Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: “Wyatt” by Garry Disher


“Most people are poor sentinels, but Wyatt’s life was built on stillness, watching and thinking.”

Garry Disher’s, Wyatt will appear to the American reader as the Australian heir apparent to Donald Westlake’s (aka Richard Stark) Parker. Both are thieves, who plan minutely detailed crimes with the intensity of a man defusing a bomb and still things go wrong. But, Wyatt is no mere Parker knock-off. Disher has crafted a character, that while baring similar characteristics, is wholly original with an appeal of his own. This is crime writing at it’s absolute best, and noir, not of misty late night rivers and neon-lit rain soaked asphalt, but noir the color of flint and hard edged steel.

This is the seventh in the Wyatt Series, and the first widely available in America, thanks to SoHo Press. Hopefully they will be able to distribute the others, as well as Disher’s  other works. Wyatt is a cold, calculating thief and has been away from Australia for awhile (and the printed page as well – the last novel in the series published anywhere was in 1997 with Fallout) and he is looking for a heist. For $500 he gets a tip from an old criminal acquaintance, Eddie Oberin, about a crooked harbormaster. He plans on robbing the harbormaster for $75,000. Wyatt meticulously shadows the harbormaster and plans the heist to go smoothly but when it falls apart, Wyatt has to make a dirty get away. What’s worse, is when he does the pay off that he stole from the harbormaster is a sham and only nets him $1,600.

So, Wyatt, funds seriously depleted, listens to Eddie tell a tale about a big job. Jewels. Eddie’s ex-wife Lydia Stark used to work for a semi legit couple of brothers who run a jewelry business, but ever so often they buy stolen jewels from a broker/courier who steals them in Europe and fences them half way around the world. Wyatt prefers to work alone, but Eddie has in the past proven to be a reliable wheelman and an occasional hired gun, but he has become mostly a fence himself anymore. But now he would like to retire, on one last big score.

And Wyatt himself is seeing his life style seriously threatened. Money is not readily available in the places he is used to stealing it. Security systems have gone high tech, even cameras have facial recognition capabilities, and so much money moves via computer anymore, and not via armored cars or couriers. Yet Wyatt is a simple, old time thief and knows nothing of computers and even if he did, it take too large of a team for that kind of crime, so he reluctantly forms a partnership with Eddie and his ex wife.

But the marks are not push overs, and the courier is no simple salesman, and Wyatt’s partners may not be totally on the up and up and there are ambivalent morals amongst the police as well. No matter how perfectly planned and engineered a heist, there is not many contingencies for a double cross. Except that Wyatt has a certain kind of code, and he is capable of killing with a cold calculating menace that is responsible for many a spine shiver. “ If it was necessary to kill her, he would. But it wasn’t. Only fools let it be the solution to everything.” Wyatt contemplates at one point. He is not a man to cross.

The prose are hard, clean and sparse. Much like Wyatt “when he was working, his instructions to bank tellers, security guards, witnesses or people working along side of him were calm and efficient. The words had a job to do and were not to be squandered.” and Disher doesn’t squander them either. Yet, this is no stock, two dimensional character, no mad-dog loose with a gun, and for a story that is driven by such an outstanding plot, the character development is subtle, complex and perfect as well. As Wyatt muses another time, “He was curious to find himself capable of a range of fugitive emotions, old, lost and new.” And it is this masters touch of just enough emotion, just enough mix of the hard with the soft that breathes life into Wyatt and makes him a character to look forward to.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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