Signal Loss by Garry DisherSignal Loss by Garry Disher

Signal Loss

byGarry Disher

Hardcover | December 12, 2017

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The Ned Kelly Award–winning master of Australian noir shows us the darker side of the Peninsula. A major meth-related crime confounds Inspector Hal Challis, while Sergeant Ellen Destry hunts down an elusive serial rapist.

A pair of hit men have a very bad day, and the resulting bushfire draws attention to a meth lab and two burned bodies in a Mercedes. As Inspector Hal Challis of the Crime Investigation Unit struggles to link these events to major meth suppliers flooding the Peninsula with drugs, he also finds himself spending valuable time fending off jurisdictional challenges from Melbourne’s Major Drug Investigative Division. Meanwhile, Sgt. Ellen Destry, of CIU’s sex crimes unit, is hunting for a serial rapist who is extremely adept at not leaving clues. A tense, human, and at times darkly funny entry into Disher’s celebrated Ned Kelly Award–winning series.
Garry Disher has published over fifty books in a range of genres, including crime, children’s books, and Australian history. His Hal Challis and Wyatt crime series are also published by Soho Crime. He lives on the Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne.
Title:Signal LossFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:352 pages, 8.6 × 5.8 × 1.1 inShipping dimensions:8.6 × 5.8 × 1.1 inPublished:December 12, 2017Publisher:Soho PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1616958596

ISBN - 13:9781616958596


Read from the Book

1 Lovelock and Pym. They sounded like some kind of show-business duo—magicians, maybe; folk singers.      In fact they worked for Hector Kaye, who used to run with the Finks out of Kings Cross. That was before he set up as a legitimate businessman and started importing crystal meth from China. They didn’t come cheap, Lovelock and Pym. Kaye paid them well and he’d bought them each a house and a car in the past year.      Their next project was to knock off a guy named Owen Valentine down in Victoria. Fifty grand plus a thousand a day each for expenses. Four days minimum, two days on the road from Sydney, two days back. The coast route, not the Hume: fewer cops. There was no reason why they couldn’t fly down on fake IDs, they had plenty to choose from, but neither of them had ever seen the south coast. They’d be renting a Mercedes with one of the fake IDs, a big sedan with room in the boot for a body.      That was the basic set-up. Now Hector moved on to the finer detail: “Grab this Valentine prick as soon as his girlfriend and kids have left the house, pack up his clothes and toiletries and shit so it looks like he’s done a runner, whack him, disappear the body.”      The three of them were on Hector’s deck overlooking Double Bay, sitting around a glass and stainless steel outdoor setting, sipping margaritas. Lovelock, a literal-minded man who despised fag drinks like margaritas, said, “Whack him at his house, or take him somewhere first?”       “Not at his fucking house, genius. He’s done a runner, right? No blood.”       “Then disappear him,” Lovelock repeated flatly.       “Bury him,” Kaye specified. “Deep. You’ll need a shovel.”      Lovelock had never been to Victoria. “Where?”       “Here,” said Kaye, tapping a map. He had the long, clean forefingers of a businessman. No grease, scars or swollen knuckles. Only with his sleeves rolled back you could see a scroll of black ink: Respect Few, Fear None.      Lovelock and Pym studied the map dubiously. It was a bad fax, or more likely a scan, showing a twenty-kilometer-square detail of the Mornington Peninsula south-east of Melbourne. Kaye had used pink highlighter to mark a coastal town, Moonta, and an inland track named Lintermans Lane.       “Grab the guy in Moonta, bury him in Lintermans Lane. Got it,” said Lovelock.      Meanwhile Pym was examining the other paperwork on the table: head-and-shoulders shots of their victim, typed information, a mobile number. A slight, nervy man who liked to query and quibble, he stared at Kaye. “You’re sending us to the dark side of the moon, boss.”       “It’s not the fucking Simpson Desert, it’s an hour from Melbourne,” said Kaye. “If you don’t want the job, I’ll send someone else.”       “Can’t you use a local guy?”       “It’s a favor for a local guy, all right? He doesn’t want anything to come back on him. You go in, do it, get out. Jesus, you’re getting paid enough.”      Sea birds wheeled above the water, blindingly blue under the early summer sun. A solitary cloud above. Pym ignored all that. Curious to know how far he could push, he said, “What’s your cut?”       “The satisfaction of doing a favor for an associate,” Kaye snarled, “all right?”      Pym saluted him. “You’re the boss.”       “That I am.”     So Lovelock and Pym took the coast road, the ocean only occasionally visible. Stopped Wednesday night at Bega, where they fitted the Mercedes with plates from a Victorian car, and then down through Gippsland to the tip of Westernport Bay. After ascertaining that Moonta was no more than a bunch of beach houses with a single shop, they drove another ten minutes to the town of Waterloo, which had a motel. Pym went for a run as soon as they checked in, then drove to the Bunnings on the edge of town and bought a shovel and tarp. Paid cash, the visor of his John Deere cap low on his brow. Lovelock stayed in, sinking a six-pack of Victoria Bitter as he watched the T20 game on Fox. Over dinner—chicken salad for Pym, meat-lovers pizza for Lovelock—they studied the paperwork again.      Lovelock chewed, swallowed, burped. “Guy looks like a meth head.”      Pym nodded. In photographs, Owen Valentine had a narrow, bruised, hunted-looking face under a firebreak haircut, his parted dry lips revealing mossy teeth.      Lovelock snatched another bite and ruminated. “You ever ask yourself what we’re doing?”      Christ, thought Pym, hating it when Lovelock got philosophical. “No.”      Lovelock waved his pizza slice, tumbling a lump of greyish meat onto the nasty bedspread. “I mean, all we ever do is what we’re told. You ever thought of going independent?”       “No,” Pym said, without much hope it would shut Lovelock up.       “Okay, so ask yourself: here’s a meth head, and we’re getting fifty grand to waste him. Makes you think, right? All that money?”       “Think what?”       “Whatever this Valentine character did to piss off Hector’s mate, it must have been big. I mean, fifty grand.”       “So?”       “So he knows something, stole a shitload of drugs, something.”       “So?”       “So yeah, we top him, bury him. But why not ask a few questions first?” Lovelock said, getting out his cigarettes.      Pym made him take his filthy habit outside, Pym who didn’t touch steroids, ice, nicotine, alcohol. He was a killer these days, but quite a bit of the old Pym lingered from before. Clean, straight. Good job as an aide to a Liberal Party MP, before a small misstep in the form of a Facebook post. A few frank thoughts on immigrants and Muslims that prompted a swift change of careers.      He made Lovelock take his filthy habit outside, but still kissed him goodnight.     On Friday morning—after Pym’s run and Lovelock’s sleep-in—they drove back up to Moonta. Through farmland that backed onto the mudflats and mangroves, along small, tight roads to the little township. It was no more than a collection of short, sandy streets settled with beach houses of various kinds, some costly, others renovated cottages, with a few wood and plaster kit homes of the kind pictured in brochures with names like “The Inlander” or “The Californian.”      The house where Owen Valentine lived with his girlfriend and their kids was a shabby fibro structure set amid ti trees on a narrow dirt track unobservantly named Banksia Court. Pulling the Mercedes under a nearby tree, Lovelock and Pym watched and waited, and presently a rusty white Corolla pulled out of the car shed at the side of the house, a woman and one child aboard.       “So far so good,” Pym said.       “There’s supposed to be two kids. Where’s the other one?”       “Maybe it’s too tiny to see,” said Pym, irritated. “How the fuck would I know?”       “I’m just saying.”      They stared at the house gloomily, wondering if they’d have to factor in a second killing. It would mean more work.       “Okay, time to rock and roll,” Pym said.     They entered by the car shed and a connecting door to the kitchen. Found Owen Valentine asleep on a sofa in the sitting room. Pym was disgusted. Takeaway food containers, wine bottles, overflowing ashtrays, a greasy meth pipe on the coffee table. And the place stank. Drugs, garbage, pine sap from a miserable Christmas tree in the corner, dog shit.       “Hey there, cutie,” murmured Lovelock, bending to a tiny black toilet brush of a dog. Dogs loved him, and this one licked his hand.       “Leave it,” snapped Pym.      He kicked the sleeping man’s leg. Valentine snorted, a skinny, ice-ravaged creature dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. Gummy eyes, when they finally opened. Three or four days’ worth of whiskers, grubby feet with a yellow talon at the end of each toe.      “Get up, arsehole,” Pym said. To get the message across, he scraped the blade of his boning knife along the ridges and whorls of his left thumb.       “Who the fuck are you?” croaked Valentine.       “Your worst nightmare,” Lovelock said, grabbing Valentine by the shirt, lifting him out of the chair, driving his fist into the skinny belly.      The dog yapped, appreciating the game.       “Careful,” said Pym. “No blood, no signs of disturbance.”      So they moved to the car shed, shut the street door and duct-taped Valentine to a cobwebby green plastic garden chair. Lovelock scooped up the dog and tickled its ears as he looked around. Old paint tins, packaged screws and nails on a work bench, various edged tools hanging from the walls. Engine oil in the air; a hint of brine from the nearby beach.      And sweat. It was hot in the shed, getting hotter, the early December sun beating hard upon the roofing iron. Pissed pants now, too. Valentine bewildered and afraid, his eyes bugging out.       “You’ve been a naughty boy, Owen,” Lovelock said, aiming at the general, not the specific, hoping Valentine would spill some information they could profit from. “Haven’t you, eh? A liability. Some unhappy people.”      A look of resignation passed over Valentine’s face, chased by fear and ice twitches. He thrashed about in his chair and opened his mouth to yell. Lovelock slammed his fists left and right at Valentine’s head and stomach, and Valentine, reduced to skin and bone, rattled and jerked in the chair, not riding the blows at all.      Pym, fastidious, stood clear of the flying blood, sweat and mucus. Presently he said, “That’ll do.” The two of them paused for a moment, regarding the miserable figure in the chair.      Valentine did nothing, said nothing, his head lolling. It made Lovelock mad. And his fists hurt.      He moved in again, screaming, “Where the fuck is it, you piece of shit?”      Valentine lifted his misshapen head. His eyes were reduced to puffy slits. He whispered, “I’m sorry,” working his tongue and lips to moisten the rotting mouth.       “My turn,” Pym said, nudging Lovelock aside. He drew a line of blood beads along Valentine’s forearm with the tip of his knife. “You’re holding out on us, Owen.”      Valentine’s eyes rolled back and his chin dropped to his chest. Blood dripped from his arm, bloody drool gathered on his chin, a poor glistening thread of it stretching, finally reaching his lap.       “Faking it,” Lovelock said.      He leaned in, jetted smoke into Valentine’s face and shouted, “Where the fuck is it?”      Valentine tried to lift his head and failed.       “What’s that?” said Lovelock comically. “Can’t hear you, mate. Work those tonsils.”      Valentine’s chin fell to his chest but he was conscious, his eyes open. Lovelock said to Pym, “You have another go.”      Pym, gagging at the smell, flicked his blade tip at Valentine’s nostrils, earlobes, eyebrows. Fluids leaked, pooling around the chair, darkening the cement floor, and Valentine shuddered, his eyes fluttering, his head tipping to his shoulder.      Lovelock’s impatience grew. This shouldn’t be taking so long. Elbowing Pym away, he delivering another flurry of punches, left and right. “Wake up, bozo.”      Nothing. He tapped the bruised cheeks, lifted the mashed eyelids, felt for a pulse.      Found a pulse. Muttered, “Not dead, then,” and slapped Valentine’s face. “Come on buddy, wake up. Don’t piss us about.”      Still nothing.      He stood back. “I’m not buying it, Owen,” he said critically. “Wake the fuck up.”       “Can I try?” said Pym, his voice a whispery rasp, almost indistinguishable from the sound of the hot wind outside, leafy branches scraping the nearby walls, fences and rooftops.       “Go for your life.”      Pym used his fingers this time, pinching and flicking, darting in like a wasp. Finding pleasure where, for Lovelock, administering a beating was merely work.      No response. Pym stood back and Lovelock took his place again. “Maybe he’s unconscious.”       “Oh, do you think?” said Pym. “You did hit him quite hard.”      Lovelock flushed.      He pulled out one of his phones, tapped the screen with a blunt forefinger.      Three taps, Pym noted. Appalled, he said, “Who the fuck are you calling?”       “Triple zero.”       “You mad?”      Lovelock waved his free hand irritably, a shut-up gesture, and said pleasantly, “Ambulance service, please.”      Pym blinked, checked the exits. There were two: the connecting door to Valentine’s kitchen, currently open, and the roller door to the street, currently closed.       “No,” Lovelock was saying, “I don’t actually need an ambulance, not yet, but could you give me a couple of tips on how to revive a mate who—?”      He listened, nodded, said, “No, he just fainted. The heat, I think.”      Listened again, said, “No, an ambulance would be overkill, I just need . . . On drugs? I don’t think so,” he added, glancing at Valentine as if to confirm the diagnosis. Listened a bit more, frustration growing. “Look, should I pump his chest? Throw cold water on him? What? No, no, don’t put me through to—”      He stabbed the off button. Stripped away the battery cover, removed battery and sim card, ground the whole phone into the concrete with his boot, put the pieces in his pocket.       “The mind boggles,” said Pym.       “She was going to put me through to the cops,” Lovelock said, sounding surprised.       “Jesus Christ. Look, let’s just finish him off and get out of here.”       “Fine,” said Lovelock, smarting. “Wait.” He leaned his heavy face toward Valentine, peeled up the eyelids, felt for a pulse. “Oh well. Mission accomplished.”      Pym checked, confirmed, sighed. “I’ll get the car. You grab his clothes and toilet bag.”

Editorial Reviews

AN 'INDIENEXT' SELECTION FOR DECEMBER 2017Praise for Signal Loss“Disher’s narrative has frequent asides full of descriptive power and sometimes pungent wit . . . The power of Disher’s novel is the almost casual evocation of the characters as real people who occupy a segment of the social setting that is the breeding ground of noir fiction.”—Los Angeles Review of Books“Excellent . . . A searing commentary on the meth crisis and its tremendous toll on users and communities alike.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review“A fine police procedural marked by well-developed characters and social issues that add depth.”—Library Journal“Tough and gritty . . . Fans of the series will dive into this one, and here’s the best part: the book works as a stand-alone, which means it’s a great way for newbies to make Challis’ acquaintance.”—Booklist“There are so many felonies in this quiet corner of Australia, in fact, that jurisdictional squabbles loom larger and larger as the criminals get tangled in multiple nets before Disher sorts it all out with consummate professionalism and just a trace of regret.”—Kirkus Reviews“A nicely rendered procedural with complex plotting, a high level of character development, and a vibrant setting.”—Mystery Scene“Signal Loss comes through loud and clear as a crime novel that will send us back to Garry Disher’s Australia for more.”—New York Journal of Books“Disher's vivid prose captures small-town Australia, and he skillfully interweaves three police investigations into an intriguing whole. The setting may be unfamiliar for most American readers, but they are sure to recognize the excellence of the mystery.”—Shelf Awareness“If you are craving a procedural with lots of sun and deft plotting as winter settles in here in the States, pick up Disher’s Signal Loss.”—Literary Hub“Disher is not afraid to use his novels to explore difficult questions, to highlight injustices and to dig deep into law-enforcement frustrations—and what causes a lot of crime in the first place . . . The timing is always particularly precise, with plots that belt along, even with the intertwining of the personal, and characters who are vivid and real.”—The Newtown Review of Books“There's no need to read the previous six books in the series to enjoy Signal Loss. Disher's an old hand who knows how to build a book that can stand on its own. But then—why deny yourself the pleasure?”—Reviewing the Evidence“Clear the schedule if you can—here's your winter vacation between the covers in a 345-page 'Down Under' romp through twinned cases that are hard to control, and incredibly satisfying to solve.”—Kingdom Books“Disher is a master of Australian noir.”—Kittling Books"Set in Australia, the seventh in Disher's Challis and Destry series is just as action-packed and exciting as the previous books. Meth kingpins, hit men, and a serial rapist are the villains of this installment, and the Australian location adds interest and flavor."—Susan Taylor, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NYPraise for the Hal Challis series"Top-notch . . . Trust me, mate: Readers will want to make a return visit to Disher's Australia."—The Christian Science Monitor"Terrific plot, nuanced characters and solid procedures, served up on a refreshing new turf."—The New York Times Book Review "Delightful . . . BUY IT."—New York Magazine "First rate."—Washington Post Book World "The fifth book featuring Disher's team of romantically involved crime-solvers has them investigating the Down Underbelly of an Australian vacation spot."—Entertainment Weekly "Colorful . . . Disher has literary talent and imagination."—Chicago Tribune "Terrific."—Seattle Times"This series boasts careful, realistic casework, but there’s enough darkness and ambiguity to suit John Harvey fans and a kind of which-way-is-up sense of the police force that recalls early James Ellroy. Moody, inventive, and extremely hard to put down." —Booklist