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Posted by on 4 Sep, 2023 in Australian Crime Fiction, Crime, serial killer thriller, Spy Fiction, Thriller | 0 comments

NEW AUSTRALIAN CRIME FICTION 2023: RIPPER by Shelley Burr and MOLE CREEK by James Dunbar

NEW AUSTRALIAN CRIME FICTION 2023: RIPPER by Shelley Burr and MOLE CREEK by James Dunbar

There is a pleasing diversity to contemporary Australian crime fiction. This is once more demonstrated by these new releases by Shelley Burr and James Dunbar.

Ripper by Shelley Burr (Hachette, 30 August 2023)

Shelley Burr’s Wake was one of my favourite Australian crime novels of 2022, and recently won the 2023 Ned Kelly Award for best Debut Crime Novel.

Wake was a very assured first novel that a showed a maturity of writing that is often missing in debut novels. The plotting about a cold crime case in outback Australia was original and interesting, and the characters had a real depth to them.

Now, Shelley has followed it up with a strong second novel, Ripper (Hachette, 30 August 2023.)

Ripper centres around a series of murders in the small town of Rainer, halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. The once thriving town is now best known as being the site of three murders committed by the ‘Rainer Ripper’ seventeen years ago. Gemma Guillory has lived in Rainer all her life, and her innocuous little teashop was the last stop on the Ripper’s trail of death. Although in custody, the Ripper’s night of carnage still has repercussions in the town. When a tour operator who is trying to cash in on the town’s dark history is killed by a Ripper copycat on Gemma’s steps again, she fears that the old days are back.

Ripper is different in style from Wake, but has the same compulsive feel. The story proceeds at a good pace and the plot weaves its way through an enjoyable series of twists and surprises. True crime investigator and private eye Lane Holland from Wake also makes a welcomed appearance in the book, and his interventions add some interesting elements to the story. The other characters are also richly developed and engaging, especially Gemma, and the descriptions of Rainer and its milieu ring true.

I really enjoyed Ripper. The murder mystery elements are well handled and there is a freshness to the story telling. I also liked Holland’s involvement, although it is relatively minor, and there is a good promise of another book to come.

I have a couple of minor quibbles. The cast list is very long, and some readers will struggle to keep the various characters and relationships clear in their head. I also thought that some of the policing detail was unconvincing. But these are minor concerns and do not greatly detract from the enjoyment of the book.

In all, another impressive effort by Shelley.

Mole Creek by James Dunbar (Echo, August 2023)

James Dunbar’s first venture into serious crime fiction, Mole Creek (Echo, August 2023), is a highly entertaining novel that breathes some new life into the Australian spy thriller.

Journalist Xander McAuslan is skeptical when he is told that his retired cop and Vietnam veteran grandfather, Pete, has taken his life in rural Tasmania, especially when he finds out that his grandfather’s laptop is missing. Pete had gone to the cabin to write his memoirs and reveal some old secrets, but it seems that someone has other ideas.  When Xander arrives in Tasmania he finds himself targeted by a Russian hitman and pursued by a local police detective, who seems to have her own agenda.

Moving seamlessly between Vietnam in 1969 and the present day, Mole Creek is a well written and thoroughly engrossing crime novel. The details about the Vietnam war are interesting and believable, and Dunbar’s ability to weave them into a present-day espionage plot is quite clever. The story moves along briskly and there are some enjoyable flashes of violence, as well as a good set of credible characters, particularly another Vietnam vet who is living off the grid. It is not too hard to work out where the story is going, but there are some good surprises along the way.

Overall, I thought that Mole Creek was a very enjoyable and original spy thriller. Warmly recommended.

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