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Literature / Bitter Wash Road

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Bitter Wash Road is an Australian crime thriller written in 2013. It follows Constable Paul Hirschausen (known by most as Hirsch) at his posting in rural South Australia. He was transferred there after reluctantly whistle-blowing on the corruption at his previous metropolitan posting, and now he’s hated by his new and old colleagues alike and received threats in the post, up to and including a pistol cartridge in a mailbox. When he’s sent to investigate shots at Bitter Wash Road, he fully expects to get shot by his back-up.

This doesn’t happen, though: the shots merely come from the local kids doing target practice. On his way back, however, he discovers the body of a local girl named Melia Donovan. She’s been ran over, with no known suspect. He gets back to the station to discover that someone has put a phone and a large sum of money inside his private car, ostensibly in order to smear him...

This novel provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Age-Appropriate Angst: Craig, one of Ray Latimer’s two sons, is moody and depressed over his father forcing him to play Australian football competitively when he's just not good at it, and studying in a local area school instead of a private school he got used to due to family's financial troubles. He soon gets the death of his mother on top of that.
  • Ate Her Gun: Allison Lanister is found dead in a remote corner of the property with the bullet wound in her mouth, the rifle lodged between her thighs. The truth turns out to be even darker.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Cash and phone that was used in an attempt to frame Hirsch. He deals with it by withdrawing an identical amount of cash and buying similar-looking phone and replacing the bait items with those. When those are brought up at the police hearing, not only does he quash the allegations, but he's also able to show a tape of a woman later proved to be Jennifer Dee putting those into his car.
    • Nicholson and Andrewartha also try this at Hirsch when they firstly invite him to get drunk alongside them, then leave early in order to stop and breath-test him. He’s a step ahead of them, though, and so sabotaged their testing kits beforehand.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Seкgeant Kropp once refers to the local farmers as "sheep-shaggers". Rank cop Andrewartha also jokes about their new colleague, Jennifer Dee, that she would even root things on four legs.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jennifer Dee is the newest Redruth cop and the only one who behaves professionally towards Hirsch. She’s also the one that planted cash in his car to set him up.
  • Child by Rape: A rape victim of Nicholson and Andrewartha has had a child born as a result of it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Bob Reid, one of the corrupt cops at Hirsch’s former station had shot himself to avoid the court. Jennifer Dee, the new officer at Redruth, had been a friend of his and so plants cash in Hirsch’s car in an attempt to frame him.
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  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Hirsch finally has enough when Kropp explains the obvious to him after after Craig is found setting fires on Armstrong’s property. He replies with “How do you know I haven’t already managed to negotiate most of that? You think because I’m a dog and a maggot I’m also not a good policeman? Fuck you, Sarge.”
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Sam Hempel had intentionally run Melia Donovan over after he found out about her involvement in the underage sex ring.
  • Hanlon's Razor: In spite of being openly antagonistic to Hirsch and frequently hampering him, Sergeant Kropp is not involved in any corruption within the police force or the sex crimes: he’s simply too indifferent to investigate any of it.
  • Honor Before Reason: Kropp operates under an honor code of sorts where he wouldn’t betray other police officers no matter what. This means he despises Hirsch as a "maggot" initially, but takes his side against others. He also turns a blind eye to his Constables’ abuse of power because of that, ultimately leading to his forced retirement when the extent of their crimes becomes known.
    • He puts it best himself: "In the end, I don’t care if a fellow police member swindles the Children’s Hospital and violates a busload of nuns. You do not betray him."
  • Hot Teacher: Wendy Street is an attractive woman in her late 30’s, to whom Hirsch soon becomes attracted. She is also a maths teacher at the local school.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Hirschausen himself is one after his experience at the Paradise Hills station. After already getting hell for being the whistleblower once, he’s very reluctant to get involved in anything else like this again.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Nicholson and Andrewartha being finally imprisoned over their abusive policing and involvement in sexual assaults, while Kropp is forced to retire over failing to intervene.
  • Not So Different: Hirsch realizes this about Kropp the night when they’re patrolling the raid before football championship.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Not relevant for major antagonists, but played straight with Constables Nicholson and Andrewartha, who are openly sexist and unfairly target Aboriginal people in their raids, even beating up a mixed-race kid for fun. Averted with Sergeant Kropp, who married to a Thai woman, and gets angry at Hirsch when he disrespects her.
  • Really Gets Around: Nicholson and Andrewartha often harass Jennifer Dee with references to her supposed promiscuity during her time at the police academy. This is never really confirmed, however.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Superintendent Spurling, who is the only police officer in the area that treats Hirsch with respect and wants to address the abuse of power by his colleagues. It’s an act, as he’s the head of a paedophile group and simply wants to offload blame on local police to cover his back.
    • Dr. McAskill is also one, being a clean, competent area doctor. He's part of the sex ring, too, and helped cover up the murders by writing clean autopsies without a trace of suspicion.
  • Show, Don't Tell: The book averts this regularly when Hirsch describes the people he’s talking to: the description of their physical characteristics or mannerisms is then immediately followed by his own conclusions about their character.


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