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Posted by on 10 Jun, 2022 in Australian Crime Fiction, Canberra Weekly, Crime, Outback Crime, serial killer thriller | 1 comment



Canberra Weekly, 9 June 2022

This week in the Canberra Weekly I reviewed three new debut novels by Australian authors.

Black River by Matthew Spencer (Allen & Unwin)

Matthew Spencer’s Black River (Allen & Unwin) is a very impressive debut crime novel.

Eschewing the oft used outback setting so beloved by debut Australian crime authors, Spencer has set his novel primarily at an elite boarding school on the banks of Parramatta River. Showing a good ability to shift the viewpoint between two key characters, Spencer avoids the cliches often found in crime fiction and has provided a very engaging first novel.

In the Canberra Weekly I said:

“Former journalist Matthew Spencer makes an impressive entry into Australia’s crime writing ranks with his debut Black River. Set along the banks of Parramatta River, it is a gripping story about a murder at an elite boarding school and the possible links to a serial killer known as the Blue Moon Killer. Moving the point of view seamlessly between a worn out journalist and a tough female police detective, Spencer maintains the momentum and the interest at a high level as the story builds to a gripping finale. Well plotted with a credible cast of characters, it is a very enjoyable read.”

I also did a longer review of Black River a couple of weeks ago:

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor (Macmillan)

Hayley Scrivenor makes good use of her small rural town setting with her first novel, Dirt Town (Macmillan).

Using an innovative approach to viewpoint, including a sort of Greek chorus from the town’s children, Dirt Town is a slow burn of a crime novel that builds to an emotional climax. The characters are all finely etched and Hayley’s portrayal of small town Australia in the early 2000’s is evocative and convincing.

In the Canberra Weekly I said:

“Hayley Scrivenor also impresses with her debut about a missing schoolgirl and a decaying rural town. No-nonsense cop Sarah Michaels has to put aside her personal concerns and past history as she tries to find out what happened to twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi on the way home from school. As the tension mounts, Hayley takes the reader into the heart of the small country town and exposes the strengths and weaknesses of its inhabitants.

With a revolving point of view, including an inventive chorus of children’s voices, Dirt Town is an emotionally charged and compelling novel with a strong sense of place.”

Abomination by Ashley Goldberg (Vintage)

Offering something a little different is Ashley Goldberg’s Abomination (Vintage).

Drawing loosely on actual events, Abomination is a well written and compelling novel that reflects on faith and memory. Goldberg’s portrayal of Australia’s close knit Orthodox Jewish community is fascinating and his examination of how the two young men changed over time is very powerful.

In the Canberra Weekly I said:

“Loosely based on real events, Abomination is an absorbing novel about two estranged friends whose lives reconnect following a protest calling for the extradition of a child-sex predator from Israel. Ezra and Yonatan both attended the school at which the abuser taught twenty years ago, but in the intervening years have gone their separate ways. Yonatan is now an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, whereas Ezra’s life is defined by a growing level of faithfulness. Reunited, the pair have to re-evaluate the past and its effect on them. A compassionate and engaging novel that gives a rare insight into the tensions within Australia’s Orthodox Jewish community.”

In all, another strong batch of debuts that bode very well for the Australian literary scene.

Copies of the reviews and earlier ones can also be found on the Canberra Weekly website:

1 Comment

  1. And, Jeff, my reading list continues to grow thanks to your terrific reviews ;-).

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