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Posted by on 28 May, 2024 in Australian Crime Fiction, Crime, Forecast Friday, Looking Forward Friday, Outback Crime, Thriller | 3 comments



Just a short update for June, as I 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 book news:

  • Award season for 2024 is well underway with judges starting their consideration of nominees for the Australian Ned Kelly Awards and the New Zealand Ngaio Marsh Awards.
    • I am honoured to be a judge for the Ned Kelly Awards for the Debut Novel Category and an international judge on the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel. Both are filled with very strong contenders and I am looking forward to being involved in the judging.
  • Also on Awards, it should be noted that Kiwi Michael Bennett is on the Barry Awards shortlist for the Best First Mystery or Crime Novel for his book Better The Blood, and fellow New Zealander Vanda Symon is on the shortlist for Best Paperback Original Mystery or Crime Novel for her book Expectant. The winners in each category of the Barry Awards will be announced at the Opening Ceremonies of the Nashville Bouchercon on August 29, 2024.
  • Canberra crime readers should mark in their diaries the forthcoming Meet The Author event at the Australian National University. Mike Bowers will be in conversation with journalist and crime author Michael Brissenden about his new book Smoke. It will take place on Tuesday 25 June at 6 pm. These events are always good fun and well worth braving a Canberra winter evening for. More details here:

Here are shortish reviews of three new Australian releases.

Fool Me Twice by Benjamin Stevenson (Penguin, 28 May 2024)

While we are waiting for the new Ernest Cunningham novel by Benjamin Stevenson, Everyone This Christmas Has A Secret, due out later this year, we can make do with his enjoyable novella duology, Fool Me Twice (Penguin, 28 May 2024).

The two stories in the collection, Find Us and Last One To Leave, were originally released as Audible Originals and are now available for the first time in print.

Both stories are very good. Find Us is probably the darker of the two, and features a very clever sleight of hand by Stevenson that works just as well in print as it does on audio. Last One To Leave is more in the style of Stevenson’s recent Ernest Cunningham novels and is very witty and enjoyable, if somewhat unlikely. It also has a very good final twist or two. A very enjoyable way to pass winter’s weekend!

Fool Me Twice is available in Australia on 28 May 2024 and in the United Kingdom on 28 July 2024.

Smoke by Michael Brissenden (Affirm Press, 28 May 2024)

After two very good local books featuring world weary federal cop and security expert Sid Allen, Michael Brissenden has turned his attention to the United States with his new book Smoke, (Affirm Press,
28 May 2024). Although set in America, Smoke has a very familiar Australian feel to it, with the focus on bushfires and climate change, and a great new protagonist in the form of Californian police detective Alex Markov.

The story opens in the immediate aftermath of a brutal bushfire. After the fire tears through the town of Jasper in the Californian Sierras, a body is discovered in a shed. It looks like an open-and-shut case of accidental death, until further investigation reveals that the victim was locked in from the outside.

The lead detective on the case is Alex Markov. Years after leaving the small town of Jasper, Alex has been sent back under the shadow of an LAPD corruption investigation. She is convinced that the victim, a family friend, was murdered opportunistically under the cover of the fire. As the smoke clears, Alex digs into the crime and finds a web of corruption that leads back to Los Angeles and her own ongoing problems. Threatened on all sides, Alex finds an unexpected ally in the form of an idealistic reporter who wants to expose the truth behind a new major development for the town.

Smoke is a well written and compelling crime novel that showcases Brissenden’s gift for clever plotting and sharp observations. The characters are gritty and credible, and nicely support an interesting story that provides the requisite twists and suspense. After some good build-up the book explodes with a tense, exciting conclusion, and a neat final surprise.

Brissenden, a very experienced journalist, smoothly weaves into his story a good deal of seemingly authentic background information that gives the book a nice sense of credibility. The descriptions of the aftermath of a major bushfire ring depressingly true and Brissenden nicely captures the feel of a small town under threat from the fires and change. He skilfully tackles a number of topical current issues without over-burdening the plot with social observations, and shows some good touches of humour in his descriptions:

“The fluorescent sign flickered its promise through the gloom, a Texan rebel from the 1830s, musket in hand, staring into the future. The Alamo Motel advertised family rooms, an in-ground pool, free wi-fi and a potential futile uprising.”

Canberra residents will also appreciate the amusing references to Jasper and Wee Jasper.

In all, a very atmospheric thriller that grips your attention from beginning to end. Highly recommended.

Smoke will be released in Australia on 28 May 2024. It will also be available in America on Kindle and as an Audible book on 28 May 2024.

Sherlock Is A Girl’s Name edited by Narrelle M Harris and Atlin Merrick (Clan Destine Press, 29 April 2024)

Those after something different will appreciate the new Sherlockian anthology from Australian publishers Clan Destine Press, Sherlock Is A Girl’s Name (29 April 2024).

Edited by Narelle M Harris and Atlin Merrick, the anthology poses the question, ‘What Would The Great Detective Be Like If Sherlock Holmes Was A Woman?’ The answer is a charming collection of stories from a rich array of authors from across the globe.

The stories re-imagine a female Sherlock Holmes in a variety of locales from deep space to 1990s Russia to contemporary America and the traditional Sherlockian location of Victorian London. Her Watson also takes various forms from ghosts to robots and a little boy.

The stories are written in a variety of styles, but all are of interest and quite entertaining. My favourites include a modern day Sherlock helping ghostly clients find peace by Dannye Chase and editor Narelle M Harris’ futuristic take on the famous detective.

An enjoyable collection of very different stories that also help to show off the talents of several emerging authors.

The first half of the year has been very kind to readers of Australian and New Zealand crime fiction, with a stunning selection of good new releases across the spectrum of the genre. Fortunately, it seems that the second half of the year also promises some very good books. Here are four that I recently came aware of:

Girl Falling by Hayley Scrivenor (Macmillan, 30 July 2024)

Hayley Scrivenor’s debut novel Dirt Town featured on a number of ‘Year’s Best’ lists in 2022 and won several awards, including the ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year 2023.

Dirt Town featured an inventive narrative style, rich characters and a strong sense of place, and these elements seem to present in Hayley’s new novel, Girl Falling (Macmillan, 30 July 2024):

“Finn and her best friend, Daphne, have grown up together in the Blue Mountains, NSW. Bonded by both having lost a younger sister to suicide, they’ve always had a close, sometimes too close, friendship. Now in their twenties, their lives have finally started to diverge: Daphne is at university and Finn is working in the Mountains, as well as falling in love with a beautiful newcomer called Magdu.

Unused to sharing Finn, Daphne starts to act up in ways that will allow her to maintain the control over her best friend she’s always relished. Then, one fateful day, Finn, Daphne and Magdu all go mountain climbing, and Magdu falls to her death. Is it suicide, or a terrible accident, or has something more sinister happened?”

Having grown up in the Blue Mountains myself, and a fan of Dirt Town, I am very interested in reading Hayley’s new novel.

Girl Falling is due out on 30 July 2024 in Australia.

Cutler by David Whish-Wilson (Fremantle Press, 3 September 2024)

David Whish-Wilson’s I Am Already Dead was my favourite Australian crime novel of 2023 and his new one for 2024, Cutler (Fremantle Press, 3 September 2024), promises to be just as good.

Set largely aboard a deep-sea fishing vessel, Cutler suggests an interesting change in direction from David’s gritty 1980s urban crime stories:

“Paul Cutler is a former undercover operative, now working off the books for his handler, Malik Khalil. When Cutler is tasked with investigating the disappearance of an Australian marine scientist on a Taiwanese distant water fishing vessel, Cutler realises that the apparent murder he’s investigating points to a slew of much darker crimes. Onboard, Cutler discovers that the vessel’s crew members are kept as slaves, subject to brutal punishment and forced to work long hours with little rest. And when he learns of the recent massacre of the crew of an Indonesian fishing vessel in the same waters, he realises his quest for the truth will be meaningless if he cannot escape with his life.”

I have already started reading this one and it certainly contains the trademark high quality writing and plotting we have come to expect from David.

Cutler is released in Australia on 3 September 2024. There does not appear to release dates for overseas yet.

The Creeper by Margaret Hickey (Bantam, 30 July 2024)

Margaret Hickey is becoming a seasoned veteran of the outback crime scene, with three good books already to her credit. Now joining the three entries in her South Australia set DS Mark Ariti series, is the first book in a new series set in rural Victoria, Creeper (Bantam, 30 July 2024).

For the last decade, the small mountain town of Edenville in Victoria’s high country has been haunted by the horrific murders of five hikers up on Jagged Ridge. Also found dead near the scene was Bill ‘Creeper’ Durant, a bushland loner, expert deer-hunter, and a man with a known reputation for stalking campers. The conclusion for the police was quite simple: murder-suicide. Case closed.

But as the ten-year anniversary of the massacre draws near, Detective Constable Sally White, the only officer at Edenville’s modest police station, finds herself drawn into the dark world of the notorious Durant family. Lex Durant, in particular, has started to publicly protest his brother’s innocence and accuse the police of persecution.

As Sally combs the investigation to prove him wrong, it becomes all too clear that each murdered hiker had skeletons in their closet, and possible enemies in their past.

Margaret has really grown as an author over the course of her Ariti books and I am keen to see how she goes with this new novel.

Prey by Vanda Symon (Orenda, 15 August 2024)

Vanda Symon is a leading figure in New Zealand crime writing, but her books are very hard to find in Australia. Her latest, Prey (Orenda Books), is due out in the United Kingdom on 15 August in book and Kindle form, but only seems to be available in Australia as a Kindle book.

Prey is the sixth book in her Detective Sam Shephard series:

“On her first day back from maternity leave, Detective Sam Shephard is thrown straight into a cold-case investigation – the unsolved murder of a highly respected Anglican Priest in Dunedin.

The case has been a thorn in the side of the Police hierarchy, and for her boss it’s personal.

With all the witness testimony painting a picture of a dedicated church and family man, what possible motive could there have been for his murder?

But when Sam starts digging deeper into the case, it becomes apparent someone wants the sins of the past to remain hidden. And when a new potential witness to the crime is found brutally murdered, there is pressure from all quarters to solve the case before anyone else falls prey.

But is it already too late…?”

Vanda is a very fine writer who mixes astute observations and characters with twisty mysteries. Prey should be another good addition to her impressive oeuvre, I just wish that her books were more readily available.

So plenty of good reading to come!

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


  1. Some very tempting reads there, Jeff. Resistance is futile … 😉

  2. Opal by Patricia Wolf is coming in September, I’m very much looking forward to it!

    • Lauren

      Thanks. I will add it to my list.

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