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Posted by on 19 Mar, 2024 in Australian Crime Fiction, Bestseller, Crime, Forecast Friday, Looking Forward Friday, Outback Crime | 0 comments



Australian crime fiction, of both the domestically and overseas located varieties, has already gotten off to a very good start in 2024 with some outstanding new books by Simon Rowell, Dinuka McKenzie, Sarah Bailey, Sulari Gentill and Dervla McTiernan, to name a few.

Now there are two more good books for fans of Australian crime fiction to add to their reading lists in the near future: Sanctuary by Garry Disher and Devil’s Kitchen by Candice Fox.

Sanctuary by Garry Disher (Text, 3 April 2024)

Garry Disher is one of the veterans of the Australian crime fiction scene, and the quality of his yearly offerings has rarely faltered over the past twenty five years, or more. Best known for his Wyatt, Hal Challis and, more recently, the Paul ‘Hirsch’ Hirschhausen series, Disher heads off in new direction with Sanctuary, (Text, 2 April 2024), which is another terrific read.

The woman now known as Grace is a thief, a good one. She was taught by experts, and she has been practising since she was a kid. She specialises in small, high-value items, such as stamps and watches, and she knows her Jaeger-LeCoultres from her Patek Philippes. It is a solitary, watchful life, but it is one that she has become used to. When a job goes wrong in Brisbane, and she encounters a dangerous old associate with a grudge, Grace hits the road looking for opportunities. While scouting out jobs in the Adelaide Hills she walks into Erin Mandel’s rural antiques shop and sees a chance for something different. A normal life. But Erin also has her secrets, and she too is on the run from someone, and that person is getting closer. Meanwhile, rummaging around in the background is an old local cop who is looking for one last arrest before he retires.

This is a finely constructed novel that unfolds with precision and care, as the tension mounts and the various main characters move towards the bloody climax. There is not a lot of action in the opening sections, but Disher expertly keeps the reader interested, and on edge, as the story darts down some unforeseen paths and introduces some good surprises. The alternating points of view between Erin, Grace and some very unpleasant crooks, keeps the suspense high and the ending is unexpected and exciting.

As with all of Disher’s novels, the characters are well sketched, convincing, and nicely nuanced. Nearly all of them have their good and bad points, and all are interesting. Grace, who we last met as a passing through character in the Hal Challis novel Whispering Death, provides the main point of view, and is an unrepentant thief, although she does have her good side. While the old cop, Les Liddington, is a good counterbalance and deserves his own book.

Some well-choreographed acts of thievery help propel the plot along, and mixed in with the story are the usual interesting asides, and plenty of fascinating details about the antique trade, tracking devices, gun smuggling and a host of other things. There are also the believable, evocative descriptions of everyday life in a small rural town that we have come to expect from Disher.

In all, Sanctuary is a highly enjoyable read and one of my favourite books of the year so far. It also has a great cover.

Sanctuary will be released in Australia on 3 April 2024 and in the United Kingdom in August 2024. It is not clear when it will be released in the United States. Thanks to the publishers and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book to review.

Devil’s Kitchen by Candice Fox (Bantam, 26 March 2024)

Candice Fox has forced her way into the bestselling international crime writing scene with some bold American based thrillers, and a batch of popular books co-written with writing phenomena James Patterson.

Devil’s Kitchen, (Bantam, 26 March 2024), is a solo effort by Candice, and like her last two books, Fire With Fire and The Chase, probably falls into the category of high concept, ‘what if’ fiction.

The central premise of Devil’s Kitchen is that, what if the idolised firefighters of New York’s Engine 99, are not only heroes, but also very skilled thieves. Over the years they have stolen millions from banks, jewelry stores and art galleries while fighting fires, and are now looking for one last heist. But they have a problem. Their newest member, Andrea ‘Andy’ Nearland, is not what she seems. She is an undercover operative, hunting the men of Engine 99 for a host of crimes, including the murder of an off-duty policeman and the suspicious disappearance of a mother and child.

This is a big, tense book. The story starts strongly, and Candice keeps the pace up for most of its 450 pages. There is plenty of action, and the book smoothly moves between exciting firefighting scenes and bursts of suspicion and tension amongst the members of the team. While in the background, there is the ongoing mystery about what happened to the mother and child, and who killed the policeman. Not surprisingly, it all comes together in a powerful and emotional climax.

Central to the action is the character of Andy, who comes across as being very capable and dedicated, but is also obsessive and full of dark demons from her past. Candice’s multi-layered portrayal of Andy gives the book extra depth and richness, as well as a sense of everything being out of control.

Adding to the texture of the book is an impressive amount of detail about firefighting, and some impressive scenes, and Candice imbues the book with a good patina of credibility around the reality of firefighting.

In all, Devil’s Kitchen is a very entertaining crime story, and with Easter coming up it would make for a great read over the holiday weekend. It is probably a bit too long, but most readers will be too caught up in the story to notice or care.

Devil’s Kitchen is released in Australia on 26 March 2024 and in the United States and the United Kingdom on 4 June 2024.

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