The Hal Challis series is really growing into something particularly interesting, as well as entertaining. There's a distinct edge to this story, there are obviously some issues which the author wants to talk about, and he's cleverly worked a number of elements of social observation and commentary into what is, overall, a good solid police procedural.
Hal and Ellen's romantic interest at the end of the last book has developed into a live-in relationship. Which has a number of complications - not just that they work together and that Hal is Ellen's boss. Ellen's divorce is only just completed, and as attracted as she is to Hal, living together is an unexpected experience that she's struggling with. And the rest of the team are well aware of what's going on, even if the whole thing is not spoken of. The brass is also less than impressed, but they have given Hal a way out of the situation which he needs to decide on whilst he's also juggling a number of simultaneous investigations.
The unit is busy. It is Schoolies Week and Waterloo has become one of the destinations for groups of celebrating teenagers in recent years, and the workload for the police increases as a result. Whilst most of the lower ranks are fully occupied with Schoolie liaison and investigating minor crimes, there are occasional bigger problems like assault and in particular sexual assault. Nobody necessarily thinks that the vicious bashing of a local private school chaplain is connected to the Schoolies, although it could be possible. What is definitely known is that the victim's brother works for the local Member of Parliament, and he's a Pollie not adverse to a spot of police bashing and throwing his weight around. Things get even more complicated in that case when a racial motive is unearthed.
Meanwhile a local planning officer is having family problems of her own. Her husband is obsessed and a bully - following her constantly, criticising her constantly, carping and harping at her all the time. She's also got a job that sometimes makes her unpopular, either enforcing breaches of planning law, or in one case, failing to stop the demolishing of a much loved old landmark.
The storylines provide a real possibility for some particularly pithy - and frequently funny - digs at things that can go very wrong when places of natural beauty start to attract a lot of people. In particular, people who seem hell-bent on destroying the things that attracted them in the first place. There is also some very elegant commentary about corruption, privilege, and overt and tacky displays of wealth, dotted throughout. By no means overpowering or distracting from the investigation, this social observation adds a layer of understanding about the area, and the people on all sides of the investigations.
It is a complicated series of threads - the bashing assault of the chaplain; a bludgeoned body; sexual assault within the Schoolies; a young man who picked on the wrong girl last year; and an unsavoury event within the investigation team. All of these threads make the story busy, but not messy; the team feels stretched but not unexpectedly or unreasonably so; and the resolutions aren't impossible (or too easy) to deduce as you go along.
The fifth book in the Hal Challis and Ellen Destry series, BLOOD MOON is another of those great, solid, entertaining, engaging chore-stopper books. Whilst it could stand on its own, if you haven't read any of the earlier books, then track them down at the same time. Reading the entire series does give you a feeling for how it's growing into its early promise.
The Dragon Man
Chain of Evidence