the end it did feel a little bit rushed.

What I particularly enjoyed however, was the local flavor of the Australian outback that Discher paints. It's gritty and vivid and he nails this deprived area with a community that's suffering from a downturn in the economy, where hard work just isn't enough. Exactly what I was looking for.

"Hirsch realised he'd sensed it as he'd walked through the store, a community atmosphere of fear and sorrow and whispers."

The Characters

A bit of a mixed bag when it came to the characters in Bitter Wash Road. Hirsch was a realistic hero who makes mistakes and gets beat up. It was refreshing to see a central character who wasn't superman and faces a lot of adversity while trying to do the right thing. Throughout the novel he is very much on his own and isolated with a set of colleagues that make it very clear he is not one of them. I've not experienced this myself in a fairly lengthy career and found it fascinating reading. Hirsch was a protagonist I could certainly identify with.

Unfortunately though, none of the characters seemed to have any real depth or development. My biggest problem being with the antagonists and the fact that they were as wooden as a rocking horse. I don't want to go into the ins and outs of corruption within a police force, but let's just say the officers that go down that road do not walk about with villain stamped on their forehead like they do in Bitter Wash Road. Pretty much every cop, other than Hirsch, was a stereotypical baddie with little nuance and it just ended up coming across as unrealistic.

Plus the dialogue between them was pretty one dimensional and lacked any form of humour, which you most certainly get in a policing environment. It ended up being over the top, repetitive with an unnatural feel to it.



Final Thoughts

So Bitter Wash Road was definitely a mixed bag for me. It certainly had it's charm. Although it certainly isn't the best crime novel I've read, it wasn't a bad story overall and was very readable. But it wasn't as good as I was hoping for.

Compared to someone like Dennis Lehane, the writing isn't as good, the characters aren't as realistic or developed and the story isn't as compelling. So although I did enjoy this story, the author isn't at the top of my TBR. However, I'd definitely be willing to give him another chance.

Let me know if you've had a better experience with Garry Disher.

Thanks for reading and...cheers!
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,226 reviews2,730 followers
December 14, 2014
Constable Paul Hirschhausen, known to all as Hirsch, was the new cop in the rural town of Tiverton, a couple of hours north of Adelaide in South Australia. He was called a whistle-blower, hated and despised by his colleagues from the high up ranks to the lowest. Sent to this one-cop town in disgrace, his new boss was Sergeant Kropp , stationed at Redruth which was not all that far from Tiverton. But Hirsch was one of those honest cops; one who believed in the law – in being firm but compassionate when necessary. He was always going to clash with Kropp and the other two constables in Redruth.

Bitter Wash Road was where he was sent on his first job; gunfire had been heard – two criminals were on the run from Queensland; he wondered if it could be them? But what he found was quite different – and after his shock at the closeness of the bullet, his thoughts were on whether this would be his last job…

Then with a terrible suddenness, things went from bad to worse. The finding of the body of a young local girl was a shock to Hirsch; was it an accident or was it something more sinister? The escalation of horrors in the area; the violence and evil – Hirsch felt like he was moving through a sea of treacle. No-one within the force believed his theories; he was lacking in evidence, but his gut was telling him he was right. Did he have anyone at all that he could trust?

I loved this gritty mystery by Aussie author Garry Disher. The plot was excellent with the twists keeping me glued to the pages. I haven’t read a lot by this author but that will definitely change. The combination of great characters, both likeable and unlikeable plus the tension and suspense throughout, meant this was an exceptional crime fiction novel. Highly recommended.

With thanks to Text Publishing for my copy to read and review.
145 reviews85 followers
September 24, 2020
This was Slow, but no Burn. My first book by Garry Disher which I found to be low-key, mediocre and lacking depth. Enjoyed the prose and description of the Australian Outback.
Profile Image for Kylie H.
944 reviews
October 21, 2020
Having once again done thing a#$e about - I have read Peace and Consolation - then read the first book in the series last.
Very happy I went back and read this one as it is really good and I understand the character of Hirsch a lot better. In this book he is still new to Tiverton and dealing with being treated as an outcast by his colleagues. He deals with a lot of local issues, but soon realises that the police further up the chain may be overstepping the law where it suits them.
Quite brutal in parts it deals with rural hardship, child abuse, bullying and quite a few other things. Told in a way that rings true and shows that the author knows his territory, this is a great book and and solid start to an excellent series.
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
929 reviews102 followers
April 30, 2023
This is a well written police crime drama taking place in outback South Australia. Our hero Paul Hirschausen (Hirsch) is new to the town and it seems every police officer is out to get him as he is tainted by an investigation into his former boss. Fast paced, lots of different people on both sides of the law involved and a satisfying conclusion.

I didn't like this book much, although far more than the previous Gary Disher book I'd read (Sunken Road). I worked with the police for many years in Australia in my role as a youthworker. I met and worked with some wonderful officers, but the old adage that a workplace is only as good as its worst worker, it totally true, both in the book and in my experience. Too close to the bone, the bad cops, the complicity in supporting each other, no matter how bad they were or are.

So I did not like this one much, but then I don't like police dramas as a rule, far too unpleasant and close to the bone.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,528 reviews978 followers
July 15, 2019

His hand was pale, scrupulously clean, no sign of sun damage, hard labour or mishaps, which put him at odds with the men, women and children Hirsch had encountered so far in the bush. People out here were generally blemished. Farm grime under fingernails, garden scratches, schoolyard scrapes, sun wrinkles, dusty trouser cuffs, tarnished watch straps and gammy legs.

One of the best crime novels I’ve read recently, my first from Garry Disher, but hopefully not the last. I was enthralled by how seamlessly and elegantly the author weaves together three novels into one: a high conspiracy thriller, a murder police procedural and an insider account of police corruption. All plot threads converge on one man, Constable Hirschhausen (Hirsch for short), sent down to the dustiest, most remote post in the Australian Outback for being a snitch on his superiors (a sort of modern day Serpico). Hirsch may have good reasons to believe everybody is out to get him, being shot at in the very opening pages of the novel, but he also has a dubious case on his hands, of a young hitchhiker found dead in a ditch after an apparent hit & run.

The plot advances with an inexorable pace, worthy of the best classic noir novels, with the sunny Australian desert getting more and more ominous as Hirsch starts interviewing relatives and finds roadblocks at every turn from his former colleagues and superiors. He is overqualified for the task, after being a member of a former elite team in Adelaide, but now he can trust nobody, as corruption seems to go all the way to the top.

Kropp’s constables were poorly educated and short of work and life experience too. Just as clannish and suspicious of anyone different. Attracted to police work because it gave them standing. And it licensed the art and craft of hurting other human beings.

Discher is spot on with the spare prose, the occasional local idiom that had me scratched my head in confusion, and the biting social commentary. Hirsch is a solid lead, competent and taciturn as a true lone wolf, making the rare glimpses into his emotional landscape even more poignant as the action heats up.

I am trying not to give spoilers to the actual crime investigation, but recent items in the news put a new light on this short passage that caught my attention. Now, where have I heard this before?

[X] is adventurous, suggestible, anxious to please, her head easily turned by a man with money and charm. He spends some time, money and charm on her, flatters her, lets her drive his car, gives her a fun time: alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, sex. Gradually introduces her to a group of men who like to party with underage girls.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for LJ.
3,159 reviews311 followers
February 21, 2015
First Sentence: On a Monday morning in September, three weeks into the job, the Tiverton policeman took a call from his sergeant: shots fired on Bitter Wash Road.

Paul Hirschhausen (“Hirsch”) has been demoted to Constable, and sent to back-of-beyond Australia where he’s mistrusted and berated by his “fellow” officers. Internal Investigations in Adelaide is still after him, trying to convict him of something and willing to plant evidence to do it. In the meantime, even in his remote locate, there are crimes to be solved, including the body of a 16-year-old girl found by the side of the road.

If one ever read Rhys Bowen’s “Hamish Macbeth” series, Hirsch’s posting will remind one of that. However, that is the only similarity. Disher takes us about as far as possible from Hamish’s Scotland, down to Southern Australia, but acquaints us with the area with wonderfully visual descriptions…”October gathered its skirts and raced past.”

Disher provides very good backstory on Hirsch. The inclusion of his inquest was both interesting, but allows for his speculation as to why some cops go bad. We also see the frustration of a god cop working for, and with, bad cops; the blindness of “the thin blue line, and how corrupting that can be. On the other hand, it is interesting to see the diversity of calls to which a rural cop must respond and the relationship he must maintain with the community.

Disher does a wonderful job building up the suspense and tension. One can’t help but appreciate the source from which Hirsch’s rescue comes.

“Hell to Pay” is an excellent read; an extremely well-written book dealing with very timely issues.

HELL TO PAY (Pol Proc – Const. Paul Hirschhausen-Adelaide, Australia-Contemp) - Ex
Disher, Garry – Standalone
Soho Crime – June, 2014
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,268 reviews232 followers
December 16, 2020
Ant hills, sandy washaways, foxtails hooked onto gates, a couple of rotting merino carcasses, a tray-less old Austin truck beneath a straggly gumtree. Weathered fence posts and the weary rust loops that tethered them one to the other. He saw an eagle, an emu, a couple of black snakes. It was a land of muted pinks, browns and greys ghosted by the pale bluehills on the horizon.

Bitter Wash Road was great - an Australian police thriller with a real sense of place, and a mystery that completely hooked me. It reminded me of Hot Fuzz in places - though it's Australian, and serious instead of comedic, it had that same sense of an officer isolated from his peers and trying to do the best he can.

Paul Hirschhausen was a great main character - honest and clever enough to root for, but with a solid streak of smart-aleck to keep him likeable. The setting, small-town Australia, was vivid without becoming overbearing, and the book overall felt authentically Australian without crossing into parody.

A very satisfying procedural that was a quick and entertaining read.

Thanks, Sandy, for another great review that's lead to a great read :)
Profile Image for Cynnamon.
571 reviews102 followers
July 17, 2022
English version below

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Constable Paul Hirschhausen (nicht direkt ein typisch australischer Name) ist ein eine Korruptionsermittlung verwickelt, da sein Vorgesetzter sich diverser illegaler Machenschaften schuldig gemacht hat und nun die ganze Abteilung intensiv untersucht wird. Hirsch kann man zwar nichts nachweisen (als Leser ist man schnell überzeugt, weil er ein integrer Mann ist und sich nichts hat zuschulden kommen lassen), aber er wird dennoch ins hinterste Outback strafversetzt. Er findet sich also in einem ärmlichen Kaff wieder, wird von den neuen Kollegen misstrauisch beäugt und angefeindet und fühlt sich nicht besonders wohl.

In dieser Situation kommt es dann zu zwei Todesfällen und ganz offensichtlich ist mit den örtlichen Poiizeibehörden auch etwas ganz heftig faul.
Hirsch muss sich also in der neuen Umgebung behaupten, muss die Todesfälle aufklären und wird immer noch zu den Korruptionsermittlungen seiner Früheren Abteilung vorgeladen.
Von den einen wird er als Kameradenschwein betrachtet, weil er gegen einen anderen Polizisten (seinen früheren Chef) aussagt, die anderen sind überzeugt, dass selbst auch Dreck am Stecken hat, weil er sonst nicht versetzt worden wäre.

Der Autor beschreibt die Atmosphäre in diesen ärmlichen, ländlichen Landstrichen Australiens ganz hervorragend. Auch der Plot ist gut gemacht, denn er birgt bis zum Schluss unerwartete Wendungen.
Ein bisschen Probleme hatte ich jedoch mit Hirsch. Wir erfahren zwar eine ganze Menge über ihn, menschlich nahe kommen wir ihm jedoch nicht. Er blieb mir emotional total fremd.

Dennoch ein überdurchschnittlichter und lesenswerter Krimi, den ich mit 3,5 Sternen bewerte.

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Constable Paul Hirschhausen (not exactly a typical Australian name) is involved in a corruption investigation as his supe rioris guilty of various illegal activities and the whole department is now under intense investigation. Nothing can be proven against Hirsch (as a reader, one is quickly convinced that he is a man of integrity and has not been guilty of anything), but he is nevertheless transferred to the furthest outback as a punishment. So he finds himself in a poor town, is viewed with suspicion and hostility by his new colleagues and does not feel particularly well.

In this situation two deaths occur and obviously something is very wrong with the local police authorities.
So Hirsch has to make his way in the new environment, has to solve the deaths and is still being summoned to his former department's corruption investigations.
Some consider him a comrade pig because he testifies against another police officer (his former boss), others are convinced that he himself has also dirt on him, because otherwise he would not have been transferred.

The author does an excellent job of describing the atmosphere in these impoverished, rural parts of Australia. The plot is also well done, because it contains unexpected twists until the end.
However, I had a bit of a problem with Hirsch. We learn a lot about him, but we don't get close to him personally. He was a total stranger to me emotionally.

Nevertheless, an above-average and recommendable thriller, which I rate with 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Toby.
836 reviews330 followers
April 10, 2015
Quite easily my favourite Australian noir, Garry Disher's Bitter Wash Road is a tense drama of rural life from the point of view of an outsider, in this instance Hirsch, a potentially bent copper, demoted to patrolling a small town in South Australia.

Hirsch is dropped in to a fairly typical murder mystery plot - dead body, many suspects, coverups etc - and in true genre fashion misses clues, asks the wrong questions and jumps to conclusions BUT Disher gives the story so much more than that including a few nice red herrings. His strongest work is in his evocative prose, bringing life to the place, people and situations that Hirsch runs up against, most notably the paranoia that affects Hirsch from the opening paragraph; he's been tarnished with many brushes, a bent copper and not just that, a bent copper who snitched on his mates according to the department assumptions and now his life is under threat, not just from the colleagues he apparently sent away but from his new colleagues who don't appreciate having to work with a maggot who dishonored the badge.

It all makes for a tense and atmospheric read that would surely be selling bucketloads more if he wasn't an Aussie, it's comparable to the best of the modern genre from anywhere in the world as far as I'm concerned.
Profile Image for Josh.
1,649 reviews154 followers
January 7, 2017
The initial attraction for me to Bitter Wash Road was the fact that it is set near my hometown of Adelaide. I love reading books where the setting is familiar (which doesn't happen all that often unfortunately).

The small country town feel is omnipresent, personified by the one man police station, working and dilapidated farmsteads, and the 'everyone knows everyone' characteristics of rural life. This gives Bitter Wash Road a distinct and unique feel to the common lone-wolf police procedurals

On the surface, outcast cop Hirsch, a former metro police officer displaced after turning informant on the crooked cops at Paradise Gardens, seems to have been relegated to a sleepy country town where nothing much happens; working a one man station far removed from the cops he helped bring down. What lies beneath is a different story.

Author Garry Disher has written a well crafted and perfectly executed country cop tale with an endearing protagonist who has the odds stacked against him in everything he does. Forget about investigating serious crimes, the locals and near town cop station where Hirsch reports to, hinder everyday policing. Word of the 'dog' spreads fast and Hirsch feels every inch of his honesty obstructing him from doing his job.

Bitter Wash Road is excellent and a must read for any fan of crime fiction. 5 / 5 stars.

http://justaguythatlikes2read.blogspo...
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,471 reviews1,007 followers
November 12, 2019
Over the last couple of years I’ve been immersed in a lot of Australian fiction because there’s such great reading coming over – it seems there’s another pretty damn fine purveyor of the art out there in Garry Disher, being published for the first time over here next year via new Serpents Tail imprint Viper books.

It’s probably the beginning of a new obsession for me, given that main protagonist Hirsch is incredibly engaging, pragmatic in the face of extreme pressure, ironically humerous about his own situation and a character that you relate to immediately.

The author writes small town Australia with a wry eye and an absorbing detail- building a series of intricate mysteries around the wider community Hirsch finds himself thrown into – a dead girl, haunting secrets, that sense of insular thinking and long held grudges creating layers of thought provoking storytelling.

This is an extraordinarily compelling character drama, an often disturbing mystery and it’s quiet, insightful prose grips throughout, leaving you longing for more.

Luckily I know there’s more coming. I can’t wait.

Very much recommended.

Profile Image for Andrea.
800 reviews30 followers
March 13, 2021
I've been mulling over a rating for this one for days, and I've decided on 3.5★, rounded up to 4. The thing that troubled me about it was that despite the book being perfectly entertaining - thrilling, even - and well-written, it made me feel fairly uncomfortable for most of the time I was reading it. I mean, this is set in South Australia! It's pretty hard to swallow so much corruption and vice emanating from the City of Churches. Maybe things were different back in 2013 when it was first published? Nah, I don't think so. But kudos to Garry Disher for taking this to some pretty dark and unexpected places. I really liked Hirsch, the main character, and will happily read on in the series.


Profile Image for Sarah.
746 reviews132 followers
April 13, 2020
Yesterday, I started reading Peace, the second instalment in Garry Disher's Paul Hirschhausen series. After reading a couple of chapters, it became apparent to me that there was a fair bit of character backstory I was missing, and - lo and behold! - a copy of Bitter Wash Road was available to borrow through my library's Libby collection.
This was a great example of the emerging genre of Australian noir, familiar to readers of authors such as Chris Hammer and Jane Harper, and I can't believe I haven't come across Garry Disher's writing before now.
After whistleblowing on police corruption in the suburban Adelaide station in which he was previously stationed, Paul "Hirsch" Hirschhausen has been demoted a rank and assigned to a one-man-station in the backblocks of South Australia. His superior officer and colleagues in the nearest town have only disdain for him, internal affairs seem intent on incriminating him in the corruption he informed upon, and both he and his parents are receiving threats. Not the ideal basis for policing a far-flung community, especially as Hirsch is soon drawn into two complex investigations - the hit-and-run death of a local teenage girl whose body is found beside the highway, and the apparent suicide of a farmer's unhappy wife, the details of which don't quite seem to add up in Hirsch's mind.
The plot was engaging, with unexpected twists and turns, the series of central and supporting characters well-developed and Disher's writing evocative of southern Australia's struggling farming country and its communities.
I'll now return to reading Peace and enjoy it all the more!
Profile Image for MaryG2E.
376 reviews1 follower
June 1, 2015
While the murders are integral to the plot of Bitter Wash Road, they also provide a brilliant vehicle for the author Garry Disher to explore issues around cop culture and corruption in an insightful way. This book is a great read, and is revelatory in its exposure of the kind of blokey attitude that perpetuates stereotypical behaviour in small rural communities. Brainless thugs, thinly disguised as police constables, harass the less fortunate in town, just because they can, and because the uniform gives them power. The higher the rank, the more subtle and sinister is the abuse of power because of police culture, a kind of 'don't tell' brotherhood. BTW, 'Redruth' is a former name for the town of Burra in South Australia, and the author's depiction of the former mining town and surrounding farming areas is very accurate. I greatly respect Garry Disher as an author of quality, and Bitter Wash Road did not disappoint me.
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,049 reviews196 followers
October 25, 2022
After reading this book, it’s easy to see this is going to be a fantastic series and I am so looking forward to the next book.

Mystery and crime with well-plotted twists this book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys these genres. Aussie author Garry Disher is not an author I’m very familiar with, but after reading this book which by the way was excellent I can’t wait to read more of his books and read the next book in this series. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,499 reviews179 followers
September 23, 2020
Bitter Wash Road is the first book in the Paul Hirschhausen series by popular Australian author, Garry Disher. It has also been published under the title Hell To Pay. The audio version is (not pleasingly) narrated by British actor, Shaun Grindell. Not long after Constable Paul Hirschhausen has been banished to the small South Australian wheatbelt town of Tiverton for the unforgiveable (being a whistle-blower), he is called to attend an apparent hit-and-run. But, despite the scorn of his superiors, to Hirsch, something feels not quite right. And when, a few weeks later, he discovers the body of a woman who has committed suicide, he is again plagued with doubt.

In Hirsch, Disher has created a central character who is both likeable and believable, flawed yet principled. Disher expertly conveys the atmosphere of the outback town with evocative descriptions that will have the reader tasting the dust in the back of the throat and feeling the boredom and despair. His cast of townspeople will be familiar to anyone who has visited such a place.

Disher gives the reader an original plot that somehow realistically includes a network of paeophiles, a wind farm, an inheritance, some subtle (and not so subtle) threats, pair of fugitive murder-rapists, planted evidence, domestic violence, a pair of cops who delight in harassment of old people, young girls and aborigines, adultery, jealousy, football, drinking and brawling, and a red herring or two to keep everyone guessing. Hirschhausen is an appealing character of whom readers are bound to want more. Once again, Disher does not disappoint.
Profile Image for Laura (Kyahgirl).
2,094 reviews143 followers
May 26, 2022
This was close to perfect in terms of an engaging (but dark) mystery set in small town Australia.I like how Disher is so good at describing the people and setting in this book. There was some pretty grim undertones in this book but a bit of balance offered by an ethical and determined (not to mention, smart) lead character. I liked Hirsch and wish that I could find the other two books in this series in Kindle format but they don’t seem to be available.

The atmosphere of this book reminded me the Detective Sean Duffy books by Adrian McKinty. If you liked those books you would like this. That series starts with The Cold Cold Ground
Profile Image for Kim.
2,154 reviews
May 10, 2021
Setting: South Australia. Following a police corruption investigation in his former squad, ex-detective Paul Hirschhausen has been demoted to running a single officer police station in a remote town north of Adelaide. It should be a fairly easy number for him but he is denigrated by his fellow officers, who think he has betrayed his former colleagues. 'Hirsch' ends up investigating firstly the apparent 'hit-and-run' death of a local teenage girl and then also the apparent suicide of a farmer's wife. As he tries to investigate these cases and make sense of what has happened, suspecting foul play in both, he is baulked at every turn by his sergeant, who is friends with the farmer....
Great characters, storylines and setting combine to make this an excellent start to a series - glad I've already got the next one on Kindle to read and looking forward to some further character development for Hirsch - 8.5/10.
Profile Image for Bridget.
1,195 reviews78 followers
September 24, 2020
My addiction to this series is now fully formed. This is the first book featuring Paul Hirschhousen known as Hirsch. He is lovely, he is kind, his quiet town is way less than ideal, but he is being punished for getting accidentally embroiled in a corruption situation. He has made a stand against his powerful superiors. Big mistake, unless you are a man of convictions, then it is the right thing to do, but they are going to come after you and make you pay. And the powerful are out to punish him.

Small town politics, angry young people, isolated fragile folk armed with guns and prone to anger fast and hard, as well as a bunch of rogue colleagues are intent on causing problems and making rural police life challenging and often downright challenging. Along with this is Hirsch's relationship with Wendy a teacher in the town nearby, his careful and lovely relationship with Wendy is enhanced by his lovely way with her daughter Katie. I adore their conversations.

These are pretty much my favourite crime novels right now. Big fan.
Profile Image for Andrew Nette.
Author 42 books113 followers
November 27, 2013
Garry Disher has been writing crime fiction for longer than I’ve been reading it.

I love his work and think his books are getting better and better.

If you want proof, check out his latest novel, Bitter Wash Road.

Unlike Disher’s other crime fiction, the Wyatt series and the Challis and Destry police procedurals, Bitter Wash Road is intended as a stand alone.

The story is told from the perspective of Hirsch, a whistle blowing cop, him self under suspicion of corruption, who has been exiled to a one-man police station in the small town of Tiverton, located in dry wheat and wool country south of the Flinders Ranges, South Australia.

The first few chapters are a master class in class in how to write a tense, atmospheric crime thriller.

Called out to investigate a report of shots being fired on Bitter Wash Road, Hirsch ends up being the first cop on the scene of a terrible crime, a young local girl found dead in a ditch.

The dead girl had a reputation for being a bit wild, a taste for hitch hiking, with all the innuendo that goes with it. Everyone, including his boss, an old school cop called Kropp, thinks it is a hit and run. Hirsch is not convinced.

Kropp wants Hirsch investigating stolen sheep and house break-ins, not poking his nose in where it is not wanted by looking into the girl’s death. But Hirsch won’t be deterred.

Is Kropp just being antagonistic because of Hirsch’s reputation as a whistle blower or is he hiding something?

There are so many things I liked about this book. The central crime and its perpetrators and complex, real and brilliantly revealed.

Hirsch is a great character, tough, solitary, a touch of the mongrel about him. He’s not particularly sympathetic and it is unclear whether he’s not also guilty of some of the very corruption he’s denounced in other police.

Disher has also excelled at creating a menacing air of paranoia resulting from his status as an outcast from the rest of the police due to whistle blowing.

Last but not least, is the terrific writing, both descriptions of physical location and of people and situations.

It was late in the afternoon before the accident investigators arrived. Hirsch wanted to hang around and talk about what he’d been thinking but they ignored. Two men and one woman conscious of the dwindling light, the sun smearing itself across the horizon, long shadows playing visual tricks. They took their photos, measured distances, crouched and poked and grid-searched and marked up their diagrams.

‘You’re blocking the light,’ the female officer said. Her tone indicated she knew exactly who Hirsch was.

Bitter Wash Road is a complex, slow burn thriller from a writer at the top of his game. It’s one of Disher’s darkest books yet and, in my opinion, one of his best.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,499 reviews179 followers
January 21, 2015
Bitter Wash Road is the eighteenth stand-alone novel by popular Australian author, Garry Disher. It has also been published under the title Hell To Pay. Not long after Constable Paul Hirschhausen has been banished to the small South Australian wheatbelt town of Tiverton for the unforgiveable (being a whistle-blower), he is called to attend an apparent hit-and-run. But, despite the scorn of his superiors, to Hirsch, something feels not quite right. And when, a few weeks later, he discovers the body of a woman who has committed suicide, he is again plagued with doubt.

In Hirsch, Disher has created a central character who is both likeable and believable, flawed yet principled. Disher expertly conveys the atmosphere of the outback town with evocative descriptions that will have the reader tasting the dust in the back of the throat and feeling the boredom and despair. His cast of townspeople will be familiar to anyone who has visited such a place.

Disher gives the reader an original plot that somehow realistically includes a network of paeophiles, a wind farm, an inheritance, some subtle (and not so subtle) threats, pair of fugitive murder-rapists, planted evidence, domestic violence, a pair of cops who delight in harassment of old people, young girls and aborigines, adultery, jealousy, football, drinking and brawling, and a red herring or two to keep everyone guessing. While this is a stand-alone novel, Hirschhausen is an appealing character of whom readers are bound to want more. Once again, Disher does not disappoint.
Profile Image for Jenny.
1,756 reviews59 followers
January 31, 2018
Bitter Wash Road is about a man who lost everything to do the right thing. Detective Paul Hirschhausen after whistleblower on his colleagues was demoted to a constable and sent to one policemen station in a small rural town in South Australia. When Constable Paul Hirschhausen was called to investigate the death of a 16-year-girl, it started events that changed his life and the small community that he is in-charged to protect. The readers of Bitter Wash Road will follow Constable Paul Hirschhausen investigation of the death of the young girl to see what happens.

I have read other books by Garry Disher and I never been disappointed in his portrayal of his characters or the plot of the book and Bitter Wash Road continued my love affair with Garry Disher's books. I like the way Garry Disher describes the problems that Constable Paul Hirschhausen had to endure because he reported on crooked cops. I love Garry Disher's portrayal of his characters and the way they entwine with each other throughout Bitter Wash Road. Garry Disher knows the way to keep me engaged with the characters and plot of Bitter Wash Road, and I never accepted the ending of this book.

.The readers of Bitter Wash Road will learn what happens to whistle-blowers in law enforcement. Also, readers of Bitter Wash Road will understand the problems that small rural communities when law enforcement overlook or became involved with criminal activities.

I recommend this book
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