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Posted by on 1 Jul, 2022 in Australian Crime Fiction, Canberra Weekly, Crime, Outback Crime | 0 comments



Remote locations and complex relationships feature in these three very different new Australian crime novels.

The Bay by Allie Reynolds (Hachette, 14 June 2022)

Allie Reynolds’ Shiver was one of my favourite debut reads of 2021. Now with The Bay, (Hachette, 14 June 2022), she leaves the snow and the snow boarding behind and heads to a remote Australian beach and a bunch of adrenaline junkie surfers.

Kenna Ward lost her boyfriend to the ocean two years ago and gave up surfing, but when she hears that her best friend, Mikki, is about to marry a guy that she has only just met she heads to Australia to try and talk her out of it. She finds that the couple, and their tight knit group of surfing friends, are about to head off on a trip to a remote hidden beach and decides to tag along. Kenna knows that there is more to this group than meets the eye, including talk of a missing girl. It soon becomes clear that they are not a friendly bunch, and they are skeptical of Kenna and not keen to have her around. Each of them are also hiding secrets, some of which become deadly. Trapped on the isolated beach Kenna begins to fear that she will never leave.

The Bay is a bit of a slow burn to start with, but once underway the tension steadily mounts and the final third of the book is tense and gripping. Allie is very good at describing the remote beach and the thrill of surfing, and she captures well the different personalities of the group. As with Shiver, there are plenty of twists and surprises and lots of false leads. An enjoyable tale with a good sense of place.

Three and a half to four stars out of five!

Note: The Bay is released in the United States as The Swell. Thanks to the publisher and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book.

Stone Town by Margaret Hickey (Penguin, 5 July 2022)

Margaret Hickey also made an impressive entry into Australia’s crime writing ranks last year with her debut Cutters End, and she has now followed it up with the even better Stone Town (Penguin, 5 July 2022).

Senior Sergeant Mark Ariti initially took a posting to the small outback town he grew up in to be with his dying mother, but stayed on after her death enjoying the relative peace of the town. That quietness is destroyed, however, when a property developer is found with a bullet to the back of the head and Ariti becomes caught up in the search for a missing policewoman.

This is an outstanding crime novel. The plotting is very assured and Margaret keeps the story moving along at a good pace. The plot develops in a believable manner and is peppered with good surprises and flashes of excitement. The characters are well developed and credible, especially the very engaging Ariti. More human than most fictional detectives, Ariti has a good mix of confidence and uncertainty. He is far from perfect, but is a capable copper and considered in his actions. His reflections on his recently deceased mother, and the difficulty of returning to the town in which he grew up, are convincing and moving, and add good texture to the story. He is a very fine addition to the growing ranks of fictional Australian rural police detectives and is up there with Dave Warner’s Dan Clement and Garry Disher’s Paul (Hirsch) Hirschhausen as the pick of the current crop.

Margaret also excels in her descriptions of the countryside and the changing nature of the small country towns in which the action takes place. Not only does she capture the sights and sounds of the bush, but also the mood and cadence of life in a small country town. There are also nice touches of humour, including Ariti’s amusing, and highly believable, encounter with enthusiastic birdwatchers.

Most importantly, the book builds to a tense and unexpected climax. I guessed some of it, but most of the twists and turns came as a complete surprise.

Four and a half stars out of five! An outstanding book!

Thanks to the publisher and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book.

Death At The Belvedere by Sue Williams (Text, 31 May 2022)

Sue Williams’ series about unofficial private investigator Cass Tuplin has flown a bit under the radar, but her books are always an enjoyable romp through rural Australia.

In Death At The Belvedere (Text, 31 May 2022), Cass is lured away from the red dust town of Rusty Bore to help her wayward sister Helen recover a valuable book from a crime scene. Helen’s latest boyfriend died after suspiciously falling from the roof of his Melbourne apartment and the police suspect that Helen may be the mysterious woman seen with him just before his death. Helen needs the book back and convinces Cass to break in and get it. Of course nothing goes as expected and the story wanders down some amusing paths before the dramatic climax on the Melbourne Star.

This is a enjoyably light and frequently funny read. Cass’s observations are witty and amusing and very down to earth and will raise a wry smile or two. Sue captures well the dynamics and humour of modern families from modest backgrounds and she also nicely conveys the pace of life in the bush:

“A mostly normal Friday evening in the Rusty Bore Takeaway: four regulars; no new virus apocalypse; two grey nomads in search of the highway.”

Underpinning Cass’s antics is a solid mystery plot, which builds to a well constructed and surprising resolution.

Good fun! Three and a half to four stars out of five!

Thanks to the publisher and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book.

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