The novel, first published in Disher’s native Australia in December 1995, is actually the fifth book in a series that now totals seven titles. (There is a thirteen-year gap between books six and seven.) Soho Crime introduced professional robber Wyatt Wareen to U.S. readers in 2011 with its publication of Wyatt, the latest thriller in the series. That one won Australia’s Ned Kelley award when it was published there a year earlier.
Wyatt is a true professional. He tries to recruit only the most competent of those people whose unique talents he needs to pull off a job successfully. He plans his robberies down to the last detail, never leaving anything to chance, always aware that something can go wrong very suddenly. And, if something does happen, he always has a contingency plan mapped out that will allow him and his people to make their escape. But if not for bad luck, this guy would have no luck at all.
As Port Vila Blues begins, Wyatt successfully pulls off a complicated burglary that nets him a nice bonus in addition to the cash he expected to find: a very distinctive diamond-studded Tiffany brooch. Unfortunately, he is not the first to have stolen the brooch, and when Wyatt contracts with a fence to move the piece, he sets off a wild chain of events and people start dying. As it turns out, the original thief is not the only one wanting to get his hands on the Tiffany – and around Wyatt’s throat.
Wyatt is not an easy man to get to know. He is a loner, and he likes it that way. When it comes to his business, he is a professional’s professional. He looks for competent help but he understands that, almost by definition, no one in his business can really be trusted; it is every man for himself. He is cool under pressure and does not invest much energy in emotion and personal feelings. Those who dare double-cross him, however, will have to face him again because Wyatt will not rest easy until he kills them – and he always does. He takes pride in his work.
Anti-hero Wyatt Wareen makes for an interesting character, and Disher allows the reader just enough detail about him to keep him simultaneously intriguing and mysterious. He is certainly not a likable man, but that will not keep readers from pulling for him in a noirish world in which even the good guys are not all that likable – or good.