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Posted by on 21 Feb, 2024 in Australian Crime Fiction, Canberra Weekly, Crime, Forecast Friday, Looking Forward Friday, Thriller | 0 comments

AUSSIE CRIME ROUND-UP, FEBRUARY 2024: NEWS, REVIEWS AND PREVIEWS

AUSSIE CRIME ROUND-UP, FEBRUARY 2024: NEWS, REVIEWS AND PREVIEWS

This is the first of what I hope to be an ongoing series of bi-monthly articles wrapping up recent events in the Australian crime fiction world and offering some reviews and previews of forthcoming titles.

NEWS

Firstly, news of some upcoming author events and tours:

  • Dervla McTiernan will be in conversation with Chris Hammer at the Australian National University on Tuesday 5 March 2024 at 6 pm, as part of the ANU’s Meet The Author series. Chris is a fantastic interviewer and Dervla is always a terrific speaker full of insights and good stories, so this should be a really fun night. A must for Canberra crime readers. More details are here: https://www.anu.edu.au/events/meet-the-author-dervla-mctiernan

    I have also done a review of Dervla’s new book, What Happened To Nina?, below
  • Also coming to the ANU is Sarah Bailey on Tuesday 12 March at 6 pm. Chris will once again be doing the honours of being the interviewer and I anticipate a really interesting night. Sarah’s latest book, Body Of Lies, is just out and is a very good read that kept me keenly turning the pages all the way to the end. Sarah is an articulate advocate for Australian crime fiction and I am sure that it be a highly entertaining evening. More details are here: https://www.anu.edu.au/events/meet-the-author-sarah-bailey.

    Here is a link to my review of Body Of Lies from earlier this year: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/friday-forecast-body-of-lies-by-sarah-bailey/
  • Other authors are also on tour during February and March, including Dinuka McKenzie who seems to be particularly busy following the release of her impressive new book, Tipping Point. Details of where she will be can be found on her site: https://dinukamckenzie.com/news-media/

    Dinuka also recently revealed the evocative British cover for Tipping Point, which is being released by Canelo in the United Kingdom in July 2024.

I was also lucky enough to catch up Australian thriller writer Tony Park, whilst in Sydney recently. Tony divides his time between Sydney and southern Africa, where he sets most of his novels, and is one of the best adventure thriller novelist that Australia has. He always turns in an exciting read, with plenty of local African atmosphere and a strong focus on protecting endangered animals from destruction.

I have been enjoying and reviewing his books since the mid 2000s. I think my first review was of Silent Predator, which really impressed me at the time, and I have been a keen reader of his books since.

I had an enjoyable chat with Tony, who is a very nice guy. We touched on the state of crime and thriller writing in Australia and overseas, and the importance of touring for authors. He had some really good insights and lots of interesting stories. We also discussed the fascinating background to his books and the real life events that inspired them, some of which are too extraordinary to include in a novel!

The good news is that Tony has a new book coming out later this year in August. Titled Protector, it is about the terrible poaching of endangered pangolins, and is sure to be another top notch read. Look out for it!

Here is a review I did of Tony’s 2022 book Pride: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/new-australian-crime-fiction-august-2022/

It is also worthwhile noting that the movie version of Jane Harper’s Force Of Nature (Dry 2), once more starring Eric Bana, has recently been released in Australia and is getting some good reviews. So go check it out!

REVIEWS

Here are shortish reviews of some recent and forthcoming Australian releases.

What Happened To Nina? by Dervla McTiernan (Harper Collins, 28 February 2024)

As with her last novel, The Murder Rule, Australian based Dervla McTiernan has set her new book, What Happened To Nina?, (Harper Colins, 28 February), in America.

The story revolves around the disappearance of a young woman, Nina, and the media frenzy and drama that follows.

As Nina’s parents desperately try to find out what happened to her, the wealthy parents of the boy she was last seen with launch a well organised media campaign to protect their son. Soon, facts are lost in a swirl of accusation and counter-accusation. Everyone chooses a side, and the story quickly goes viral, fuelled by armchair investigators and wild conspiracy theories, and illustrated with pretty pictures taken from Nina’s social media accounts. Journalists swiftly descend on the small Vermont town where Nina lived, and in the chaos the truth about what happened to Nina gets lost.

What Happened To Nina? is yet another change in direction for Dervla, moving further away from her Cormac Reilly police novels and last year’s legal revenge thriller, The Murder Rule. This time around, Dervla has gone for a more family drama feel, although there are clear crime novel elements. It is a very emotionally charged story that really focuses on the effect of a high profile event on two families and the community in which they live.

The social media frenzy around the disappearance, and how it can be manipulated, rings true and brings to mind other similar real life occurrences in America. As usual, the characterisations are finely tuned and credible, and the book has a strong momentum to it. Several themes are smoothly covered along the way to the powerful conclusion, and I suspect that What Happened To Nina? will be a popular Book Club choice this year.

Overall, a thought provoking and gripping drama that will keep you engaged until the emotional ending.

What Happened to Nina? is released in Australia on 28 February 2024. It is released in the United States on 26 March 2024 and the United Kingdom on 28 March 2024. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a copy of the book for review.

The Mystery Writer by Sulari Gentill (Ultimo Press, 6 March 2024)

Sulari Gentill’s latest novel, The Mystery Writer (Ultimo Press, 6 March 2024), is a cleverly concocted and very original mystery, which gently plays with the conventions of the crime novel, while providing a good dose of mystery and suspense. I think that it is Sulari’s best novel to date.

Theo Benton has one dream: to become a bestselling author. Determined to make her mark in the literary world, she leaves Sydney and heads to the United States on a whim to stay with her brother Gus and focus on her writing. But her plans take an unexpected turn when she befriends a famous author, Dan Murdoch, at a local bar. He is encouraging of her writing, but when he turns up dead after she gives him her draft manuscript, Theo finds herself as the prime suspect in his murder.

As Theo grapples with the shocking turn of events, she realizes that Dan may not have been the person he seemed to be, and that there is something sinister going on in the world of publishing. Desperate to clear her name and uncover the truth, Theo sets out on a quest to find out who killed Dan and why.

The Mystery Writer starts out quickly and Sulari keeps the pace ticking over at a steady rate as the book moves through some very unexpected developments. The plotting is clever, and is well supported by an eclectic cast of characters, especially the family of one of Gus’s friends. All the characters are nicely fleshed out, and Theo makes for a good lead character, with a mixture of flaws, secrets and hidden strengths.

Seamlessly woven into the story are marvellous revelations on the publishing industry and writing in general. Some of Sulari’s reflections on authors and publishers are brutal, but also amusing, and she frequently highlights the importance and influence of books:

‘The (book) collection was clearly for reference, not pleasure. Vaguely, she wondered about a future without stories. It was bleak. However troubled her present, at least it was not without stories.’

The ending may stretch credibility, but recent events in America will make you stop and think that perhaps Sulari’s central conceit is right! In any event, it does not stop The Mystery Writer from being a very enjoyable read that I could not put down.

Note: The Mystery Writer will be published overseas in late March 2024 by a different publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, and with a different cover.

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book for review.

Glenrock by Lee Christine (Allen & Unwin, 30 January 2024)

After some light romantic crime novels with a strong rural feel to them, Lee Christine moves more firmly into the crime fiction realm with her latest book Glenrock, (Allen & Unwin, 30 January 2024).

When Justice Maurice Tempest is murdered in the Glenrock State Conservation Area in Newcastle, local police detective Callan O’Connor is the first on the scene. The early indications are that it is a revenge killing, but the discovery of a second body in the same location a few days later suggests that more complex motives are at play. As more evidence emerges, O’Connor also has to grapple with how the judge was connected to a convicted forger who is in frequent contact with O’Connor’s journalist girlfriend, Angela Avery. The disappearance of two young female lawyers, who vanished on the day of the murder, also adds an extra complication to the investigation.

Lee manages the various strands of her plot with aplomb, connecting the various elements in a credible and interesting way that is easy to follow. The story moves along well, and there are plenty of false clues to keep the reader guessing. Most of the action occurs towards the end, but there is enough mystery and intrigue to keep it interesting through the early sections.

The characters are solid, and Lee is very good at imparting a nice sense of place, and she ably brings Newcastle and its surrounds to life. In all, an enjoyable mystery, although probably best suited to those who enjoy a generous serving of romance and relationships.

Glenrock with its eye catching cover was released on 30 January 2024.

PREVIEWS

In earlier posts I have highlighted some of the Australian releases due over the next few months, such as Garry Disher’s Sanctuary, but there is also plenty of books to look forward to later in the year.

Storm Child by Michael Robotham, (Hachette, 26 June 2024)

Here are some of the highlights that I have picked out:

  • Coming in late June is Storm Child by Michael Robotham. Storm Child is the long awaited fourth book in his Evie Cormac and Cyrus Haven series and sounds like a fantastic read. Robotham’s novels are always a highlight of the reading year and I am really looking forward to this one.
  • Also highly anticipated are two Benjamin Stevenson books, which are apparently scheduled for later this year. Coming out in late May is Fool Me Twice (Michael Joseph), which contains two novella length stories that he wrote for Audible: Find Us and Last One To Leave. I have listened to both of them and there are very good and twisty. I think that Stevenson’s growing audience will really enjoy reading them.
  • Then in late October there will be another entry in his Ernest Cunningham series: Everyone This Christmas Has A Secret:

    ” There are quite a few differences between an Australian Christmas and the stereotypical Northern Hemisphere fare.

For one, we don’t get snow. And, in my specific experience, there tend to be more murders.
Which brings us here.

After having solved two relatively high-profile murders, my third case begins when a body drops dead at my feet
during a Christmas pageant.

I’m writing this all out on Christmas Eve, and honestly, this whole thing’s an advent calendar. 23 clues and a killer,
because the best chocolate’s always behind door number 24.

But getting there won’t be easy. Because this Christmas, everyone has a motive. So it’s not a matter of who
wanted the victim dead – but who got there first…”

Certainly sounds intriguing!

  • Michael Brissenden finally has a new novel coming out on 25 June – Smoked (Affirm Press). Set in the Californian sierras it has an interesting sounding plot set in the aftermath of a major bushfire. I am certainly very keen to read it, as I was impressed with Michael’s first two novels: The List and Dead Letters.
  • Also set in America is the latest Candice Fox novel, Devil’s Kitchen (Random House, 26 March 2024). I am hoping to get a copy soon and will be reviewing it before the release date. Revolving around a group of New York fire fighters who moonlight as professional thieves, it certainly sounds like another wild ride of a read by Candice.
  • Finally, Fremantle Press report that they have scheduled new novels by David Whish-Wilson and Dave Warner for release later in the year. No details yet, but both authors are automatically ‘must reads’ for me.

So plenty of reading to come!

All going well, I will try and do another round up in a couple of months, until then happy reading!

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