Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 22, 2010

Wyatt (2010), by Garry Disher, Guest Review by Helen Rutten

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not a big fan of crime fiction – but there are members of the ANZ LitLovers group who certainly are.  It’s a very popular genre, and it’s always been a failing of this blog that it’s been a bit neglected.

So (fanfare, please!) it is my very great pleasure to introduce Guest Blogger Helen Rutten who has kindly reviewed Garry Disher’s award-winning book, Wyatt, which won Best Crime Fiction,  in the 2010 Ned Kelly Awards.

Here is Helen’s review:

Wyatt was waiting to rob a man of $75,000.

The opening line of Garry Disher’s book establishes Wyatt as an anti-hero, a thief of the first order.

We have all heard the old cliché that ‘there is no honour among thieves’.  Disher uses that cliché extremely well in a book that is serious and yet at the same time, quite funny.

The plot is relatively simple. Thieves chase and rob thieves who have already chased and robbed thieves. Add the inevitable cop temped by the sight of riches. Add a betrayal or two and a car chase or two and you have a great read. Don’t, however, be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the plot – it has a few unexpected and extremely well-written twists and turns.


At that moment it was 8 a.m. in London and a Frenchman known for his blade work was trailing a nondescript man out of Blackfriars underground station and along Queen Victoria Street towards Bishopsgate.   Alain Le Page kept well back, but not so far that he lost the man, who wore a dark suit, a vivid white shirt, a vaguely old-school tie and glossy black shoes.

There was nothing about him to suggest he was worth killing. (p.11)

The book begins with Wyatt in Melbourne. The rapid switch to Le Page in London appears a little confusing at first but begins to make sense as the story progresses. What is clear is that Le Page is another thief, and a very nasty and unscrupulous one at that. Although nothing, at first, suggests that Wyatt and Le Page will meet,  meet they do and with an inevitable conclusion.

Ma Gadd sold guns to men like Wyatt.

She operated out of a flower stall in Victoria Market.

If people wanted Ma Gadd’s flowers, they fronted up to her fold-down counter and pointed to blooms crammed in the buckets at their feet or in the space behind Ma. If they wanted a handgun and ammunition, they came to door at the back. (p. 14)

Wyatt, naturally, knocked on the back door.

Ma Gadd is a delightful old lady with an unusual line of business and an unpleasant relative – her nephew Tyler.

Tyler closed and opened his eyes but it was too late. The man named Ty went on full alert, his jaw dropping. “This is Wyatt?”

“Tyler,” said Ma, seeing Wyatt’s face shut down.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Ty said, trying for indifference now, not awe.

“Me nephew, what can you do?” said Ma. (p.16)

On the surface, Wyatt is an extremely unlikely hero. He is a thief who is not opposed to a little murder when the circumstances call for it. And call for it they do – several times throughout the story. The body count of other murders may be opportunistic and gratuitous. Wyatt’s murders are well-deserved. Put simply, Wyatt is undeniably a villain and yet I found myself hoping that he would come out on top, outsmart his fellow villains, run rings around the cops and get away with the girl, the loot, and his life.

Wyatt is set in  Melbourne with considerable action centring around Armadale and an area where I lived for five years (Malvern). The familiar street names added considerably to my delight in this book as I was able to mentally follow the action.   It is evident that Disher has done his research well. At one stage I could even picture him driving around the routes taken by his bunch of over ambitious and back stabbing thieves.

© Helen Rutten

Update 11.1.11

This guest-blog is now cross-posted at Helen from Oz because Helen now has her own blog too!

Author: Gary Disher
Title: Wyatt
Publisher: Text Publishing, 2010
ISBN: 9781921656811
Source: Review copy courtesy of Text Publishing


  1. Good for you Helen. Nice review too.

    Like Lisa, I am not a big crime fiction reader. However, I am thinking of reading this one because I think it would be good to read at least one Disher, given he’s Australian and well-reviewed. You haven’t discouraged me (even if I am not a Melbournite).


  2. Hi Sue, love your post re Vance Palmer, I have his The Big Fellow that won the MF on the TBR and am determined to get to it in the next 12 months – he and Nettie are giants of Oz Lit:)
    Disher is under-rated I think, mainly because he is badged for the YA market. I read his The Divine Wind and thought it was well done, the sort of book rich in themes that’s great for Y12 when it can be matched up with books on similar themes from wide reading. (It was about the kamikaze bombing of Broome, but also about discrimination.)


  3. Thanks. I read a lot by Vance Palmer last year when I was dipping into the ABC Weekly for which he wrote a weekly column. I read his The passage at school, and want to read it again. I agree that he and Nettie were giants. The 1920s-40s were exciting times here literature wise I think.

    Must admit, I mostly knew of Disher for his YA stuff but had been become aware a few years ago that he’s also written for adults. Will see if I can get to this one since it’s in my hot little hands, but … hmmm … so much to read and do. Hope the first day back was OK?


    • I had a lovely day at school. I was not looking forward to it yesterday because I had grown to like loafing about with books, but the kids were sooo lovely and so pleased to see me, and staff were so welcoming it was a great day:)
      And I read The Wind in the Willows to my Year 3 & 4 students and I always love reading that!


  4. As a Western writer, my first thought was: Earp.


  5. […] reading a group of fictional anti-heroes. First cab/or book off the rank was Garry Disher’s Wyatt, the unloveable villain you can’t help loving. Now Wyatt did have a conscience of sorts. […]


  6. […] read (though that’s not to say I wouldn’t read them if I had the time). So, like Lisa at ANZLitLovers and as I did for my last LibraryThing Early Reviewers copy of That Paris Year, I decided to use […]


  7. […] and reading a group of fictional anti-heroes. First cab/or book off the rank was Garry Disher’s Wyatt, the unloveable villain you can’t help loving. Now Wyatt did have a conscience of sorts. […]


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