FORECAST FRIDAY: THE BEST NEW CRIME RELEASES OCTOBER – DECEMBER 2021
With just over three months to Christmas, the annual flood of new thriller and crime books is picking up momentum, with some great titles scheduled for release in the next few months. I have looked over the forthcoming releases, picked out twelve of the best.
Due out in just a few weeks is Treasure & Dirt (Allen & Unwin, ), the new novel by Chris Hammer, author of Scrublands and two other books in the popular Martin Scarsden series.
Set the remote, outback opal mining community of Finnigan’s Gap, Treasure & Dirt introduces new characters for Hammer in the form of Sydney homicide detective Ivan Lucic and his inexperienced offsider Nell Buchanan. Sent to investigate the death of an opal miner, who is found crucified and left to rot down his mine, the pair find themselves up against a town where chaos reigns and everyone has secrets.
I have started reading this one and it very good, with an interesting plot and Hammer’s usual pitch perfect depiction of outback Australia.
Also featuring a new set of characters and evocative descriptions of regional Australia is The Way It Is Now (Text,
3 November 2021) by Garry Disher, who recently deservedly won the 2021 Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel.
The Way It Is Now introduces a new character for Disher in the form of a burnt-out cop named Charlie Deravin:
“Charlie is living in his family’s holiday house, on forced leave since he made a mess of things at work. Things have never been easy for Charlie. Twenty years earlier his mother went missing in the area, believed murdered. His father has always been the main suspect, though her body was never found.
Until now: the foundations are being dug for a new house on a vacant block. The skeletal remains of a child and an adult are found—and Charlie’s past comes crashing in on him.”
Disher, author of the Wyatt and Paul Hirschhausen novels, is incapable of writing a bad book and I am really looking forward to this one.
I really enjoyed Sarah Barrie’s Tasmanian wilderness thriller from last year, Deadman’s Tracks, and I am keen to read her new one, which seems to be heading in an interesting new direction for her.
“Lexi Winter is tough, street-smart and has stood on her own two feet since childhood, when she was a victim of notorious paedophile the Spider. Lexi is also an ace hacker, tracking and entrapping local paedophiles and reporting them to the cops. When she finds a particularly dangerous paedophile who the police can’t touch, she decides to gather enough evidence to put him away. Instead, she’s a witness to his death.
Detective Inspector Rachael Langley is the cop who cracked the Spider case, 18 years earlier – but failed to protect Lexi. Now a man claiming to be the real Spider is emulating his murderous acts, and Rachael is under pressure from government, media and her police colleagues. Did she get it wrong all those years ago, or is this killer is a copycat?”
Sarah is quite good at generating suspense and upping the tension as a book nears its conclusion, and this new one seems to offer plenty of scope for some good twists and turns. It also seems to have less of the romantic suspense feel than her earlier books did. I am looking forward to it.
Leading the pack of popular international releases is the latest Jack Reacher novel, Better Off Dead (Bantam,
26 October 2021), by Lee and Andrew Child.
This is the second of the Reacher books since Lee Child handed over the primary writing role to his brother Andrew (Grant), but the formula seems very much the same. Better Off Dead finds Reacher in a backwater town in Arizona helping an army veteran, turned FBI agent, who is trying to find her twin brother who has gotten mixed up with some dangerous people. The action is sure to be thick and fast, as Reacher battles his way through small town corruption to find the truth.
Michael Connelly is easily in the top half dozen of the world’s best crime writers and a new release from him is always a highlight of the reading year.
His latest, The Dark Hours (Allen & Unwin, 9 November 2021), sees the iconic Harry Bosch once more teaming up with LAPD Detective Renee Ballard, as they try to track down a killer who seems to strike each New Years’ Eve. Renee is also on the trail of a pair of serial rapists, but finds the investigation hindered by deadly inertia and foundering morale in a police department ravaged by the pandemic and recent riots, and has to rely on Bosch to help track down the dangerous predators.
Everything by Connelly is worth reading and this one is high on my reading list.
From across the other side of the Atlantic, Robert Bryndza’s Darkness Falls (Sphere, 7 December 2021) would seem to be the pick of the British police detective novels on offer.
Darkness Falls is the third in Bryndza’s series about former police detective Kate Marshall, who now manages a private detective agency on the south coast of England. Hired to investigate a cold case from over a decade ago, involving the disappearance of a young female journalist, Kate and her partner, Tristan, find themselves caught up in a web of lies and death.
I have already read this one and it is a terrific read.
Those who like traditional British detective stories with a touch of humour, will greatly enjoy Mr Campion’s Wings (Severn House, 28 October 2021) by Mike Ripley.
This is the ninth book in Mike Ripley’s seamless and enjoyable continuance of the Albert Campion novels by Margery Allingham, and once more features Mike’s marvellous sense of humour and his love for history. The story opens in Cambridge in 1965 when the honorary doctorate ceremony for Albert Campion’s wife, Lady Amanda, takes a dramatic turn when she is arrested by Special Branch for breaking the Official Secrets Act. Never before having taken much interest in his wife’s work in cutting-edge aircraft design, Campion sets out to discover more about the top-secret Goshawk Project in which Amanda is involved. He quickly realizes he is not the only one keen to learn the secrets of the project and when a badly mutilated body is discovered at the Goshawk Project’s hangar he is drawn into a turbulent mix of industrial espionage and matters of national security.
Mike Ripley’s Campion stories are always a good source of light fun and mystery and Mr Campion’s Wings should prove to be another enjoyable romp.
Offering a more serious take on the spy novel, is Charles Cumming’s Judas 62 (Harper Collins, 30 September 2021)
This sequel to Cumming’s Box 88, adopts the same dual timeline as its predecessor and once more features British spy Lachlan Kite:
“1993: Student Lachlan Kite is sent to post-Soviet Russia in the guise of a language teacher. In reality, he is there as a spy. Top secret intelligence agency BOX 88 has ordered Kite to extract a chemical weapons scientist before his groundbreaking research falls into the wrong hands. But Kite’s mission soon goes wrong and he is left stranded in a hostile city with a former KGB officer on his trail.
2020: Now the director of BOX 88 operations in the UK, Kite discovers he has been placed on the ‘JUDAS’ list – a record of enemies of Russia who have been targeted for assassination. Kite’s fight for survival takes him to Dubai, where he must confront the Russian secret state head on.”
I am big fan of Cumming’s novels and look forward to seeing where he takes Lachlan Kite this time around.
Note: Judas 62 is released in the United Kingdom in October 2021, but the Australian release would seem to be later in the year or early 2022.
Mick Herron is widely regarded as Britain’s premier spy writer and his Jackson Lamb series has attracted acclaim from around the world, and is likely to enjoy even greater success when the forthcoming television show hits the screens.
Earlier in the year we had the long awaited release of the latest Lamb novel, Slough House, and now coming in November is a collection of short stories, Dolphin Junction (John Murray, 9 November 2021). The stories seem to range beyond the spy fiction milieu, but the publisher assures readers that they all showcase Herron’s “skill for tension, humour, and memorable twists”.
Released just in time for Christmas, I think it will make a marvelous present for the festive season.
Like Australia’s Gabriel Bergmoser, Simon Kernick writes pedal-to-the-metal crime thrillers, that always deliver an abundance of action and suspense wrapped up in a twisty, unpredictable plot.
Good Cop Bad Cop (Headline, 9 November 2021) promises more of the same, with the story revolving around undercover cop Chris Sketty, who became a hero when he almost died trying to stop the most brutal terror attack in UK history. Now with the suspects either dead or missing, the real motive behind the attack remains a mystery and questions are being asked about Sketty’s real role in the bloody affair.
This could be a great holiday reading over the Christmas break.
Zoe Sharp is probably best known for her high octane novels about former soldier and professional bodyguard Charlie Fox. In their heyday, the Charlie Fox novels were ‘must reads’, but the more recent books tapered off a bit in their appeal. Sharp has also tried her hand at another series, but it does not seem to have taken off. The good news is that her latest book is fantastic and is probably one of the best novels she has done for some time.
The Last Time She Died revolves around Blake Claremont, who disappeared ten years ago when she was fifteen years old. No one ever reported her as missing, with her father, a former Member of Parliament, saying that he was sure that she would come back. But those who buried her know that she won’t be coming back. However, now that her father is dead, in a suspicious car accident, a woman calling herself Blake has returned. Is it really Blake, or an opportunist after her father’s money. Detective John Byron does not know if it is Blake or not, but he is surprised by the fear that she generates and when someone shoots at her on a winding rural road, he has to ask: who wants her dead?
I have already read this one and it is a really good police thriller that grips your attention from the opening pages and holds it to the end. I will be doing a full review closer to the release date, but note it down as one to get.
Unfortunately, it does not seem that The Last Time She Died will be released in paper form, but it will be available on Kindle, at a very good price, from 20 October 2021.
Finally, for those who enjoy speculative thrillers with plenty of technical detail, The Apollo Murders (Quercus,
12 October 2021) by Chris Hadfield could be the pick of the late year releases.
Set in 1973 it follows a final, top-secret Apollo mission to the moon to recover a secret bounty hidden away on the lunar surface. The Soviets are also trying to beat the Americans to the prize. As Apollo 18 nears its target, it becomes clear that not everyone on board is quite who they appear to be.
Chris Hadfield is an experienced and accomplished astronaut and The Apollo Murders promises to be full of “fascinating technical detail, twists and tension.” It sounds very good and is sure to appeal to fans of technological thrillers.
In addition to the above there are also new releases from John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer and Ken Follett, to name a few. So, plenty of very promising books to finish the year off with. Happy reading!