Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on 27 Mar, 2024 in Australian Crime Fiction, British Crime, Crime | 0 comments



From a Dorset village to the alleyways of London to a remote coastal settlement in New Zealand, this latest batch of books transverses a wide range of locations and writing styles.

The Girl In The Dark by Zoe Sharp, (Bookouture, 19 March 2024)

First up is a new novel by veteran British author Zoë Sharp, The Girl In The Dark (Bookouture, 19 March 2024)

Zoë 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 tapered off in appeal towards the end, and Zoë’s post-Fox books were also a little lacklustre. However, Zoë’s last novel, The Last Time She Died, was a ripper. Introducing the pairing of policeman Detective John Byron and maverick street girl Blake Claremont, it held attention from the beginning to the exciting conclusion.

With The Girl In The Dark, Zoë once more returns to Blake and Byron, with a tough crime novel set on the dark streets of London. Shannon was a woman who went out of her way to help the homeless of the city. A tragic hit and run, however, leaves her dead on the side of the road. Before she died, Shannon was searching for answers. She knew that people were going missing, never to be seen again. Blake owes her survival on the streets to Shannon, and when she hears of her death she sets off to find out where Shannon had been before her death and why she was so frightened. With Byron’s assistance she is determined to extract vengeance on the ruthless men and women who prey on the homeless.

The Girl In The Dark is a good, exciting crime thriller that showcases Zoë’s skills for brisk pacing, twisty plotting, edgy characters and a leavening of social conscience. The story quickly reels the reader in and keeps them engrossed all the way to the abrupt ending. Blake and Byron are a good pair, with different styles and strategies, and their divergent approaches enables Zoë to keep the tension and the suspense at a high level. Most of the action is viewed from Blake’s perspective, but Zoë also shifts the viewpoint to other characters, which works well. I particularly liked Police Commander Shamshi Daud, with her no nonsense approach to policing, and some of the homeless characters.

In all, The Girl In The Dark is an enjoyable read. The Last Time She Died probably had a greater sense of mystery about it, but this new entry is still very good, and I am looking forward to the next Blake and Byron thriller.

The Girl In The Dark was released in Australia and the United Kingdom on 19 March 2024. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a copy of the book for review.

How To Solve Your Own Murder by Kristen Perrin (Quercus, 26 March 2024)

Kristen Perrin offers a more gentle approach to crime fiction with her debut mystery, How To Solve Your Own Murder (Quercus, 26 March 2024).

In 1965, seventeen-year-old Frances Adams was told by a fortune teller that one day she would be murdered. Frances spent the next sixty years trying to prevent the crime that would be her eventual demise. Of course, no one took her seriously – until she was dead.

For Frances, being the village busybody was a form of insurance. She’d spent a lifetime compiling dirt on every person she met, just in case they might turn out to be her killer. In the heart of her sprawling country estate lies an eccentric library of detective work, where the right person could step in and use her findings to solve her murder.

When her great-niece Annie arrives from London and discovers that Frances’ worst fear has come true, she is thrust into her great-aunt’s last act of revenge against her sceptical friends and family. Frances’ will stipulates that the person who solves her murder will inherit her millions. Can Annie unravel the mystery and find justice for Frances, or will digging up the past lead her into the path of the killer?

This is a very enjoyable debut murder mystery. Annie is an engaging and witty narrator who ably steers the reader through the nicely convoluted plot. She is strictly in the amateur detective class and there are frequent references to classical mystery novels and television shows in her discussion with her friend, and sort of Dr Watson, Jenny:

“‘Well, if TV has taught us anything, it’s that the murder rate in small villages is disproportionately high. So, you’d better keep me on standby, I’m sure there’s a locked room in your future.'”

The frequent flashbacks, via Frances’ diaries, to the 1960s and an earlier crime, add a good extra dimension to the story and some poignancy. They also capture the different time very well.

Overall, there is a nice flow to the story and it is very easy to settle back and read large chunks of the book at one time. There are plenty of clues and red herrings, and a good final resolution. In all, How To Solve Your Own Murder is a well paced and very entertaining ‘whodunit’ with a touch of Knives Out about it.

How To Solve Your Own Murder was released in Australia and the United Kingdom on 26 March 2024. Thanks to the publisher and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book for review.

The Call by Gavin Strawhan, (Allen & Unwin, 19 March 2024)

Providing more grit and action is a very good New Zealand debut crime novel by Gavin Strawhan, The Call (Allen & Unwin, 19 March 2024).

After surviving a brutal attack, Auckland detective DS Honey Chambers to returns to her hometown of Waitutū on a remote part of the New Zealand coastline to care for her mother. Waitutū holds some unpleasant memories for Honey, especially around her sister’s suicide, but it does give her the time to recover. Her troubles from Auckland, however, follow her home, and she finds herself in a deadly battle with a dangerous gang and her own past.

This is a very impressive debut. Strawhan ably swings the action between the present and the events leading up to Honey’s attack, and skilfully shifts the perspective between the various participants, including Kloe the drug addicted gang informant at the centre of the book.

The characters are well developed and interesting, and the location of Waitutū is vividly described and credible. There is plenty of tension throughout, and the book builds to an exciting and bloody climax that will have you tearing through the final fifty pages or so. There is also a good, tough, cynical coda.

Fleshing out the book are sharp eyed observations on New Zealand society, particularly around the rise of gangs and the influence of bikers deported back to New Zealand from Australia. There are also timely reflections on policing and crime, and mental health issues and ageing.

New Zealand crime fiction is currently going through a golden period and The Call is a good example of the fine writing that is emerging from across the Tasman. Tense and exciting, it grips to the end. Recommended. 

The Call was released in Australia on 19 March 2024. Release dates for overseas are not clear. Thanks to the publisher and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book for review.

Leave a Reply