FORECAST FRIDAY: THE BEST NEW RELEASES OCTOBER – DECEMBER 2023
With just over two 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, and picked out twelve of the most promising ones from across the spectrum of crime fiction.
Note: the release dates quoted are for Australia, this may vary for the United Kingdom and the United States.
Leading the releases by big name authors is Michael Connelly’s Resurrection Walk, (Allen & Unwin, 31 October 2023).
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.
Resurrection Walk is billed as a ‘Lincoln Lawyer Thriller’, but it also features the iconic Harry Bosch in a starring role:
“Defence attorney Mickey Haller has agreed to represent a woman who is in prison for killing her husband, a sheriff’s deputy, and Haller enlists his half-brother, retired LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, as investigator. Even after four years in prison, his new client maintains her innocence.
Reviewing the case, Bosch sees something that doesn’t add up and senses the sheriff’s department closing ranks as he pursues the truth.
The path to true justice is, for both the lawyer and his investigator, fraught with danger from those who don’t want the case reopened. And their opponents will stop at nothing to keep the Haller–Bosch dream team from uncovering what the deputy’s killing was really about.”
Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin are my two favourite contemporary crime authors, and I am very much looking forward to this one. Connelly cannot write a bad novel and it is always a treat to read about Haller. Connelly also left Bosch in an uncertain situation in the last book, Desert Star, and it will be interesting to see how he is going. Put this one at the top of your list!
It would not be the pre-Christmas season without a new Jack Reacher novel.
The Secret, (Bantam, 24 October 2023), is the fourth 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.
The Secret is one of those Reacher novels that go back in time to a case early in his military career:
“1992. Two strangers bring a hospital patient a list of names. They ask him for one more, but it’s a question the patient can’t answer. Minutes later he is dispatched through the 12th floor window.
His death generates some unexpected attention. That attention comes from the Secretary of Defence, who brings in an inter-agency task force to investigate. Jack Reacher, recently demoted from Major to Captain, is assigned as the Army’s representative.
Reacher may be an exceptional soldier, but sweeping other people’s secrets under the carpet isn’t part of his skill set. As he races to find the killer, he must navigate around the ulterior motives of his new ‘partners’. And all while moving into the sight line of some of the most dangerous people he has ever encountered.
His mission is to uncover the truth. Fast. The question is: will Reacher bring the bad guys to justice the official way . . . or his way?”
I tend to prefer the Reacher novels set during his military career and this one looks particularly appealing, with an intriguing plot idea and some guessing around who is doing what.
It is sure to be another hit for the Childs!
Also at the action end of the crime spectrum is Simon Kernick’s The First 48 Hours, (Headline, 14 November 2023).
You always know what you are going to get with a Simon Kernick novel; fast frenetic action and plenty of it, and this will almost certainly be the case with The First 48 Hours:
“A COP NEEDS TO CRACK A DEADLY CASE
He’s a detective hunting cold-blooded killers, but does he know more than he admits?
A MOTHER HAS TO SAVE HER DAUGHTER
She’s a lawyer who must defend a murderer – but how far will she go to protect her only child?
A COUPLE WILL COMMIT THE PERFECT CRIME
They have a plan – but can they trust each other with their lives?
THREE STORIES. TWO DAYS. DOES ONE SECRET CONNECT THEM ALL?
THE FIRST 48 HOURS…MAY ALSO BE THEIR LAST.“
It has been two years since the last Kernick novel and I am looking forward to this one. Kernick has always delivers a barrage of twists and turns, and outrageous reversals, set against a fast moving and unsentimental plot. His books sometimes stretch credibility, but are always hard to put down.
This should be a great Christmas holiday read.
For those who enjoy high quality spy fiction, Charles Cumming’s latest Box 88 novel, Kennedy 35 (Harper Collins, 26 October 2023) is sure to fit the bill.
Cumming is up there with Mick Herron and Matthew Richardson as one of Britain’s leading contemporary spy writers and Kennedy 35 seems to offer his usual mix of intelligent plotting, thrills and exemplary spycraft:
“1995: In the wake of the Rwandan genocide, 24-year-old spy Lachlan Kite and his girlfriend, Martha Raine, are sent to Senegal on the trail of a hunted war criminal. The mission threatens to spiral out of control, forcing Kite to make choices that will have devastating consequences not only for his career at top-secret intelligence agency BOX 88, but also for his relationship with Martha.
2023: Eric Appiah, an old friend from Kite’s days at school and an off-the-record BOX 88 asset, makes contact with explosive information about what happened all those years ago in West Africa. When tragedy strikes, Kite must use all his resources to bring down a criminal network with links to international terror and protect Martha from possible assassination.”
It has almost been ten years since the release of Terry Hayes’ I Am Pilgrim, which became a global bestseller and a favourite spy thriller with many readers. Now, we finally have the much delayed second novel from Hayes, The Year Of The Locust (Bantam, 9 November 2023):
“If, like Kane, you’re a Denied Access Area spy for the CIA, then boundaries have no meaning. Your function is to go in, do whatever is required, and get out again – by whatever means necessary. You know when to run, when to hide – and when to shoot.
But some places don’t play by the rules. Some places are too dangerous, even for a man of Kane’s experience. The badlands where the borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet are such a place – a place where violence is the only way to survive.
Kane travels there to exfiltrate a man with vital information for the safety of the West – but instead he meets an adversary who will take the world to the brink of extinction. A frightening, clever, vicious man with blood on his hands and vengeance in his heart.”
The expectations will be very high for The Year Of The Locust, and it will be interesting to see if Hayes can meet them.
Another big name release is Past Lying, (Sphere, 10 October 2023), by the masterful Val McDermid.
Past Lying is the seventh novel in her Karen Pirie cold case series, which has recently been turned into a successful television series. The story is set during the COVID pandemic and associated lockdowns, and has a clever ‘story within a story’ plot:
“Edinburgh, haunted by the ghosts of its many writers, is also the cold case beat of DCI Karen Pirie. So she shouldn’t be surprised when an author’s manuscript appears to be a blueprint for an actual crime.
Karen can’t ignore the plot’s chilling similarities to the unsolved case of an Edinburgh University student who vanished from her own doorstep. The manuscript seems to be the key to unlocking what happened to Lara Hardie, but there’s a problem: the author died before he finished it.
As Karen digs deeper, she uncovers a spiralling game of betrayal and revenge, where lies are indistinguishable from the truth and with more than one unexpected twist.”
I am about halfway through Past Lying and I am really enjoying the rhythm of the story and Val’s writing. The Edinburgh lockdown setting is very atmospheric and adds an element of creepiness to the story. There are also plenty of inside comments and wry observations about contemporary crime writing, which adds to the pleasure. This could be Val’s best novel for some time.
Also with a literary sub-theme to it, is Jullian Cantor’s The Fiction Writer, (Simon & Schuster, 29 November 2023).
The publisher has provided the following detail:
“Once-rising literary star Olivia Fitzgerald is in a downward spiral. After her second novel, a retelling of Rebecca, fails, her third novel can’t find a publisher. And Olivia’s boyfriend breaking up with her hasn’t helped her creativity much either. Broke, newly single and struggling to write another book, she jumps at the chance for a high-paying ghostwriting job when her agent calls with the opportunity.
It almost seems too good to be true: all she has to do is spend a few weeks in Malibu interviewing Henry ‘Ash’ Asherwood, a recently widowed billionaire recluse, who wants her to write a book about a stunning family secret involving his grandmother and Daphne du Maurier. But when she arrives at his Malibu estate, nothing is what it seems. For one thing, Ash is strangely reluctant to truly share his family secrets with Olivia, and she keeps catching him in lies. For another, he seems more interested in her than their writing project. (Though is that really such a bad thing?) And when she discovers a more recent secret, Olivia finds herself caught up in a gothic mystery of her own.”
This mix of romance, suspense and references to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, is likely to make The Fiction Writer a very popular read this Christmas.
Leading out the Australian crime releases is Jack Heath’s intriguingly titled, Kill Your Husbands (Allen & Unwin,
28 November 2023).
Over the past few years, Heath has quietly established himself as a leading writer of quirky, slight offbeat crime novels with a dark undertone to them. His latest one certainly falls into this category, and is also a very quick and enjoyable read. I am about half way through and thoroughly enjoying it so far:
“Three couples, friends since high school, rent a luxurious house in the mountains for an unplugged weekend of drinking and bushwalking. No internet, no phones, no stress. On the first night, the topic of partner-swapping comes up. It’s a joke – at first.
Not everyone is keen, but an agreement is made. The lights will be turned out. The three women will go into the three bedrooms. The three men will each pick a room at random. It won’t be awkward later, because they won’t know who they’ve slept with – or can pretend they don’t.
But when the lights come back on, one of the men is dead. No one will admit to being his partner. The phones still don’t work, and now the car key is missing. They’re stranded. And the killer is just getting started.”
Also with a dark tone to it is The Wiregrass, (Ultimo Press, 29 November 2023), by Ned Kelly Award winning author Adrian Hyland.
Set in a vividly described country setting, The Wiregrass has all the hallmarks of being another gritty slice of rural Australian noir:
“Nash Rankin is a disgraced cop trying to escape his past – his career was destroyed when he chose to take justice into his own hands. Now he’s living a quiet life in a small town, caring for the local wildlife and trying to stay away from trouble.
Jesse Redpath has a new job in a new town: Satellite. The stormy weather that greets her first few days on the beat seems like a sign of what’s to come. A local has died in what looks like an accident, but Jessie isn’t so sure that the ‘accident’ wasn’t planned. All the evidence points to Nash, but Jesse’s not sure about that either.
I think this one could be really good. And what a great cover!
For those who like Christmas-themed books there is the latest twisty feast from Peter Swanson, The Christmas Guest (Faber, 28 November 2023).
“When Ashley Smith – a bright-eyed but lonely American studying in London – is invited to spend Christmas with her classmate’s family at their Cotswolds’ manor house, it seems like a perfect country idyll. And for Ashley – who records it all in her diary – there’s the added romantic potential of her friend’s twin brother, Adam, who she thinks could be her wildest dream come true. But is there something strange about the old house, both stately and rundown? What could the motives of the mysterious Chapman family be? And what holiday horrors might be lying in wait?
Swanson’s books are always a delight, full of unexpected turns and steadily mounting suspense. He also has a good appreciation for the history of the genre and his books are usually full of mystery references.
I also like the tagline of the book: ‘Tis the season to be wary’ and the subtle dab of blood in the lower right corner of the cover.
An ideal Christmas read!
Also with a Christmas theme, is the latest Hercule Poirot continuation by Sophie Hannah, Silent Night (Harper Collins, 26 October 2023).
This is the fifth novel in Sophie’s ‘New Hercule Poirot Mysteries’ and finds the detective trying to solve a mystery on the eve of Christmas:
“It’s 19 December 1931. Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool are called to investigate the murder of a man in the apparent safe haven of a Norfolk hospital ward. Catchpool’s mother, the irrepressible Cynthia, insists that Poirot stays in a crumbling mansion by the coast, so that they can all be together for the festive period while Poirot solves the case. Cynthia’s friend Arnold is soon to be admitted to that same hospital and his wife is convinced he will be the killer’s next victim, though she refuses to explain why.
Poirot has less than a week to solve the crime and prevent more murders, if he is to escape from this nightmare scenario and get home in time for Christmas. Meanwhile, someone else – someone utterly ruthless – also has ideas about what ought to happen to Hercule Poirot.”
These well plotted nostalgic pieces by Sophie Hannah have found a very appreciative audience, and this latest mystery is sure to prove popular this Christmas.
Finally, without doubt the most original novel of the pre-Christmas period is the genre-bending Calico, (Severn House, 7 November 2023), by Lee Goldberg.
I have already read this one and it is a lot of fun.
“There’s a saying in Barstow, California, a decaying city in the scorching Mojave desert.
The Interstate here only goes in one direction: Away.
But it’s the only place where ex-LAPD detective Beth McDade, after a staggering fall from grace, could get another badge, and a shot at redemption.
Over a century ago, and just a few miles further into the bleak landscape, a desperate stranger ended up in Calico, a struggling mining town, also hoping for a second chance.
His fate, all those years ago, and hers today are linked when Beth investigates an old skeleton dug up in a shallow, sandy grave, and also tries to identity a vagrant run-over by a distracted motorhome driver during a lightning storm.
Every disturbing clue she finds, every shocking discovery she makes, force Beth to confront her own troubled past, and a past that’s not her own, until it all smashes together in a revelation that could change the world.”
It is hard to go further into the plot without ruining the enjoyment of the various surprises. There are extraordinary elements to the story, but Goldberg keeps it all well grounded with his solid police investigation plot and his flawed, credible characters. Beth McCade is a convincing, engaging creation who is trying to make up for mistakes in her past, while the ‘stranger’ in Calico is also well crafted. The details of the investigation are well handled and the book builds to a neat climax, with a nice final twist.
I will be doing a longer review closer to the release date, but this is a very enjoyable read.
So, in all, plenty of good releases to keep you reading all the way to Christmas and beyond.