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Posted by on 8 Jun, 2024 in Australian Crime Fiction, Bestseller, British Crime, British Thrillers, Crime, Forecast Friday, Looking Forward Friday, Thriller | 1 comment



Human traffickers, religious zealots and a deadly holiday! You are in dark, but entertaining hands, with these releases from three of the biggest names in crime and thriller writing.

The Mercy Chair by M. W. Craven (Constable, 6 June 2024)

M. W. Craven is in very good form with his latest Poe and Bradshaw novel, The Mercy Chair (Constable, 6 June 2024).

The book is cleverly structured as an account by Detective Sergeant Washington to a therapist that he has been ordered to see. He starts off telling her about his terrible nightmares about crows and then proceeds to tell her why he is haunted by them and the full story of the case that has brought him to her.

I won’t go into more detail about the plot of this deliciously plotted, and very dark, novel other than to provide some of the description provided by the publisher.

“Washington Poe wants to tell you a story.

He’ll tell you about a man who was tied to a tree and stoned to death, a man who had tattooed himself with a code so obscure, even the gifted analyst Tilly Bradshaw struggled to break it. He’ll tell you how the man’s murder was connected to a tragedy that happened fifteen years earlier when a young girl massacred her entire family.

And finally, he’ll tell you about the mercy chair. And why people would rather kill themselves than talk about it. Poe hopes you’ve been paying attention. Because in this story, nothing is as it seems.”

It turns out to be a very twisty tale. From seemingly simple origins about a badger uncovering an unexpected corpse, the book branches out into a very intense murder investigation. The story moves along at a breathless pace, and is one of the most addictive crime novels I have read this year.

The device of structuring the novel around an account given by Poe to his therapist, is very effective and certainly speeds the story along. There is plenty of foreshadowing and frequent suggestions that things are going to get worse, which in lesser hands could be overly contrived, but Mr Craven makes it work and the plot powers along.

As well, there are the other usual ingredients you would expect from a Craven novel: lots of interesting information, surprising twists, witty banter, touching moments and the always engaging Tilly Bradshaw.

Some aspects were slightly overdone for me, but it was a compulsively readable novel throughout, and I could not put it down. I suspect it will be one of the most popular crime novels of the year.

The Mercy Chair was released in the United Kingdom on the anniversary of D-Day (6 June) and will be released in Australia on 11 June 2024.

Storm Child by Michael Robotham, (Hachette, 26 June 2024)

Also very dark is Michael Robotham’s Storm Child, (Hachette, 26 June 2024).

Storm Child is the fourth book in Michael’s highly acclaimed series about forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven and the troubled young adult, Evie Cormac.

The book gets off to a grim start with seventeen bodies from a refugee boat being washed up on a British beach. There is only one immediate survivor, a young boy, while two women are missing. Cyrus and Evie are on hand to witness the terrible sight. Cyrus rushes to help, but the sight is too much for Evie, and the memories that it brings up pushes her into a catatonic state.

Whatever happened all those years ago to Evie lies at the core of this new tragedy. Because these deaths are no accident. The same dark forces are reaching out again, dragging her back into the storm. Evie must now call upon Cyrus’s unique skills, and her own, in their search for the missing pieces of this complex and haunting puzzle. As Cyrus tries to track down those that are responsible, and find the survivors, the threat to him and Evie grows greater.

Storm Child brings to a head a lot of the themes and plots from the earlier books about what really happened to Evie as a child. There are frequent flashbacks to Evie’s childhood in Albania, and for the first time we get a clear view of the events that led up to the trauma that impacted so greatly on her childhood.

The background of people smuggling and the treatment of refugees gives the book a a very sombre feel, and Evie’s increasing distress as she remembers more and more, also adds to the darkness of the book. Fortunately this is somewhat balanced by the injection of some lighter moments in Cyrus’ developing relationship with a woman vital to the case, and in the interactions between him and Evie.

As usual, Robotham’s fine writing and his sharp-eyed observations of modern society give good depth to the book, and his depiction of a small town in Scotland vital to the story is very powerful. The themes around racism, greed and refugees are well handled, and resonate just as much in Australia as they do in the United Kingdom.

The pacing is not as quick as in the earlier books, and Evie’s recollections, while poignant, do impinge on the flow of the main plot. The tension does increase dramatically in the final quarter, however, and the ending is exciting and unexpected.

Overall, Storm Child is a powerful story that is a must read for fans of the earlier books.

Storm Child will be released in Australia and the United Kingdom on 26 June 2024 and in the United States on 2 July 2024.

One Perfect Couple by Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster, July 2024)

Ruth Ware’s latest novel, One Perfect Couple (Simon & Schuster), is one of those books which seems to have fallen foul of the various publishing arrangements around the world. It is already available in the United States through Gallery/Scout Press, but will not be published in Ruth’s home country of the United Kingdom until 18 July 2024, and not in Australia until 30 July 2024. A bit of a mess for a book, which would seem to make for a perfect summer holiday read.

One Perfect Couple is good example of what publishers and the media are describing as a ‘destination thriller’. These are crime novels in which groups of people travel to a holiday location, preferably remote and exotic, where they are killed off one by one until the identity of the killer is finally revealed. Icy, cold ski lodges, usually buffered by snowstorms, have been popular in the past, but now we are seeing an increasing number of tropical locations, which are proving to be no less dangerous.

One Perfect Couple does not fall fully into the destination category, as it is not a holiday trip gone wrong, but instead is a disastrous reality TV show.

Lyla Santiago has spent months working on a research project that could be the key to getting a permanent job in her field of virology. So when her actor boyfriend Nico asks her to drop everything to go to a desert island with him to film a new reality TV show called One Perfect Couple, she is initially hesitant. But when things go wrong at work she agrees, and two weeks later finds herself boarding a boat to an isolated luxury resort in the Indian Ocean.

The rules of the game seem simple. Ten strangers have to survive together on the island, with the last couple standing scooping the prize and television fame. There will be sun, sea, laughs and plenty of flirting. It seems idyllic until a huge tropical storm cuts them off from everything. As tensions run high and fresh water runs low, Lyla realises that someone is playing this game for real, and that they will stop at nothing to win.

This is more a thriller than a murder mystery. It is not a clever ‘whodunit’, but rather a tense ‘how do we survive’ tale. The initial premise takes some suspension of disbelief, but once you are past that it is a tense and gripping story. Ruth wastes little time in setting the tropical storm lose on the island and very quickly the bodies begin to mount up from natural and human causes.

Ruth is a proven author of quality, and once again the writing is interesting and descriptive, and the characters are credible and flawed. Lyla provides a good central focus for the story and her authenticity helps to ground the plot. The pacing is reasonably good, and smoothly woven into the story are some pointed observations on reality TV, the superficiality of popular culture and the insidious rise of misogyny in social media.

The structure of the book is quite good and Ruth utilises some clever devices to keep the suspense and the sense of uncertainty at a good level. I am not even a casual watcher of reality TV, but I readily became caught up in the story and enjoyed the gritty outcome.

One Perfect Couple was released in the United States on 28 May 2024 and will be released in the United Kingdom on 16 July 2024 and in Australia on 30 July 2024.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks, Jeff. Some more titles to add to the list 🙂

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