DARK TALES FROM MELBOURNE, LONDON AND THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK: NEW 2023 CRIME By J. P. Pomare, Sam Holland and Michelle Prak
Twists, surprises and some bloody deeds abound in these new releases by Michelle Prak, J. P. Pomare and Sam Holland.
Australian crime fiction has been blessed with some outstanding debuts over recent years across the spectrum of the genre. Now there is a new one to add to your list, Michelle Prak’s The Rush (Simon & Schuster, 3 May 2023).
Set in an Australian outback beset by flooding rains, it is a gripping story told through the eyes of four well crafted female characters.
The story opens with young Quinn Durand desperately trying to make it to the remote country pub where she works before the rain hits, when she spies a body on the side of the road. With no reception and only an empty road for miles she is reluctant to stop, but feels she has to. Back at the pub, 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. Meanwhile four bickering backpackers, including Livia and Hayley, are making their way to Darwin along the flooded road to the pub.
The Rush is a very cleverly constructed thriller with some good surprises and a strong sense of unease. Michelle makes effective use of the shifting viewpoints and changes in the timeline to generate maximum suspense, and the book powers along to a taut and exciting climax.
The descriptions of life in the outback and its changing nature during the rain are vividly captured, but the real strength of the book lies in Michelle’s well nuanced characters. Quinn, Hayley, Andrea and Livia are all very different, interesting and well fleshed out characters who engage the reader’s attention and affection. They are all credible and well grounded, and have believable strengths and weaknesses. The male characters are also well described and add tension to the story.
The Rush tackles issues around misogyny, life choices and women’s safety, but these are subtly handled and do not distract from the pace and tension of the story.
A strong contender for the year’s best debut crime thriller.
The Rush will be released in Australia on 3 May 2023.
J. P. Pomare is almost a veteran of the local crime writing scene, and over the past five years his books have drawn considerable praise in Australia and New Zealand.
His latest book, Home Before Night (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, as it twists its way to a strong climax.
The story opens with a third wave of the virus hitting and the inhabitants of Melbourne being 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.
This is a dark and clever tale. Told primarily through the viewpoint of Lou, it steadily builds the tension in a realistic way as her concerns grow greater and greater. The sense of claustrophobia is convincingly conveyed and Lou’s mounting hysteria is credible. As to be expected, Pomare introduces some good twists and the final chapters are surprising and exciting.
Another beautifully crafted short novel by Pomare.
Home Before Night is released in trade paperback in Australia on 26 April 2023. It is currently available on Audible in the United Kingdom and will be released on Kindle there and in the United States on 26 April 2023.
The Audible version is well worth listening to.
Fans of tough, fast paced, serial killer thrillers will greatly enjoy Sam Holland’s The Twenty, (Harper Collins, 11 May 2023).
The follow-up to Holland’s The Echo Man, The Twenty is a twisty crime novel that opens in gruesome fashion with the night-time discovery of multiple bodies at an empty construction site. Drawn near the bodies are Roman numerals and it soon becomes clear that the killer is counting down and that there are more killings to come. The detective in charge, DCI Adam Bishop, is slow to accept that the murders are linked to a notorious serial killer who is now in prison, but as the bodies and evidence mount, he is forced to revisit a series of killings that have personal ramifications for him.
This is a very gripping thriller that powers along at a good rate. The twists and turns are spectacular, and the final encounters are very tense. The violence is brutal at times and some of the killings have a high emotional impact. I thought that I had it worked out very early in the piece, but I was completely wrong.
The Twenty is linked to the earlier The Echo Man, but can be read as a stand alone novel. Fans of the earlier book, however, will appreciate the brief cameo appearance of Detective Cara Elliott in The Twenty.
An impressive crime thriller that will have you reading well into the night.
The Twenty is released in the United Kingdom on 11 May 2023, but not in Australia until August 2023. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of the book.