DEADLY CARETAKERS AND PODCASTERS: New 2023 Australian Crime Fiction by Megan Goldin and Gabriel Bergmoser
August brings new releases from two of Australia’s best crime writers, Megan Goldin and Gabriel Bergmoser.
Megan Goldin seems to be one of those authors whose books are more appreciated overseas, especially in America, than they are in Australia. This is possibly because of their settings, but I think it is also due to the urgency and confidence of her writing, which is very American in its feel. Regardless, Megan’s books are always well plotted and very enjoyable.
Dark Corners (Michael Joseph, 8 August 2023) is Megan’s fifth novel and brings back true crime podcaster Rachel Krall from her 2020 book, The Night Swim, which was one of my favourite reads of that year.
Dark Corners opens with Rachel surprisingly being asked by the FBI to help with a case. Suspected serial killer Terence Bailey is about to be released from prison without ever being convicted of the killings that the police believe that he committed. His last, and only, visitor was Maddison Logan, a hot, young influencer with a huge social media following. Hours after visiting Bailey, Maddison disappears, and police suspect she’s been kidnapped, or worse. Their only clue is is a brief exchange between Bailey and Maddison: “Bring Rachel Krall to me.”
Rachel does not know Bailey or Maddison, who seems to only exist on social media. With her interest piqued, Rachel goes undercover at a popular influencer conference, BuzzCon, which Maddison was attending before she disappeared. Once there she finds a world of fierce rivalry, sensitive egos and very real dangers.
Dark Corners is a highly entertaining read. The plotting is interesting, and Megan has a real gift for naturally ending each chapter in a way that makes you want to read one more. The story moves through some good twists and there is a continuing sense of unease as we watch the killer move closer to Rachel.
As with The Night Swim, Megan skilfully weaves extracts of Rachel’s podcast into the story to quickly introduce background information without the slowing pace, and to build the suspense. It is a device that a number of authors are using now, but few do it as well as Megan.
Also adding to pleasure are Megan’s evocative descriptions of Daytona Beach and the surrounding area and her brutal skewering of the personalities at the influencer convention. Her insights into the world of influencers are fascinating and amusing, but also make you reflect on the shallowness of society:
“‘My ex was a lifestyle blogger. It felt as if every moment of our relationship was spent photographing her life. I’d roll out of bed seven days a week while it was still dark to shoot her doing yoga poses at dawn when the light was soft. … Every vacation was work. Shoot, caption, post. Repeat. We couldn’t go to a restaurant without photographing each course,’ he lamented. ‘I honestly don’t think I ate a hot meal the entire time I dated her.'”
The characters are also well sketched and there is a good momentum to the story. It does not quite have the depth of The Night Swim, but is still a riveting read that kept me keenly turning the pages throughout. Highly recommended.
Dark Corners is released in Australia and the United States on 8 August 2023. Release in the United Kingdom is not until November 2023.
Thanks to the Australian publishers and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book for review.
Here is a link to my review of Megan’s first Rachel Krall novel The Night Swim: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/deadly-podcasts-the-suicide-house-by-charlie-donlea-the-night-swim-by-megan-goldin/
Gabriel Bergmoser’s first novel, The Hunted (2020) was a wild ride of a read that kept you frantically turning the pages all the way to the end. He followed it up with the even better The Inheritance (2021), and now with The Caretaker we have another totally gripping thriller.
Charlotte is hiding out with a new identity in a small ski resort in the Australian alpine region. On the run from the police, and some very dangerous criminal associates of her former husband, Charlotte has taken a job as an off-season caretaker for a small clutch of deserted lodges. The lodges are pleasingly empty, but Charlotte still jumps every time the floor creaks or the wind blows through the buildings. Charlotte thinks that she is safe and alone, but suddenly she is not.
The Caretaker is a more measured thriller than Bergmoser’s earlier novels, but it is still a very exciting read. The opening scenes nicely set the sense of mystery and uneasiness, and just when you are beginning to wonder when the action is going to start, the first twist sets the adrenaline pumping.
The pace is quick throughout and Bergmoser skilfully shifts the action between the present and the events in the past that have led to Charlotte’s current situation. There is suspense and surprises in both storylines and Bergmoser steadily builds the tension as the two parts merge. The suspense really lifts over the final quarter, and there is the usual visceral action that we expect from a Bergmoser book, as well as a neat ending.
The writing is probably more polished this time, and mixed in with the action there are some spot-on reflections on life and a convincing portrayal of how easy it is to become caught up in a life of crime. The milieu of the Australian alpine region and the Melbourne club scene are both convincingly portrayed, and there are enjoyable flashes of dark humour, especially around writing and literary pretensions.
The Caretaker is a top notch thriller and one of my favourite crime novels of 2023.
The Caretaker is released in Australia on 2 August 2023. Thanks to the Canberra Weekly and the publishers for a copy of the book for review.