AUSSIE CRIME WAVE: 12 AUSTRALIAN CRIME NOVELS THAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO READING IN LATE 2021
2021 has already seen the release of some very good Australian crime novels, including a strong debut by Allie Reynolds (Shiver) and impressive novels by Michael Brissenden (Dead Letters) and Matt Nable (Still).
The good news is that there is even more promising looking titles scheduled for release over the next six months, including books by some of the biggest names in Australian crime writing. I have picked out twelve that I am most looking forward to.
Michael Robotham is arguably Australia’s leading writer of international crime novels. His Joe O’Loughlin series, and his more recent books about Evie Cormac and forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, have garnered massive praise from around the world and won several high profile awards. His latest book, When You Are Mine (Hachette, 30 June 2021), strikes out in a new direction and features an interesting fresh character in the form of promising young London police officer Philomena (Phil) McCarthy. When she is called to the scene of a domestic dispute she becomes caught up in the lives of a decorated policer officer and his young mistress, the troubled Tempe Brown. I have already read this one and it is an emotionally charged novel with lots of good twists!
Tony Park is one of my favourite thriller writers and his African based novels are always a joy to read. His latest one, Blood Trail (Pan, 27 July 2021), returns to a favoured theme of wildlife poaching, and looks at how COVID-19 has sparked an increase in the hunting of endangered animals for use in traditional medicines. It also brings back one of his most popular characters, Captain Sannie van Rensburg of the South African police force. As with all of Tony’s books, this looks to be really up to date and full of action and suspense.
2020 saw some impressive debut crime novels by Australian authors, probably none more so than Gabriel Bergmoser’s visceral The Hunted, which was a wild ride of a thriller. The Inheritance continues the adventures of the enigmatic Maggie who is hiding out in a sleepy North Queensland tourist town. Following a run-in with a dangerous drug cartel, Maggie heads to Melbourne with some furious bikies on her trail and a bent cop as an ally. The Hunted was terrific and I am really looking forward to reading this one.
For me the other stand out Australian crime fiction debut of 2020 was Kyle Perry’s evocative Tasmanian novel The Bluffs. Perry’s second book moves from the rugged interior of Tasmania to the island’s dangerous coast and involves “modern-day pirates, family bonds and betrayals, and the hidden dangers that lurk in the deep”. Certainly one to look out for.
Of the current batch of debut novels, Margaret Hickey’s Cutters End (Penguin, 17 August 2021) looks the most promising. Set in outback South Australia it is a nicely plotted murder mystery involving a recently reopened investigation into the death of a young woman while hitchhiking to Alice Springs in 1989. Featuring a great cover and some evocative descriptions of a remote part of Australia, this looks like being good one for those who enjoyed Jane Harper’s The Dry.
After last year’s Sydney based crime novel, Trust, Chris Hammer returns to outback New South Wales with his latest novel, Treasure & Dirt. Set in a remote opal mining community, Hammer takes a break from the jaded former journalist Martin Scarsden and introduces some new characters:
“In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable young people and billionaires do as they please.
Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straightforward, not even who found the body. Sydney homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.
But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations.”
Hammer is becoming a major voice in Australian crime writing and I expect Treasure & Dirt to be another enthralling tale.
Sarah Bailey also takes a break from her regular character, Detective Gemma Woodstock, and heads in an interesting new direction with her latest novel, The Housemate (Allen & Unwin, August 2021). As a junior reporter Olive Groves was obsessed with the infamous Housemate Homicide that baffled Australians for almost a decade. Now one of the key, long time missing, players in that investigation has turned up dead and Olive finds herself drawn back into the case. I really enjoyed Sarah’s last novel, Where The Dead Go, and this one sounds like an enjoyably twisty story.
New Zealand born Pomare has established himself as one of Australia’s more inventive crime writers, with a trio of highly original and clever novels. The Last Guests seems certain to maintain that reputation with an unpredictable plot about the dangerous side of holiday accommodation and surveillance technology.
Robert Gott is one of the nicest guys in Australia crime writing and his latest novel, The Orchard Murders (Scribe,
3 August 2021), continues his World War II series about Inspector Titus Lambert of the Melbourne Homicide unit. Historical crime fiction is a little underdone in Australia, and it will be good to once more journey back to 1944 as Lambert tries to solve a case involving “revenge, obsession, and the dangerous gullibility of religious fanatics.”
Also set around Melbourne, although in the present, is Simon Rowell’s second novel The Long Game (Text, 3 August 2021). Detective Sergeant Zoe Mayer is scarcely back from extended leave, and still wrestling with her demons, when she is assigned the murder of a local surfer who has been found stabbed to death in a house not far from Portsea beach. It seems a straight forward case, but Zoe is not convinced of the preferred suspect’s guilt and finds herself caught up in a deadly game.
Coming towards the end of the year is the latest novel from Australia’s premier writer of local crime fiction Garry Disher. The Way It Is Now (Text, 3 November 2021) introduces a new character for Disher in the form of a burnt-out cop named Charlie Deravin.
“Charlie is living in his family’s holiday house, on forced leave since he made a mess of things at work. Things have never been easy for Charlie. Twenty years earlier his mother went missing in the area, believed murdered. His father has always been the main suspect, though her body was never found.
Until now: the foundations are being dug for a new house on a vacant block. The skeletal remains of a child and an adult are found—and Charlie’s past comes crashing in on him.”
Disher, author of the Wyatt and Paul Hirschhausen novels, is incapable of writing a bad book and I am really looking forward to this one.
Finally, one of the more intriguing releases is renown actor Bryan Brown’s first foray in crime writing, Sweet Jimmy (Allen & Unwin, August 2021). This collection of seven short stories apparently journeys down the back alleys of Australian noir, as Brown introduces the reader to a bunch of engagingly dodgy characters. Promising raw gritty stories told with a touch of humour, this could be a lot of fun.
So plenty of good Australian crime and thriller reading for the rest of the year. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing all of them. So support our local authors and get your pre-orders in!