AUSSIE CRIME WAVE: NEW AUSTRALIAN CRIME NOVELS I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO READING IN MID 2023
Already in 2023 we have seen some outstanding crime novels by Australian authors, including Dinuka McKenzie’s Taken and John Byrnes’ Headland to name two. However, that seems to be only the tip of the iceberg, with some very good Australian crime novels scheduled for release before the second half of the year. In addition to new books by accomplished authors such as Margaret Hickey and J. P. Pomare, there are more debut outback thrillers, a promising regional crime novel, a tough heist thriller and, just slipping over into second half of the year, a new spy novel by Tim Ayliffe.
Set out below, I have picked out the books I am most looking forward to reading.
Last year Margaret Hickey followed up her good debut, Cutters End, with the even better Stone Town. Now she has taken her detective, DS Mark Ariti, away from South Australia’s harsh interior to the coastal town of Broken Bay, and a new mystery involving old rivalries and secrets.
The publishers have provided the following description for Broken Bay (Penguin, 13 June 2023):
“Detective Sergeant Mark Ariti has taken a few days’ holiday in Broken Bay at precisely the wrong time. The small fishing town on South Australia’s Limestone Coast is now the scene of a terrible tragedy.
Renowned cave diver Mya Rennik has drowned while exploring a sinkhole on the land of wealthy farmer Frank Doyle. As the press descends, Mark’s boss orders him to stay put and assist the police operation.
But when they retrieve Mya’s body, a whole new mystery is opened up around the disappearance of a young local woman twenty years before.
Suddenly Mark is diving deep into the town’s history, and in particular the simmering rivalry between its two most prominent families, the Doyles and Sinclairs.
Then a murder takes place at the Sinclairs’ old home.”
I thought that Stone Town was one of the stand-out Australian crime novels of 2022. I was particularly impressed with how Margaret further matured Ariti, and thought that he was really developing into a character of some substance. It will be interesting to see how he goes in this new novel.
And what a stunning cover!!
Over the past five years J. P. Pomare has drawn strong critical praise for his novels, especially Call Me Evie, which won the New Zealand Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel, and last year’s The Wrong Woman.
His latest book, Home Before Dark, (Hachette, 26 April 2023), started life as an Audible Original, but has now been made available in book form. The story draws well on the fear and distrust caused by the COVID epidemic in Melbourne and amplifies it to an almost unbearable level.
The story opens with a third wave of the virus hitting and the inhabitants of Melbourne are given until 8 pm to get to their homes. Wherever they are when the curfew begins, is where they must live for four weeks and stay within five kilometres. When Lou’s adult son, Samuel, does not arrive home by nightfall she begins to panic.
He does not answer his phone. He does not message her and his social media channels are inactive. Lou is out of her mind with worry, but she cannot go to the police, because she has secrets of her own. Secrets that Samuel cannot find out about. It is up to Lou to find her son and bring him home.
I listened to this on Audible last year and it is a tense tale with plenty of gradually building suspense. The book is quite short and I think it will make for a great read over a cold Autumn weekend.
I have a real soft spot for tough, taut heist novels of the kind written by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) and Wallace Stroby, and the Wyatt books by Garry Disher. Australian pulp expert Andrew Nette produced a very good Australian heist novel, Gunshine State, some years back and he has now finally followed it up with a second book, Orphan Road (Down and Out Press, late May 2023), about former soldier and current crook Gary Chance.
It sounds like a great read:
“Gary Chance is an ex-Australian army driver and nightclub bouncer turned professional thief and
in need of a job. An offer comes from a former employer, once notorious Melbourne social
identity, now aging owner of a failing S&M club, Vera Leigh.
A shadowy real estate developer is trying to squeeze Leigh out of a rapidly gentrifying city. But she has a rescue plan that involves one of Australia’s biggest heists, Melbourne’s Great Bookie Robbery. On April 21, 1976, a well organised gang stole as much as three million dollars, a fortune at the time, from a Melbourne bookmakers club. The money was never recovered. No one was ever charged. And everyone associated with the crime has since died, either by natural causes or violently.
Leigh maintains that money was not the only thing stolen that day. So was a stash of uncut South African diamonds. And she wants Chance’s help to retrieve them. Problem is, they are not the only ones looking. The heist always goes wrong and the consequences, even half a century later, can be deadly.”
I am really looking forward to this one and like the idea of the current crime being tied back to the Great Bookie Robbery. There is not enough hard boiled crime being written in Australia, and Orphan Road is shaping up to be a must read!
Orphan Road will be released in late May, with details about release date and format still to come.
Darcy Tindale’s The Fall Between, (Penguin, 2 May 2023), seems set to be another impressive outback Australian crime debut featuring a tough female detective with a good dose of family secrets and problems.
The setting this time is Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter Valley in New South Wales and the detective, Rebecca Giles is a nicely limned character with a good gritty feel to her.
The publishers have provided the following details:
“Detective Rebecca Giles has just finished interviewing aging petty crim Sticky Pete over a spate of break-and-enters when a disturbing new report comes in. Twelve-year-old Kayleen Ellis has vanished from her home in Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter Valley.
Hours later, Giles is a local hero, having apparently solved Kayleen’s case and the spate of jewellery thefts.
Yet the hangover from her celebrations has barely kicked in when the body of young jillaroo Ava Emmerson is discovered in gruesome circumstances on a nearby farm.
Giles is convinced the link between all three cases lies in the town’s tragic history, perhaps even in her own mother’s mysterious drowning thirty years ago.
In a place where nothing much changes, suddenly a great deal is happening – and Giles’s life and career are now on the line.”
I have started reading this one and I really like Darcy’s unvarnished descriptions of life in small town, regional Australia. I think it is going to be a good read.
Michelle Prak turns some of the recent outback thriller tropes on their head in her debut thriller The Rush, (Simon & Schuster, 3 May 2023).
Told through the eyes of four very different women, The Rush is a fast moving tale located in a remote outback affected by flooding rain, not the usual searing heat.
The publishers have provided the following details:
“The first drops start to fall when Quinn spies the body. With no reception and nothing but an empty road for miles, does she stop to help or keep driving to safety?
Back at the iconic country pub where Quinn works, Andrea is sandbagging the place in preparation for heavy rains. Alone with her sleeping son in the back room, she reluctantly lets a biker in to wait out the storm.
Out on the wet roads, tensions arise among four backpackers on their way to Darwin. They haven’t prepared for this kind of weather and the flooding isn’t the only threat on the horizon.”
More of a straight thriller than a detective novel, The Rush is a briskly told story that smoothly moves between its way between different viewpoints. I am halfway through and really enjoying it.
Set in less extreme conditions is Joan Sauers’ Echo Lake, (Allen & Unwin, 2 May 2023).
Located in the picturesque Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Echo Lake seems to be a cross between mystery novel and thriller.
“In the sleepy, scenic Southern Highlands of New South Wales, a beautiful young woman goes missing.
Six years later, recently divorced historian Rose McHugh leaves the city to start a new life in the Highlands and finds a roll of film buried in her back garden. On it are photos of the missing woman.
Against the advice of an enigmatic detective, she uses her powers of persuasion and her knack for deciphering clues to pursue the case. As Rose searches through tangled secrets and hidden places haunted by the past, she realises there is a killer at large.
As she makes new friends, and dangerous enemies, Rose closes in on a suspect, but will she solve the mystery too late to save herself?”
Joan Sauers is a well respected screenwriter and author, and I am looking forward to her take on the modern whodunnit!
Coming in the first week of the second half of the year, is another top notch espionage novel by journalist Tim Ayliffe.
Ayliffe is one of the few Australian authors working the intelligent spy thriller route and his latest book, Killer Traitor Spy (Simon & Schuster, 5 July 2023), has all the makings of another good read.
I enjoyed the first three books in his John Bailey series, particularly the first, and this one seems to be harking back to the themes of the golden spy thriller period of the Cold War.
“Russian millionaire, Dmitry Lebedev, has been flying under the radar in Sydney for years. Now somebody wants him dead. Desperate to make a deal to stay alive, he contacts his former CIA case officer, Ronnie Johnson, with an offer to expose a traitor inside the Australian government, threatening a key intelligence partnership with the US.
Journalist John Bailey has spent decades risking his life to break news stories. Along the way he’s made interesting friends, including Ronnie, who saved his life in Iraq, and Scarlett Merriman, whose night in a Sydney hotel with Lebedev left her in a coma.
Bailey’s investigation into what happened to Scarlett plunges him head-first into the global spy game. And his old friend, Ronnie Johnson, needs his help. Because the same people going after Lebedev have framed Ronnie for murder.”
Ayliffe has developed into a very good author of locally based spy thrillers with a strong contemporary feel to them, and I am looking forward to Killer Traitor Spy. I also really like its1970s styled Cold War styled cover.
So some great Australian crime reading to look out for over the next few months, with promise of more to come later in the year with new books by Kyle Perry, Megan Goldin, Gabriel Bergmoser, Benjamin Stevenson, Dave Warner, and a great looking debut by Lucy Campbell, also scheduled.
Here is a link to my favourite Australian based crime novels of 2022: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/aussie-crime-2023-recent-australian-crime-novels-to-read-this-australia-day/
Some terrific reads there, Jeff. I want to read them all.
Yeah it is hard keeping up with the ones I want to read!