The Way it is Now by Garry Disher

‘He wondered if a life—or lives—could be boiled down to a house.’

A small beachside town named Menlo Beach about an hour out of Melbourne provides the setting for this novel. Twenty years ago, Charlie Deravin was a young policeman working on a missing child case when his mother went missing. His parents, Rose and Rhys Deravin, were in the process of divorcing, and his father was the main suspect although Rose Deravin’s body was never found. Rhys Deravin was also a policeman, a detective, and two of his colleagues Mark Valente and Noel Saltash also lived close by.

‘Gaps had opened in all their lives and the repairs were makeshift.’

Twenty years may have elapsed, but Charlie has never given up wondering about what happened to his mother and hoping to find answers. His marriage has broken down, he is on forced leave after assaulting his superior officer and has moved back to Menlo Beach. Charlie has plenty of time on his hands and tries to follow up some of the now cold leads from his mother’s disappearance.

Charlie is treading on some very thin ice: the police do not appreciate his unofficial involvement. His new girlfriend Anna, a juror he met on a trial that had to be abandoned, is harassed because she would not support an acquittal. Both Anna and Charlie are in danger.

On a vacant block next to where his mother was living, foundations are dug for a new house. Skeletal remains are found: a child and an adult. While Charlie will find the answers he is seeking, regret for actions taken and disappointment with others will both play a part.

I really enjoyed this novel. The tension builds: the small-town setting was well done, and the characters became real (flaws and all). Events in the past and issues in the present maintained the tension as I kept reading, keen to find the answers.

A terrific murder mystery.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith