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Posted by on 24 Apr, 2024 in Australian Crime Fiction, Crime, Forecast Friday, Looking Forward Friday | 1 comment



I have expanded my bi-monthly article on Australian crime fiction to also include New Zealand crime fiction, and consequently re-titled it: Downunder Crime Round-Up. As with the previous article, I will attempt to wrap up some recent events in the Australian and New Zealand crime fiction worlds, and offer some reviews and previews of forthcoming titles.


Firstly, some author news:

  • At her recent ‘Meet The Author’ event at the Australian National University, Dervla McTiernan revealed that she is working on a new novel in her popular Cormac Reilly series (The Ruin, The Scholar and The Good Turn). No news on title or release date, but it is certainly one to watch out for.
    • In addition to her recent novel, What Happened to Nina?, Dervla also has a new title out on Audible – The Fireground – which is a stand alone novella and her first story set in Australia.
  • At her recent ‘Meet The Author’ event at the Australian National University, Sarah Bailey revealed that she is working on a sequel to The Housemate, which will again feature journalist Oli Groves. The Housemate was my favourite Australian crime novel of 2021 and I am looking forward to the sequel.


Here are shortish reviews of some recent and forthcoming Australian and New Zealand releases.

Dark Deeds Down Under 2 edited by Craig Sisterson (Clan Destine Press, April 2024)

Australian and New Zealand crime fiction is going through something of a golden period at the moment, with a number of authors achieving prominence on the international stage.

This depth of talent is clearly on display in the latest collection of Australian and New Zealand short stories by Craig Sisterson, Dark Deeds Down Under 2 (Clan Destine Press, April 2024). Craig has been a strong advocate for Australian and New Zealand crime fiction for several years now.  His Southern Cross Crime ( is the ‘go to’ book for anyone interested in Down Under crime fiction and he has also edited a good collection of local short stories. The first volume of his Dark Deeds Down Under series showcased a strong selection of writers, including Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, Vanda Symon and David Whish-Wilson, and now with Dark Deeds Down Under 2 he provides another enjoyable selection of high quality crime stories.

Dark Deeds Down Under 2 contains the same smorgasbord of Aussie and Kiwi writers as the first volume, with a good mix of old stories from legendary authors, such as Peter Corris, new fiction from established stars, including Emma Viskic and Jack Heath, and some fresh new voices. Twenty two stories in total, that will take you from the dark corners of our major cities, to remote coastal communities, to the dusty Outback and a bland Canberran apartment under siege.

All the stories hit the mark, but a few stood out for me. Natalie Conyer is an author whose output has been frustratingly limited. Her African based police novel from 2020, Present Tense, was outstanding, and here she provides a gritty tale about a young Sydney policewoman who learns a tough lesson about policing. New Zealander Charity Norman contributes a clever story about a seaside confession, and Robert Gott’s ‘Spike’, is a poignant teenage prequel to his popular Will Power series. A highlight is Emma Viskic’s ‘Web Design’, which started life as a deleted scene from her first novel, Resurrection Bay, but has been reworked here into a memorable, short, sharp tale. Also of note are the stories from Malla Nunn, Jack Heath and Michael Botur. Finally, podcaster and author Dani Vee contributes one of the book’s strongest entries with her dark debut crime story about a mother who would do anything to save her children. 

It is also good to see ‘classic’ stories from Peter Corris, the under-rated Jean Bedford and Dorothy Porter reproduced here. Finally, the concluding entry in the book is by legendary New Zealand playwright and novelist Renée, who sadly passed away in December 2023.

In all, a terrific collection that provides a good introduction to the breadth and quality of crime writing being produced by Australian and New Zealand writers.

Return To Blood by Michael Bennett (Simon & Schuster, 25 April 2024)

Michael Bennett’s Better The Blood was one of my favourite crime debuts of last year. Featuring Auckland detective Hana Westerman, it was a richly described crime novel that encompassed the tropes of the serial killer thriller and the legacy of New Zealand’s colonial past.

In Bennett’s second novel, Return To Blood, Hana has left Auckland and her career as a detective behind and has settled for a quieter life in a small coastal town. Her hopes of a more peaceful existence are shattered, however, when a skeleton is discovered in the dunes near her house. The remains are those of a young Māori woman who went missing five years before. Hana has a connection to the case and to another similar death. Twenty years ago, a schoolfriend of hers was found buried in the exact same spot. Her killer died in prison, but did the police get the wrong man? And if he was innocent, then why did he plead guilty? No longer part of the Criminal Investigation Branch, Hana turns to her former colleagues for assistance, but soon realises that she will have to find the answers that she needs on her own.

Return To Blood is a great second novel by Bennett. The plotting is clever, and the characters are fully fleshed out and interesting. The pacing is a little slow at times, but the story has real depth to it, and the cultural commentary and reflections on modern society are fascinating. A side story involving a young relation of Hana is also compelling, and the novel builds to a powerful conclusion that grips and surprises. There is also a good final reveal that comes as a real shock.

Supplementing Hana’s investigation are post mortem reflections by the second dead girl, Kiri, which add an extra dimension to the story and plenty of poignancy. They also provide a sad reflection on the impact of drugs and tragedy on lives.

Return To Blood is a powerful novel that stays in the mind long after it is finished.

Return To Blood is released in Australia and the United Kingdom on 25 April 2024 and in the United States on 21 May 2024. Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Daily for an advanced copy of the book for review.

Death Holds The Key by Alexander Thorpe (Fremantle Press, 10 April 2024)

Alexander Thorpe’s first novel, Death Leaves The Station, was a classic murder mystery set in the Western Australian outback in the 1920s. It featured a mysterious travelling friar who played a major role in uncovering the murderer and contained a good number of well placed red herrings.

Death Holds The Key, (Fremantle Press, 10 April 2024), once more features the mendicant monk from the first book and revolves around a locked room murder mystery in small-town Western Australia in the late 1920s.

When loathed landholder Fred O’Donnell is found dead in a locked room with a bullet in his chest, rookie Detective Hartley must seek help from a mysterious wanderer to solve the case. And it’s one where everyone, including his family, has a motive and a secret to keep.

Death Holds The Key is an enjoyable addition to the increasing number of Australian historical mysteries. The writing is crisp and interesting, and Thorpe does a good job of recreating outback Western Australia in the 1920s. The detectives are an engaging pair, especially the clueless Hartley, and the other characters are also nicely limned.

The central mystery is well managed, and there are plenty of clues, red herrings and clever deductions by the mysterious friar. In all, very good fun.

Thanks to the publishers for an advanced copy of the book for review.


In earlier posts I have highlighted some of the Australian releases due over the next few months, such as Michael Robotham’s Storm Child and Michael Brissenden’s Smoke, but there are also plenty of other books to look forward to later in the year.

The Wrong Man by Tim Ayliffe (Simon & Schuster, 3 July 2024)

Here are some of the highlights that I have picked out:

  • In addition to her contribution to Dark Deeds Down Under 2 (above), Natalie Conyer has a new novel coming out in September from Echo Publishing. Set in Australia and South Africa, Shadow City will feature Cape Town detective Schalk Lourens from her first novel, Present Tense, and Sydney detective Jackie Rose from her story in Dark Deeds. The story revolves around missing woman and a murder in a food court and sounds very interesting.
    • Natalie also has a collection of short stories coming out shortly, although the details are yet to be released.
  • Fans of historical murder mysteries can look forward in July to Lies And Deception by Laraine Stephens. It is the fourth book in her series about 1920s Melbourne journalist Reggie da Costa. I have read an early version and it is another highly entertaining mystery by Laraine.
  • One of the books I am most looking forward to, is the latest John Bailey thriller by Tim Ayliffe, The Wrong Man (Simon & Schuster, 3 July 2024):

“The fifth novel in the John Bailey thriller series. Bailey is trying to solve two murders, ten years apart – unfinished business from his former flame Sharon Dexter. But will it cost him his life?

Detective Holly Sutton has been seconded to work with the New South Wales Homicide Squad to investigate the murder of Sydney socialite, Tottie Evans, who was found dead at the Palm Beach home of a millionaire property developer. Alec Blacksmith isn’t like other real estate guys. He’s a former mercenary soldier who shot to fame after appearing on a reality TV show. Blacksmith is refusing to cooperate with police because he has his own secrets.

John Bailey is an old school reporter with a nose for a story. He gets a call from the police about a break-in at the house he inherited from his former girlfriend, Sharon Dexter – a cop murdered in the line of duty. Whoever crowbarred the lock was looking for Dexter’s case file about the murder of a waitress named Sally King at an exclusive Sydney gentlemen’s club a decade earlier. After examining the file, Bailey discovers something that will blow up the Homicide Squad’s investigation into Tottie Evans’s death – a link to the murder of King.

The only problem is that a serial killer is already serving a life sentence for the crime.

Catching killers is Holly Sutton’s job. But for John Bailey, solving the case offers him a chance to finish a job for the woman who saved his life.”

I really enjoyed Tim’s last book, Killer Traitor Spy, and I am looking forward to this new John Bailey thriller. Here is a link to my review of Killer Traitor Spy:

  • Also coming in late July is a new novel by J P Pomare, 17 Years Later (Hachette). Featuring an old crime and a determined true crime podcaster, it is certainly one to look out for. Pomare is a terrific writer and all his books offer plenty of twists and turns. I will be providing more details closer to the release date.

So plenty of good reading to come!

All going well, I will try and do another round up in a couple of months, until then happy reading!

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Jeff for the mention of my upcoming book. There I was, reading your blog, minding my own business, thinking about what I might read from your selection, and Lies and Deception popped from the page!

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