Review: Hangman by Jack Heath & The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

I’ve read two debut thrillers this month I’d like to share.

The first is by Australian author Jack Heath who has published over 20 YA novels but has now burst onto the adult fiction scene in a very big way with Hangman.


Sociopath Tim Blake goes by the codename Hangman and is contracted by the FBI as a last resort for his crime solving genius in complex cases. His genius comes with a hefty price tag though and in a despicable arrangement known only to one person within the FBI, he is permitted to take a life for every one he saves.

Despite the unpalatable agreement, Tim Blake is an anti-hero you find yourself backing and the pace of the plot is equivalent to any James Patterson crime novel.

Hangman is the first in a gruesomely dark series to feature Tim Blake and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Warning: you’ll need a strong stomach though.

Hangman has also been optioned for television by the ABC in USA so fingers crossed we see Tim Blake on the big screen soon.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is an explosive and impressive debut. Juliette is a sociopath and not coping well after her boyfriend Nate broke up with her six months ago. Juliette is determined to win Nate back at all odds, including joining his airline and training as an airline steward in order to be closer to him.

Juliette really will stop at nothing to achieve her goal, including a little digital stalking, breaking and entering and general harassment. And that’s just for starters. Her daring made me nervous and more than a little edgy at times and the pages flew by as I admired her ingenuity and cringed at her constant need for Nate.

Juliette’s obsession and stalking extends to a few supporting female characters and I hope I never come across a woman like her in real life. Juliette’s master plan is slowly revealed to the reader and her motivations come into shocking focus.

The author’s experience working as a cabin crew member in the airline industry has given her the tools to portray the industry encompassing both characters to perfection. I enjoyed this setting enormously and relished the details of their work schedule, airline culture and lifestyle.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is a psychological thriller and one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year.

Review: Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Australian crime fiction is experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to a handful of fresh female voices. Jane Harper’s The Dry was 2016’s darling and rightfully so — I called it “the year’s best achievement on the Australian crime writing scene” in my review, and named it my Book of the Year — and in 2015 I was absolutely blown away by Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay: “stripped-down and raw, and packs one helluva punch.” And then, of course, there’s Candice Fox, who has carved out a distinctive square on the map of contemporary crime writing with her Bennett / Archer trilogy (Hades, Eden and Fall), and  who ranks as one of my absolute favourite authors. Perhaps it’s too early to predict 2017’s Aussie crime fiction blockbuster, but one thing is for certain: Candice Fox’s Crimson Lake will feature in the conversation.

Crimson Lake introduces former Sydney-based police detective Ted Conkaffey, who was accused, but not convicted, of abducting a 13-year-old girl. But the accusation is enough. To his wife, his peers, and the general public, a lack of conviction isn’t proof of innocence, just evidence of a lack of proof. Ted is an outcast. The life he had is over, and so he flees Sydney to Cairns: specifically the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake. There he meets Amanda Pharrell — an accused and convicted murderer now operating as a private detective — and partners with her to investigate the disappearance of local author Jake Scully.

Veteran Fox readers will notice some thematic similarities between Crimson Lake and her Bennett / Archer trilogy. She is the absolute master of the enigmatic protagonist: characters with deep, dark secrets, who readers will follow and support, but with occasional hesitancy; because what if the worst is true? What if we’re  actually cheering on a killer in Amanda Pharrell? And Ted — our narrator — what if he’s hiding the truth from us? What if he is guilty of abducting the girl, and leading readers astray? We’re never quite certain — not totally — until the novel’s very end of how trustworthy and reliable Ted and Amanda are, which makes Crimson Lake incredibly compelling and propulsive.

Candice Fox’s prodigious ability to keep coming up with unforgettable characters elevates Crimson Lake beyond the standard police procedurals that proliferate the genre. Oh sure, Ted and Amanda’s investigation into Jake Scully’s disappearance is effectively handled — plenty of twists and red-herrings, and a heart-stopping climax to satisfy plot-focused readers — but it’s their uneasy comradeship, and their secrets which threaten to bubble to the surface, that make the novel a blast. It boasts Fox’s signature style, edge and humour to delight established fans, and will surely win new ones, too.

One of the best Australian crime writers just levelled up. If you haven’t jumped on the Candice Fox bandwagon, now’s the time. Crimson Lake will be one of 2017’s best crime novels, and Candice Fox has quickly established herself as one of our finest talents operating in the genre. That’s not hyperbole. It’s fact. Read Crimson Lake — you’ll see.

Buy the book here…

Review: Police at the Station and they Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty

Book 6 in the Sean Duffy “trilogy” is an absolute cracker. Each book in this series has gotten better and better and when you consider at what level he kicked the series off with The Cold, Cold Ground that is saying something.

It is 1989 and Sean Duffy must tackle his most complex case yet. A drug dealer has been shot and killed in Belfast. On the surface there is nothing startling about the case in a city where drug patches are drawn along sectarian lines and those that crossover to the wrong patch are swiftly and violently dealt with. However what makes this case different is that the murder weapon is a crossbow. In a country flooded with illegal guns, someone has taken the trouble of using a crossbow to kill their victim. Duffy’s interest is piqued but he is quickly stonewalled by witnesses and the victim’s wife who all know to keep their mouths shut and a murder weapon that is seemingly untraceable. With his new family, the media, special branch and even an IRA hit squad after him something might finally snap for Sean Duffy, that is unless he does what he does best, which is use his wits to fight back.

I have to say I think the Sean Duffy series has to now be ranked as one of the best crime series of all time. How this isn’t a mega-bestseller around the world is beyond me. This is an outstanding series on so many levels; plot, characters, politics, history to name just a few. Once again McKinty keeps the humour deliciously black and has you guessing until the final pages. I was instantly lost in this book and began to dread the book’s ending once I had read beyond the halfway point. I love Sean Duffy as a character and did not want the book to end and I do not want this series to end. Fingers crossed Sean Duffy makes it into the 1990s.

If the previous Sean Duffy novels earned Adrian McKinty the right to belly up to the bar alongside Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, and the other contemporary crime writing greats, Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly guarantees his place at the table forevermore. This is a sophisticated, stylish and engrossing crime thriller, which rips along at a cracking pace, and packs more twists and turns than a street map of Belfast. Not to mention the heart-stopping climax…

Belfast 1988: a drug dealer is found murdered in front of his house, killed with a bolt from a crossbow. Sean Duffy, of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, is called to investigate. Now a family man – girlfriend and baby daughter living at home – Duffy is initially grateful to be working a homicide; something a tad spicier than his recent fare. But solving this case leads Duffy to a confrontation with the dangerous villains he’s ever faced; the kind who won’t just be satisfied ending his life, but those he cares for most deeply. Duffy remains a superbly drawn character, sardonic yet assured, and now struggling to cope with his new responsibilities as a father.

McKinty writes laconic, sophisticated, well-paced thrillers, and Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly is his most refined novel yet. Some authors make you laugh; others make you gasp. McKinty can do both, usually in the space of a couple of paragraphs. His latest is multifaceted, layered, and intense – the kind of novel you’ll blow through in one sitting.

In the past, when interrogated on my favourite crime writers by friends, family, and indeed customers at Pages & Pages, I’ve always said McKinty is up there with the best writers in the business. With Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly he has set down a potentially unsurpassable marker.

Buy the book here…

Review: Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin

Although John Rebus’s  name is emblazoned on the cover of Rather Be the Devil, Ian Rankin’s ensemble cast is becoming increasingly intrinsic to the irascible detective’s world. And that’s not a bad thing. Thanks to the distinct personalities of Rebus, Siobhan Clarke, Malcolm Fox, and two Edinburgh gangsters – Big Ger Cafferty and Darryl Christie – this is a multilayered whodunnit that will keep even the sharpest readers asking questions until the very last page. Rest assured, loyalists: Rankin and Rebus remain as peerless as ever.

Rebus’s mortality has been hinted at in recent novels, but in Rather Be the Devil, it’s like a slap in the face. There is no avoiding it. Our mate Rebus isn’t doing so well. Prone to violent fits of coughing, he’s given up the cigarettes and limited his boozing. Which isn’t to say he’s a changed man. Rebus is like a dog with a bone; once he latches on, he won’t let go. The bone, in this instance, is an unsolved murder dating back forty years. Maria Turquand was murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying in the same establishment. It’s stuck in Rebus’s mind for all that time, marinating. And now, retired, free as a bird, he uses his contacts at Police Scotland – hello Siobhan! – to access the file.

Meanwhile, Darryl Christie – Edinburgh’s wannabe criminal kingpin – has been viciously attacked outside his home. Is this a new player making a run at Christie’s territory? Or an old enemy looking to move back in? Fox and Clarke are on the case, which of course, clashes with Rebus’s seemingly unrelated and unsanctioned investigation.

Throughout Rather Be the Devil, Rankin flits confidently between characters, painting a portrait of modern day Edinburgh as he weaves a smart, brisk mystery. He combines Rebus’s hard-nosed cynicism with moments of real sentimentality, which coalesce into an exceptionally good read, with an ending that suggests Rebus it won’t be too long between drinks before and his cohorts reunite.

This is vintage Rebus and Rankin. It’s always such a treat to enter the mind of one of the most interesting personalities in crime fiction. Stay healthy, John!

Buy the book here…

Review: The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch’s journey with the LAPD came to a fittingly acrimonious ending in the final pages of The Burning Room a couple of years back. But while his departure made sense from a character perspective, I had my concerns for the future of Michael Connelly’s long-running series. We’ve seen Harry leave the LAPD before (which produced one of my favourites Bosch novels, Lost Light) but the blue religion and department politics play such a key role in Connelly’s work. How could Bosch possibly endure?

We got a partial answer with last year’s The Crossing; a rollicking team-up with the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller. It set up the obvious question: who is Harry Bosch without the badge? And how can he carry on his mission without it? Because working for Haller wasn’t sustainable; not in the long-term. The Wrong Side of Goodbye provides all the answers we need, and sets the series up for the foreseeable future. Bosch’s LAPD years are over, but the character’s best years might still be ahead of him.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye follows two distinct investigations, which unravel around each other but never intersect. One involves mega-wealthy industrialist Whitney Vance, who hires Bosch as a private investigator to locate a potential heir. His other case involves a serial-rapist dubbed the Screen Cutter, which Bosch is working as a part-time reservist for the San Fernando Police Department. Although it’s an unpaid position, it allows Harry the chance to once again wield a badge and carry on his mission, which is all the payment he needs.

The novel delves into Bosch’s Vietnam years, and his early years in an LAPD uniform. While Connelly has touched on these background details in the past, it’s never been to this extent, and he leaves a ton left over to excavate in future instalments. I always wondered whether Connelly might produce a novel set in the Vietnam or just after, focused entirely on Bosch’s war years or his early years with the LAPD; The Wrong Side of Goodbye is a far more nuanced approach, and I hope we see more information drip-fed to us in future books.

Michael Connelly’s latest is another masterpiece of crime fiction. Some authors get to a point where you run out of superlatives for their fiction; Mr Connelly reached that point long ago. The Wrong Side of Goodbye is the standard to which police procedurals should be held. No doubt the author will raise the bar even higher with his next release.

Buy the book here…

Review: So Say the Fallen by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville is a crime writer at the absolute top of his game at the moment and is doing things in the crime genre few others would attempt. After bursting onto the scene with The Twelve, an IRA hitman thriller with a supernatural edge, Neville has challenged himself and the crime genre with each subsequent book. I thought he hit the heights with his historical crime novel Ratlinesbut his new series featuring DCI Serena Flanagan has gone to new levels of brilliance.

In the first DCI Serena Flanagan novel, Those We Left Behind, Neville created a crime thriller that skillfully demonstrated that a crime story doesn’t ever end. The effects are always long-lasting and neither truth nor justice can ever provide the closure required by those left behind. Neville again shows this when we catch up with DCI Flanagan in the new novel with the events of that novel continuing to have ramifications on both her professional and personal lives.

9781910701522The second DCI Flanagan novel deals with a classic tale of the crime genre; a wife and her lover knocking off her husband, killing him to make it look like suicide, with the wife set to inherit a fortune. But Neville plays this story out with a couple of differences. Firstly as a reader we know straight up it is a murder not suicide. There is no mystery to unravel. We know who is guilty and it is up to DCI Flanagan to work out if there has been foul play or not. Secondly, the lover is a priest. Neville plays all this out while DCI Flanagan struggles to keep her family together while giving her job the dedication she knows it requires.

I never thought a crime novel without a central mystery could be so tense and page-turning. I surprised myself a number of times with how much I got sucked into this novel. The way Neville explores the burden placed on a detective is superb and an angle that has fallen into cliché in too many other crime novels. The tension of the story also builds unawares, on both sides of the story, as Neville tells the story from both the detective and the killers’ points of view with completely different tension on both sides that all comes to a dramatic head by the end of the novel.

Those Left Behind was an outstanding piece of crime fiction. Unfortunately as the story dealt with two teenage boys handselling the book proved a challenge. Hopefully with this new book passionate crime readers will discover a fantastic new series that is doing things in the crime genre few others are attempting and fewer still are able to pull off. If you haven’t read Stuart Neville yet now is the time to start.

Last year I called Stuart Neville’s Those We Left Behind “a true hallmark of the genre,” and have spent the months since its release desperate to read his next. You know what it’s like when the shadow of an absolutely brilliant crime novel casts over subsequent books in your reading stack: oh, there’s stuff there you’ll enjoy, but nothing quite matches up to the quality of that effervescent goliath.  So when an ARC of the second Serena Flanagan novel dropped in my lap, it was very much a case of drop everything and read! Expectations were high — hyperbolic, in fact — and I felt a slight twinge that I’d placed too much of a burden on Neville’s shoulders. I hadn’t, though. Like its predecessor, So Say the Fallen is a brilliant crime novel, and further underlines Stuart Neville’s credentials as one of the best contemporary crime writers.

When So Say the Fallen opens, DCI Serena Flanagan is still dealing with the fallout from her last major case, detailed in Those We Left Behind (which I won’t delve into here – this is a safe place, readers, free from spoilers). Suffice to say, her home life is suffering as a result, and the breakdown of her marriage seems imminent. The new case thrust into her hands doesn’t appear to have the same significance: a severely disabled local businessman has committed suicide, and Flanagan is called to the scene to sign off on the cause of death. The scene is clean, and all evidence points to suicide – but something about the businessman’s widow troubles Flanagan. So too the edginess of the reverend, with whom the widow is suspiciously close to. Despite the wishes of her superiors, Flanagan digs deeper, unravelling the tragedies that have plagued the widow’s life — and eventually the cold, dark truth.

9780099578383 (1)Faith plays an integral role in So Say the Fallen —both the reverend’s, and Flanagan’s — and it’s a theme that is explored with incredible deftness. I’m always wary of being preached to when religion pops up in books, but nothing like that is evident here; it’s beautifully unobtrusive, and adds a new layer to Neville’s protagonist. At multiple points during this story, Flanagan finds herself questioning her path, and trying to fill a void in her life: faith in a higher power would go some way to restoring her. It’s not as cut-and-dried as that, of course – but I truly admire Neville’s willingness to dive into the subject.

In terms of narrative structure, So Say the Fallen isn’t so much a whodunit — we know the truth, or at least shades of it, very early on in the piece —but an extrapolation of motive. Indeed, motive is the driving force behind the novel, as Neville seeks to answer what inspires Flanagan to put her life on the line – and the sanctity of her family – every single day; why does the reverend continue to preach, given the dissipation of his own faith; why would a disabled businessman, who had apparently accepted his fate, suddenly decide to end his own life? This is less a novel of who, but rather, why. And it offers a nice change of pace from the archetypal mysteries clogging bookstore shelves.

So Say the Fallen is a damn fine novel, blending high personal stakes and character depth alongside traditional genre elements. Without question it will rank as one of the best crime novels I read this year. Anything that tops it will have to absolutely blow my socks off. It’s really that good.

Buy So Say the Fallen Here…

Buy Those We Left Behind Here…

Review: Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman

isbn9781782066934Peter Spiegelman’s Dr. Knox is an immensely satisfying noir thriller. Though the details of the plot add up to your typical potboiler story of conspiracy and corruption, of the rich and powerful preying on the poor, Spiegelman’s slight (but distinctive) twist on the formula elevates Dr. Knox above its competition.

Dr Adam Knox is a hero in the Philip Marlowe mould — but armed with a stethoscope instead of a gun. Abiding by the tropes of the noir hero, he is a well-intentioned man with a dark past, using his skills and his limited facilities to provide medical care for prostitutes, junkies, and other street dwellers of Los Angeles for whom visiting a hospital is not an option. To help make ends meet — to pay his staff, as well as rent — Knox provides an ambulatory service for LA’s shadier elements, working alongside his friend and former Special Forces operative Ben Sutter.

Knox’s life — and quite literally everyone he knows — is thrown into turmoil when a young woman named Elena deposits her son at the clinic, rushing out the door before questions can be asked. Clearly frightened, and visibly injured, Knox is certain Elena’s life is in danger — and therefore her son’s, too — so instead of contacting child services or the police, he hides Alex, and decides to unravel the mystery of Elena’s whereabouts, and her reasons for abandoning her child. The trail leads Knox into the path of violent Russian gangsters and an overtly corrupt corporation —both of whom will stop at nothing to terminate Knox’s investigation, and locate the mother and son.

Adam Knox is an enjoyable and compelling lead. We are in his headspace for the entirety of the novel, and’s the right mix of capable and completely out of his depth to make him likable. And while some of his past is unshrouded during proceedings, there’s plenty left for Spiegelman to uncover in future novels. The action and medical procedures are suitably hard-core, but never gratuitous (or overplayed), and while there’s some occasional monologuing, it’s thankfully never plodding.

Gritty, intense, and wildly entertaining, Dr. Knox is a damn fine crime novel. If Peter Spiegelman wasn’t on your radar before, he should be now.

Buy the book here…

Review: Black Teeth by Zane Lovitt

The Midnight Promise announced9781925355147 Zane Lovitt as a great new talent in Australian crime fiction. His new novel is even more incredible. Lovitt takes a wicked sense of humour and clever plotting to once again brilliantly subvert the crime genre.

The novel opens with a piece of classic noir. A man opens his door to an insurance salesman. He wants to take out life insurance because he is planning revenge and he doesn’t expect to survive from taking it out. By the end of the first chapter the subversion is already apparent and you know you are in a very different kind of crime novel.

Lovitt adds another piece to this revenge story and another character. Jason Ginaff is a bit of a social outcast. He spends his days vetting people online for companies, finding people’s darkest secrets online and showing them to their current, future or former employer. Jason often works under an alias, primarily because he is much more confident when he is trying to be someone else and it helps him remain private. When he has to be himself things tend fall to apart. So when he finally tracks down the man he thinks is his biological father, does he meet him first as Jason or as somebody else?

Lovitt quickly has these two seemingly disconnected stories weaved inextricably together. Lovitt plays off the conventions of the crime genre fantastically which makes for some darkly comic moments as well as plenty of surprises which will have you flicking back chapters discovering other bits you may have missed the first time around. The ending is mind-blowing and I am still trying to get my head around it, which I love.

Move over Peter Temple, your heir apparent has arrived and is breaking all the rules of crime fiction with a talent and skill that is unique, daring and quite simply a pleasure to behold on the page.

Buy the Book Here…

Review: Cambodia Noir by Nick Seeley

Cambodia NoirTake your time with Cambodia Noir. Savour it. Although the journey is dark, it is truly unforgettable.

The great Otto Penzler – distinguished editor of mystery fiction in the United States, and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City – once said of noir: “[It] is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they’d be better off just curling up and getting it over with.” For the characters who populate these tales, there is no happy ending. These people spend their lives stitching themselves up inside their own body bag. Their demise is entirely their own doing; they are trapped in a fate of their own construction, a prisoner of inevitability.

The spiral of once-great war photographer Will Keller, the protagonist in Nick Seeley’s Cambodia Noir, began years ago. An inauspicious photograph taken in Kabul inspired his relocation to lawless, drug-soaked Cambodia, where he spends his days floating from one score to the next, taking any job that pays, while he fills his nights with sex, drugs, booze, and brawling. Keller’s terminal, and he knows it; he just doesn’t care, pushed far beyond the point of no return. But his spiral toward oblivion is interrupted by Kara Saito, a beautiful young woman who begs Will to help find her sister, who disappeared during a stint as an intern at the local paper. Unfortunately for Keller, there’s a world of bad things June could gave gotten mixed up in. The Phnom Penh underworld is in uproar after a huge drug bust; a local reporter has been murdered in a political hit; and the government and opposition are locked in a standoff that could throw the country into chaos at any moment. Keller’s best clue is June’s diary: a disturbing collection of experiences, memories, and dreams, reflecting a young woman at once repelled and fascinated by the chaos of Cambodia. But is there any truth to the young woman’s words?

Cambodia Noir is propulsive and electric. It’s classic noir revitalized in a setting rarely explored in the genre. Nick Seeley uses the skills honed as a reporter, and submerges the reader in the sights and smells of Phnom Penh, celebrating Cambodia’s culture and its idiosyncrasies even as he shines the spotlight on its dark underbelly. It’s a novel that is thematically weighted, with an ending that begs for discussion. You won’t read a finer contemporary noir novel than this.

Buy Cambodia Noir from Boomerang Books here…

Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

9781781254554Sean Duffy returns in the eagerly anticipated fifth book in the Sean Duffy “trilogy”.

The year is 1987 and The Troubles are far from abating, especially around Sean Duffy who, with his knack for attracting trouble, is starting to show his weariness for its relentlessness. He still meticulously checks under his car each morning for bombs and still can’t maintain a relationship for any length of time. But when he gets a case that doesn’t add up he is still like a dog with bone; unable and unwilling to give it up.

When the body of Lily Bigelow is found inside Carrickfergus Castle it looks like an apparent suicide. No one else could have had access to the castle and there is no evidence of foul play. Sean Duffy is ready to sign off on the case but there are a few loose threads gnawing at him. As he starts to pick a way at them he soon uncovers something far more sinister in play. Something those above him don’t want him to uncover which makes it all the more difficult to prove. And he if can prove it will he be able to deliver justice?

McKinty paces this book brilliantly. Duffy’s malaise is perfectly instilled into the early plotting and when he gets a sniff of the larger picture the whole atmosphere of the novel shifts. Duffy’s need to see justice applied drives the last quarter of the novel and I am a little bit worried that Adrian McKinty may have found the perfect way to sign off on the series. I really hope not. Sean Duffy is an incredible addition to the crime fiction canon and still has not captured the audience this amazing series deserves. All the elements that make great crime fiction are here in spades; clever plots, political commentary, a true outsider as our hero and of course the perfect balance of humour and grim reality. If you haven’t read this series yet get your hands onThe Cold, Cold Ground immediately, especially if you are a crime fan of any persuasion. And if you have already discovered this wonderful series you are in for another sublime addition to the genre.

Buy the book here

Review: Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

9781846556975Stuart Neville takes his writing up another notch in his latest thought-provoking and tragic crime novel.

This isn’t a crime novel where a mystery needs to be solved or a vicious killer is stalking victims, although you are kept guessing at different times. This is a crime novel about what happens afterwards, after a crime has been committed and punishment has been handed out and served. It is about what happens to those who were involved and how they deal with the consequences.

Ciaran and Thomas Devine were convicted of the murder of their foster-father seven years ago. Ciaran, 12-years-old at the time, confessed to the murder and his older brother Thomas was convicted of being an accessory. They have both done their time. Thomas was released two years ago and 19-year-old Ciaran has just been granted parole.

Ciaran’s release causes shock waves. The son of the victim is outraged and can barely control his rage at their release. Accusations were levelled by the brothers which have caused him great distress in the years since the murder.  The detective who took Ciaran’s confession is also concerned. She had doubts about Ciaran’s confession and believes he confessed to ensure Thomas received a lighter sentence. She knows his older brother holds enormous power over the him. Caught in the middle is Ciaran’s probation officer who must help Ciaran adjust to society on the outside. Ciaran went away as a child and although he is now grown up he is still every bit the scared little boy from seven years ago. On his release he immediately gravitates towards Thomas, who was released earlier, and trouble is not far behind the two brothers.

Stuart Neville has constructed a very original crime thriller that skillfully demonstrates that a crime story doesn’t ever end. The effects are always long-lasting and neither truth nor justice can ever provide the closure required by those left behind.

Buy the Book here…

Review: Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

hush-hushI am not a fan of long running crime series. While a recurring character can be like a familiar friend sometimes the longevity of a series means it falls into the realm of incredulity. Tess Monaghan was a character I fell in love with but was also quite happy when she was put on the back burner. Added to this is the fact that the stand-alone novels Laura Lippman started writing were truly exceptional and amazingly got better and better which meant Tess wasn’t too badly missed (although she did pop up from time to time in these stand-alone novels).

This is the 12th Tess Monaghan book but only the third one since 2008 (one of which was a novella). While I was not overly excited to see Tess return I was still keen to read as it had been a long while since last she appeared. And I have to say I did miss her. Not only was it great to have her back and refamiliarise with her sense of humour, appetite and life but I think this is one of the best Tess Monaghan novels yet.

The last we saw of Tess she was pregnant and not enjoying it. We catch up with Tess three years later. Tess is balancing her life as a PI with her three-year old daughter Carla Scout and her de facto husband’s bar. Like all working families Tess’s life is in fine balance that is constantly tilted by the life of a toddler. Laura Lippman captures this balancing game brilliantly and Tess, despite a severe lack of confidence in herself, is perfectly suited for it.

Tess gets a case which she thinks is going to be perfect for paying the bills. A wealthy but controversial woman has returned to Baltimore from overseas. 12 years previously she gave custody of her two daughters to her husband after being found not guilty in the death of her third daughter by reason of insanity. She has returned to try to be a part of her now teenage daughters’ lives and to make a documentary film. Tess has been reluctantly hired to assess her security arrangements. A soft gig she takes despite misgivings about the woman’s intentions. But when strange notes begin being left for the woman and then quickly escalate Tess must try to put aside her own judgements to discover the truth. A truth no one wants to confront.

This novel is everything Laura Lippman has been doing so well in her standalone novels but this time with Tess Monaghan. Lippman takes a confronting but tragically all too familiar crime and explores the fallout, years later, for all those involved. Combined with the ups and downs of parenthood this is not only a page-turning addictive mystery but an exploration of motherhood and the lengths, good and bad, mothers will go to for their children.

Buy the book here…

Review: The Martini Shot by George Pelecanos

9781409151340This is George Pelecanos’s first collection of short stories and once again demonstrates his consummate class, not just as a crime writer, but a writer.

The title piece is the longest of the collection but Pelecanos saves it for last. The preceding stories are a blend of what makes Pelecanos great. Stories about the street, with all the grit, soul, flair and despair that lives there.

The standout piece is Chosen. A short story that originally appeared with the eBook of The Cut and is pretty much Spero Lucas’s origin story. The piece is about Spero’s adoptive parents and how he and his brothers came to be adopted. Pelecanos tells it from the father’s perspective and I have to admit to having a few tears in my eyes at the end of the story. There was no crime in this piece. It was just life; pure, simple and beautiful. And what Pelecanos manages to capture and convey so well in all of his writings.

The title story was a whole lot of fun. Set on a television production Pelecanos was able to weave in his experiences on shows like The Wire and Treme into a very cleverly plotted murder story. There were some great in-jokes as well as a couple of scathing portrayals but at the same time a story with heart.

This is a great showcase of George Pelecanos’s tremendous talents and I can’t wait for the next novel.

Buy the book here…

What I’m reading this Christmas: Anna O’Grady, Simon & Schuster

Anna O'Grady in front of her home library
Anna O’Grady in front of her home library

Thanks to Anna O’Grady for talking to Boomerang Books today, and sharing your Christmas picks with us. First, let’s find out more about you and some of the books you’ve been working on.

You’re the Marketing and Publicity Manager at Simon & Schuster. What does your job entail?
How much time do we have? I like describing it as ‘parenting’ a book and making sure that I find the best possible home for it. It all starts by understanding who would enjoy the particular title, and then the fun part of thinking of the best means of reaching that audience. Nowadays there are so many different ways that this can be achieved.

In the last few months I’ve worked on creating online trailers and ads, organized blog tours, pitched titles to festivals, events and media and talked to our book loving community over various social media channels.

How did you get this job?
I am the third generation working in the book world from a family of booksellers and publishers. For the better part of my life I have been lucky enough to continue our family tradition across six different countries. However, bookselling is rapidly changing and for a few years I have wanted to try my hand in a publishing house. All the stars aligned really well this year and I ended up with the amazing team at Simon & Schuster Australia. I have learnt a tremendous amount but it also has been a lot of fun.The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg

What is different/special about Simon & Schuster?
One of the things I really like about Simon & Schuster is that it is a small publishing house. There are just over 20 people in the office and that means that there are opportunities to try different things in different areas of the book business. For example, even though my official role is within the marketing and publicity department, I am also part of the acquisition team – so I have a chance to read new manuscripts and contribute to the decision on publishing these.

I also really love the staff’s passion for books we publish within the Simon & Schuster program. A lot of larger houses release so many books that it is physically impossible for everybody to be familiar with all titles. Our publishing program is small enough that almost everybody in-house can read all the books we publish and be able to meet all the authors in person. I really love being in an office where everybody reads and where books are celebrated every day.

I suspect you love all the books you work on, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of?
It has been quite a year for me, and I often feel in awe of the amazing authors that I have been taking care of. I will highlight two – only because they are so completely different. The first one was my campaign for debut author Ellie O’Neill’s book Reluctantly Charmed. Debuts are notoriously difficult to break out, but I felt special pressure on this one because everybody at Simon & Schuster loved this book. In the end we had a great campaign that was embraced by a major sponsor – Tourism Ireland – and also created a lot of buzz in the book blogging community. I am already looking forward to the second book from Ellie coming next year.A Thousand Shards of Glass cover by Michael Katakis

The other campaign that will probably stay in mind for a very long time was A Thousand Shards of Glass by Michael Katakis. Although Michael is a world class photographer, an overseer of the intellectual property of Hemingway and an author of very thought provoking books, he is very little known in Australia. We decided to bring him here for a tour and I had the task of arranging events and media for his tour. This took several months and many, many phone calls and emails to organize. Because Michael is relatively unknown some event organizers took some persuasion and were hesitant to the last moment. In the end the response to Michael’s tour was exceptional and well worth all our efforts. I have never seen such an emotional reader–writer reaction, with many people moved to tears at events, and many readers calling and sending emails – and in one instance hand delivering a letter of thank you to our offices. There is nothing more special than seeing that connection in front of my eyes and knowing that I helped make it happen.This Changes Everything Naomi Klein

What do you see as the way forward in the book industry?
I have been watching the book industry very carefully for at least 20 years now and I find some changes painful, but I also see a lot of great things on the horizon. I think that we might be experiencing a new golden age of storytelling. There are more people reading than ever before, and they access books in many formats and ways. But what is even more exciting is that readers have more to say, and the means to say it, than ever before. The future of the publishing industry is in deepening the connection to readers and embracing new ways of telling and experiencing stories. I have no doubt that great books and storytellers will always find their audience.

What are your must-reads over Christmas?
I have been building my little Christmas stack for a while now – and as usual I am probably overambitious. Here are the titles that are currently sitting in my Christmas pile: The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg; The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel; In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower; The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber; and This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein – but who knows what other gems I might find under my Christmas tree.In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower

What is your secret reading pleasure?
I really enjoy many YA novels, love a good mystery, and have a fascination with horror fiction. For me some of the great horror and crime writers are amongst the best at the craft of writing – although critics often disregard them.

Thanks very much for speaking with us, Anna.
You’re most welcome, it’s been a pleasure.

Review – Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

9780732295547This book needs to come with a warning that if you don’t have time to read it the rest of the day don’t start it! Lauren Beukes takes her writing and her dark imagination to another level following the utterly amazing The Shining Girls.

Beukes has chosen Detroit for the setting of this novel, the perfect place for broken things. Detroit is a broken city and is literally broke (bankrupt to be exact). Once an industrial heartland its industry is now broken and run down. Families are broken and so is any sense of community.

Detective Gabi Versado is trying to make sense of the small horrors she sees everyday. Her daughter Layla tries to make sense of a teenage world where social media is more of a social weapon. Johnno is a broken journalist who has gravitated to Detroit to try to find a story no one else is looking at. And TK is a man who is slowly putting his broken life back together and trying to help those around him do the same. When a brutal murder occurs and the victim is found in a bizarre, possibly ritualistic, fashion the whole city threatens to explode.

Beukes alternates between her characters with expert precision, unfolding the story and their connections to it with subtlety and skill. At the same time she explores a broken city and the places where it is trying to grow back. There is a supernatural theme to the killings and like True Detectivethe lines between imagery and an actual otherworld are so entwined and blurred that the truth is almost lost and everyone with it.

There are so many elements Beukes has combined in this totally absorbing and addictive thriller confirming her as one of the most original and exciting writers of the crime genre (and other genres) at the moment.

Buy the book here…

Review – The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

9781846556951Jack Lennon returns in Stuart Neville’s relentless new thriller.

It has been a while between drinks for Jack Lennon. We last caught up him in Stolen Souls and we left him a lot worse for wear. The intervening period though has not been kind. Suspended from the police pending multiple reviews of his health and performance Jack has developed some extra bad habits to the ones he already carried, mainly involving painkillers and alcohol. His relationships are in free fall including, sadly, the one with his estranged daughter who his is the only family he has left.

Just when Jack thinks things couldn’t get any worse an ex-girlfriend contacts him. She has just inherited a house from her uncle. An uncle she never met who lost contact with her family years ago. She has contacted Jack because she has found something in a locked room. A journal detailing murders going back two decades and it appears there are links to her father, a prominent Belfast politician. She can’t trust him and she can’t go to the police so instead she has turned to Jack, who can’t even help himself at this point.

I really love what Neville has done with the Jack Lennon character. He was only a few mentions in The Twelve before assuming the lead in the next two books. He is not your typical flawed detective, flawed is too nice a term for Jack, yet he still manages to keep your loyalty.

Stuart Neville doesn’t take his foot off the pedal once in this gripping thriller and once again demonstrates why he is the crime writer everybody is and should be talking about at the moment.

Review – Life Or Death by Michael Robotham

9780751552898The advanced reading copy bills this as “the best novel yet from Michael Robotham” which is a big call considering his previous nine novels. While I’m not a fan of the Joe O’Loughlin novels that has nothing to do with Robotham’s writing just the fact I don’t like psychological thrillers. But what all Robotham’s books have in common is precision plotting. Robotham knows exactly how to unfurl a story, keeping you interested and guessing in equal measure. My favourite Robothom was Lost (aka The Drowning Man) which demonstrates this perfectly. But I have a new favourite Robotham now because this is beyond doubt the best novel yet from Michael Robotham.

The idea for this novel came to Robotham over twenty years ago, well before he’d written his first book. But Robotham didn’t know if or how he could pull the story off. Nine best-selling novels later he knew how he was going to do it and it was worth the wait.

Audie Palmer has spent the last ten years in prison for an armed robbery that netted 7 million dollars. Money that has never been recovered. Everybody wants to know where the money is; other prisoners, guards and various law enforcement. Audie has survived beatings, stabbings and other assaults and is finally due to be released from prison tomorrow. Except he has just escaped. And so begins an epic thriller. Nobody knows why Audie has escaped but they think it has to do with the money. As Audie’s plan unfolds we learn that there are stronger motivations than money. Motivations that people will kill for, motivations people will live for.

This is far and away the thriller of the year. It will keep you glued to end of your reading chair, it will keep you guessing until the very end and, best of all, it will break your heart.

Buy the book here…

Review – Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey

9780434022939John Harvey has written a superb final case for the enduring and never weary (ok, just a little weary) detective Charlie Resnick. It has been a while between drinks and the way Cold In Hand finished a few years ago had me thinking that might have been the last we’d seen of Resnick. However John Harvey had other ideas and gives Resnick one last hurrah.

Now retired Charlie Resnick is still involved with the job he loves, and can’t get away from, assisting with witness statements and other administrative work. However when a body from thirty years ago is unearthed during some excavation work Charlie is asked to lend his expertise.

Thirty years before and at the height of the miners’ strikes Jenny Hardwick disappeared. Jenny was heavily involved in the strike movement however her husband refused to stop work in the local mine. Rumour had it she had run off with another man. Her disappearance only raised small suspicions and a limited investigation. Until now, thirty years later.

Resnick was heavily involved with the police action at the time, police action which is now under the microscope. Command wants the case cleared up as quickly and as quietly as possible. However with the trail of evidence and witnesses buried in the past questions are only going to open old wounds.

John Harvey’s mastery is on full display as he crafts together not only an intricate and intriguing murder mystery but also a look back at the social powder keg that the miners’ strike was. Not only on a national scale but for a small town and within a marriage.

Charlie Resnick gets the farewell he and his fans deserve and if you haven’t encountered him before I implore you to go back and read one of the best crime series ever written by an author who continues to get better and better.

Buy the book here…

Review – Capital Punishment by Robert Wilson

9781409139027I am a huge Robert Wilson fan. From the dark and sweltering Bruce Medway series set in West Africa to the dark and bloody Javier Falcón series set in Seville, Wilson’s thrillers have always been a perfect blend of atmosphere, tension and dark secrets from the past. So for his new thriller he enters new territory; London.

Setting his book in a seemingly non-exotic location at first appears to signal a new direction for Robert Wilson but that allusion is quickly put to bed. Wilson immediately turns the tension meter to 11 as we dive straight into an intricate kidnap plot. London may not be an exotic location but it is the world’s hub and Wilson takes us to Lisbon, Mumbai and Pakistan as he constantly ramps up the stakes and keeps everyone guessing.

Frank de Cruz is an ex-Bollywood star turned successful and ruthless businessman. His list of enemies is long so when his daughter Alysia is kidnapped in London the motive is unclear and the list of potential suspects stretches far and wide. The police aren’t to be involved so Frank brings in a specialist kidnap “consultant”, Charles Boxer. But it soon becomes clear than this isn’t about money. This is about power, influence and secrets and the kidnappers will do anything to extract them as well as keep them.

Wilson blends psychological intensity, constant action with a brilliantly intricate plot that will leave you gasping after the final page.

Read an extract from the book

Buy the book here…

“You don’t know a high-water mark until you’ve seen a lot of low water.” Winner of the Best First Fiction Ned Kelly Award

Review – The Midnight Promise by Zane Lovitt

“You don’t know a high-water mark until you’ve seen a lot of low water.”

9781921922930I was totally blown away by this book. This is crime fiction at its absolute best. Zane Lovitt literally bursts on to the literary scene with this book and I can say without a doubt is destined for huge things. This is not a new writer who has potential, this is a new writer whose skill and talent just oozes out of the page. From the structure of the novel to Lovitt’s distinct style, from the black as night dark humour and cynicism to the deep recesses of human emotion and frailty this is the most original, absorbing and utterly compelling crime novel I’ve read in a long time.

The Midnight Promise is told in ten cases. Cases, not short stories. Although the magic of this book is that they each work perfectly on their own. And I want to be clear here, this is not ten short stories mashed together. This is not ten short stories that form a novel. Think of the ten cases more like vignettes or episodes. They are self contained but together they combine to make something truly special. As you read, everything slowly starts to form together and cases you thought had no bearing on each other actually play a vital role in the story.

As you put the individual pieces together, a bigger picture is formed, a wider story is told and you’ll be in awe of what you’ve just been reading. You are following an intricate and subtle arc that is slowly but surely spiraling down. And this is the genius of the book. You think you’re reading ten cases, ten separate stories that have no bearing on each other but they have all been leading to a certain point, a midnight promise. A deal made at rock bottom, never to get here again. But the journey to rock bottom is what is important, as well as realizing what rock bottom actually is.

There are only a few authors who I can still vividly remember the first time I ever discovered them. The moment, the feeling, stuck in my reading memory: George Pelecanos (The Big Blowdown), Don Winslow (The Power of the Dog), Laura Lippman (Every Secret Thing), Ken Bruen (The Guards), Peter Temple (The Broken Shore), David Simon (Homicide), Adrian McKinty (Dead I Well May Be). You knew you’ve just read a writer who you will follow anywhere. I’m adding Zane Lovitt to that list.

Buy the book here…

Player Profile: David Whish-Wilson, author of Zero At The Bone

David Whish-Wilson

David Whish-Wilson, author of Zero At The Bone

Zero_at_the_Bone_Cover_ImageTell us about your latest creation:

Zero at the Bone is my most recent novel, a follow-on from my 2010 crime novel Line of Sight. It’s set in 1979 Perth, and looks at some of the mining scams of the period before WA really started booming – linked to some of the nascent political dodginess and cowboy capitalism that really came to the fore in the WA Inc period of the 1980’s.

Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I had an army brat upbringing which saw us move around a lot – 21 times before I was ten years old. I lived overseas from my late teens for a decade or so, but since my return in the early 90’s I call Fremantle home. What do I love about Fremantle? Pretty much everything. It probably doesn’t hurt that I share a fibro house in South Fremantle with my fictional character Frank Swann, and his family (three kids also), and that we drink at the same pubs and walk the same streets and follow the same footy team…

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I recently discovered a short story I wrote aged eight. It was hidden in some old papers in a box in my back shed. It’s called ‘Grizzly – eighteen feet of gut-crunching terror!!!’. I clearly did my best to make the 15 pages of the short story resemble a book, with a graphic cover design of a bear holding up it’s latest victim, and a picture of a bear’s bloody severed head. Down the bottom I’ve written ‘Illustrated by David Whish-Wilson. Written by David Whish-Wilson and made up by his own brain and pictures by this well-known artist as well.’ My main character was Sam Kekovich, one of my favourite footy players of the time. Sam gets the rogue bear and saves the town. My grade four teacher marked it as a 9/10, although added the qualification that it was a bit ‘bloodthirsty.’ So you can see, the fantasy of being a crime writer was pretty much there from the beginning…

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

Writing is a craft with a long apprenticeship and although I’ve been doing it a long time I hope that I’m still learning and therefore getting better. Each book has its own pleasures and challenges. I enjoy writing crime fiction for a number of reasons, although I’ve just finished writing the Perth book for New South Press, part of their city series. This book required a different style and a different structure, but I enjoyed writing it all the same, and hope some of that joy is communicated to readers.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I have a little slot in an old Fremantle building that houses artist studios. Too small for artists, the room is perfect for a writer – it’s quiet and the rent is cheap. The room has a desk, a computer and a couch – all that I need.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I’m pretty much interested in everything and so will read just about anything. Saying that, I take a lot of creative nourishment from reading other crime writers. When I find one I like, I read everything they’ve ever written (I like to inhabit not just a writer’s story but an entire fictional world, where possible.) Of late, I’ve been reading more and more Australian crime – beside my bed I have Angela Savage and Alan Carter’s latest novels.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

The first book given to me by my mother was the Illustrated Book of Australian Bushrangers, when I was about seven or eight. I loved that book – its pictures and stories of men and women on the run. Clearly, you didn’t have to fit in or conform. You could be an outsider, do things your own way, even if that meant paying a price. That book was a gift in more ways than one. Another book that made a big impression on me was Catch-22, which is my father’s favourite book, and which I prised off his bookshelf in my teens. Hilarious and tragic and absurd, just like life.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Yossarian from Catch-22, I suppose. Or Saul Bellow’s Herzog. Despite the neuroses, the daily humiliations and pressures and disappointments, the limited self-awareness, the madness of modern life – there’s humour and poetry there aplenty…they don’t give up.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

To relax, I box, which is kind of paradoxical I suppose. But it’s a Fremantle boxing gym and pretty typical of the demographic – artists, musicians, writers and tough local kids all mixed in together. The gym is owned by Joromi Mondlane, who was not only a significant African boxer but is also
the singer in a reggae band.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I was brought up on South-East Asian food, which was unusual for seventies Perth (my mother learnt to cook in Singapore while my father was in Vietnam.) I still subsist, when I have the choice, on Asian broths, especially this time of year. My favourite meal of all-time however is a Catalonian fish soup – Zarzuela de Mariscos. My favourite drink? That’s pretty easy – I drink
Guinness unless its summer and good whisky/whiskey when I can afford it.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I lived for a fair while in East Africa during my late teens and early twenties, at a time when the South African apartheid government was still doing targeted assassinations and blowing up ANC offices in surrounding countries. Nelson Mandela was my hero then, and still is.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

I’m pretty optimistic. In a media-rich world, my three kids still read alot. There’s a special kind of pleasure in books that you don’t get gaming, or watching a movie, that is going to endure. Saying that, there are obvious challenges. I worry that becuase publishers’ margins are so tight that they’re less able to see a writer through those early books that might not sell particularly well, or curate a career if you like, before he/she really starts to hit their stride as a writer.

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Player Profile – Adrian McKinty, author of In The Morning I’ll Be Gone


Adrian McKinty, author of I Hear The Sirens In The Streets

Tell us about your latest creation:

In The Morning I’ll Be Gone: a locked room mystery set in Northern Ireland in 1985 featuring Detective Inspector Sean Duffy.

9781846688201Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I’m from Belfast and I live in St Kilda.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

Always wanted to be a writer.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

The Cold Cold Ground: a generally unbiased and accurate account of what Northern Ireland was like in the apocalyptic year of 1981.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

Coffee shops mostly and St Kilda library. Sometimes a pub called The Local Taphouse.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I read everything. I have read everything.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

Probably The Lord of the Rings when I was about 10.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Stephen Maturin from the Patrick O’Brian books because he’s such a bad ass.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

White collar crime.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Illegal Pete’s Big Fish Burrito, Boulder Colorado. Russian River Pliny The Elder IPA.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Winston Churchill because he saved the world drunk off his ass half the time. And he was a hell of a writer too.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books
and reading?:

Reading books will increasingly become a niche cult activity but its our job to make it a cool niche cult activity.

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Twitter URL: @adrianmckinty

Review – The Twenty-Year Death

9780857689184As a lover of crime fiction I was literally in awe of this book. It is a crime lover’s dream come true. It is an epic story told in three novels, each in the style of the masters of noir fiction: Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler & Jim Thompson. Each novel stands out on its own and would be worth of a separate purchase and read but together make a crime story that is almost magical.

I have to confess here that I haven’t read any of the three authors Ariel Winter pays tribute to, which is something I am going to rectify in the next 12 months. Georges Simenon was probably the least familiar to me where as Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson were more familiar as it obvious they are the inspiration for so many crime writers today, particularly the darker stuff that I am drawn to.

The first novel, Malniveau Prison, is inspired by Georges Simenon and is set in the small French town of Verargent in 1931. During at torrential rain storm a body is found in the gutter outside the town baker’s house. The man has been stabbed multiple times. Verargent’s small police force is not used to conducting a murder investigation however Chief Inspector Pelleter, from Paris, is in town to visit a prisoner and the nearby prison. Pelleter, who is famous for closing some famous cases, assumes control of the investigation. The murdered man turns out to be a prisoner from the local jail but he hasn’t been reported missing.

The opening story is superbly paced. Like the chief inspector you sense the mystery is bigger that first appearances and the eccentricities of the small town and its inhabitants further compound this sense. As Pelleter digs at the edges of the case and tugs each loose thread the truth is slowly loosened but justice may still prove elusive. Central to the mystery is the murdered man’s young and beautiful daughter and her over-protective husband, a famous American novelist.

The second novel, The Falling Star, is inspired by Raymond Chandler and is set a decade later in Hollywood. Dennis Foster is an ex-cop, turned private eye. He is hired to keep an eye on a movie star who is convinced she is being followed. But Foster is not comfortable in the bodyguard role and following a hunch begins to tail the movie star’s philandering husband, a now famous Hollywood writer. Instead of protecting the movie star he instead implicates her in the murder of her husband’s girlfriend. Foster is quickly fired and shut out of the murder investigation. But he can’t let the case go. He must not only clear the movie star’s name and find the real killer he also must watch his back.

The middle story is full of atmosphere. You can almost see the movie in black & white. Winter channels Chandler with consummate ease and you feel like you are reading a crime classic. Foster cuts a path through the power and influence of Hollywood and down into the darker and seedier parts of Tinsel Town to not only find the truth but also save a woman, not only from those that could do her harm, but from herself too.

The third novel, Police At The Funeral, is inspired by Jim Thompson and is classic noir fiction. The writer we have met in the previous two stories takes the lead. It has been twenty years since we first met him in a small French town. He is now a struggling alcoholic, up to his ears in debt. His first wife has recently passed away and he is in town to find out what, if anything, he stands to get from her estate. Instead his estranged son inherits the entire $2 million estate. After a heavy night’s drinking he confronts his son in an effort to try and reconcile their differences, instead the ensuing argument gets out of control.

The final story is a classic perspective story. Winter puts us right in the head of the struggling writer and we witness first hand hand his desires, motivations and regrets. In doing so we see the form of a killer take shape. We are convinced that the son’s death was an accident but the lengths the writer has to go to cover it up means that there is no coming back.

This book is a true masterpiece of crime writing and for it to be the author’s debut is a remarkable accomplishment. It shows the depth and breadth of what is possible within the crime genre and is a hugely satisfying read. And it has inspired me to visit some of the classics of the crime genre.

Buy the book here…

Player Profile – Michael Robotham, author of Watching You

mr-press2-lgeMichael Robotham, author of Watching You

Tell us about your latest creation:

WATCHING YOU is a psychological thriller featuring some family characters – psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and former detective Vincent Ruiz. It also introduces someone new – Marnie Logan, a mother of two, whose husband has been missing for more than a year. Suffering from blackouts and increasingly desperate, Marnie has always had a sense that she’s being watched – ever since she was a young girl – but now she’s suffering from blackouts and gaps in her memory. Enter psychologist Joe O’Loughlin who offers to help, but the closer he looks at Marnie, the more he begins to doubt her story. Is she being haunted by some past tragedy – or is there someone very real and dangerous watching her?

9781847445278Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I was born in Casino in northern NSW and grew up in country towns like Gundagai and Coffs Harbour. Now I live on Sydney’s northern beaches.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I wanted to be a writer from the age of about 12 when I discovered the writings of Ray Bradbury, who is best known for Fahrenheit 451. I wrote a letter to Bradbury and he wrote back, sending me several books that weren’t available in Australia. It was that generosity that made me want to become a writer. What do you consider to be your best work? Why?: Asking a writer to nominate his or her best work is like asking a parent, ‘Which is your favourite child?’

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

My children call my office ‘Dad’s Cabana of Cruelty’. It’s a lovely place for writing such dark stories.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I read very widely – not just crime writers, although I have my favourites. I’m a big fan of James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Gillian Flynn, Peter Temple and Laura Lippman.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

Lord of the Rings was a defining book for me. It was the first book I ever felt I ‘earned’. I re-read it so often that Mrs Fitzpatrick, my school librarian, forbade me taking it out again. I took to hiding it in the library. She caught me one recess and instead of punishing me, she gifted me the book. I still have it today.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Homer Wells – the orphan that nobody wanted in John Irving’s Cider House Rules. His was a life  full of tragedy, but he also great love. He is a true prince of Maine and King of New England.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

This is really boring. I have no hobbies. Writing is my passion, my hobby, my career. It’s what I do. And when I’m not writing, I’m reading.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Writers and alcohol have always had a close relationship. For me it’s a reward for a day at my desk. A glass of white wine. A gin & tonic. A Bloody Mary….don’t get me started.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I admire the unsung heroes, those people who care for our sick, elderly and disabled, who earn low pay and are constantly told the coffers are empty whenever they ask for more. Why is that  CEOs never make the same sacrifices?

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

The biggest challenge facing books will partly come from the technology but also from changing public perceptions. Piracy looms, but perhaps a greater threat is the tsunami of cheap self-published titles flooding the marketplace – creating a new generation of readers who think a book is only worth 99c.

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Review – The Cold, Cold Ground & I Hear The Sirens In The Street

9781846688232The Cold, Cold Ground

I have been a fan of Adrian McKinty ever since I picked up DEAD I WELL MAY BE. I knew he had me hooked the moment Michael Forsythe began listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind on a New York Subway Train. I’ve always had a soft spot for Irish writers but that book took my breath away and I’ve eagerly awaited every book since. His new book begins with a reference to my favourite novel, THE THIN RED LINE by James Jones, and I knew straight away he had me. And no exaggeration, this is one of the best crime novels I have ever read. McKinty’s last books, FALLING GLASS, was superb but THE COLD, COLD GROUND blew me utterly away. It is easily his best book to date and is also the start of a new trilogy. I cannot wait to see where he takes it.

Set in Belfast, 1981 McKinty immerses you completely in the time and place. Right from the opening pages you are put smack in the middle of the riots and the hunger strikes. Belfast is a war zone where law and order aren’t worth the bricks they’re graffiti’d on. Sean Duffy is a Catholic detective in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). This and his ‘charm’ make him a magnet for trouble and he is posted to relatively quite Carrickfergus (relative to Belfast not anywhere else).

Through Duffy, McKinty explores the absurdity of ‘The Troubles’, the hypocrisy on both sides, the ignorant hatred and the politics of self-interest from Irish and British alike.

In the midst of all this a killer on the loose targeting homosexuals. The media isn’t focused on the murders and in a country where homosexuality is illegal and the paramilitaries on both sides have a zero-tolerance attitude there is nothing but apathy to the case. Except of course from Sean Duffy.

This all sounds very bleak but the novel is littered with brilliant humour. Duffy is a real smart-arse particularly when he shouldn’t be and the banter amongst the cops and between the various paramilitary groups is highly entertaining and stops you falling into a well of despair. The ending, as always with McKinty, is an absolute cracker with a wee taste of things to come.

This book is what crime writing is all about. A mystery to keep you guessing, plotted to make you turn the pages as fast as you can but the heart of the story is the place the characters inhabit and the complicated mess in which they must exist and by the end you’re not concerned with who did it or if justice is done because your mind has been opened up to a much bigger picture which can never be black and white. Bravo Adrian McKinty.

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9781846688188I Hear The Sirens In The Street

The second installment of the Sean Duffy trilogy is set a year later in 1982. The Hunger Strikes maybe over but Belfast is still well and truly deep in The Troubles. When Britain goes to war with Argentina over the Falklands the tensions and dangers only increase. Sean Duffy’s nose for trouble is still acute but if he can’t find trouble he can certainly stir it up. The novel opens with Duffy doing just that which leads him to finding a torso in a suitcase. Being Northern Ireland there are a myriad of possibilities and Duffy won’t leave any stone unturned no matter whose toes he tramples on.

McKinty again drops you smack bang into Belfast with all the sights and sounds of 1982 as well as what was effectively a war zone. The brilliantly plotted crime mystery is infused with wickedly black humour and the politics of Northern Ireland has the added complexity of Britain being distracted and America taking an unofficial interest. The book also centers around the DeLorean Factory (the car from Back To The Future) and the economics of a war torn city.

I’ve loved all Adrian McKinty’s books but there is something special about this trilogy he is creating. This trilogy will go down as one of the absolute classics of the crime genre and I’m already dying to see how the trilogy ends especially after reading the small preview you’re given at then end of this book. These books are why I love the crime genre. It goes places other fiction rarely dares and it takes you there from different perspectives while thoroughly entertaining you at the same time.

Buy the book here…

Player Profile: Angela Savage, author of The Dying Beach

Angela Savage, author of The Dying Beach

Author shot_Paul X Stoney_smallTell us about your latest creation:

The Dying Beach, set in the exquisite southern Thai province of Krabi, finds expatriate PI Jayne Keeney investigating the death of a young tour guide, a case that takes her into the murky world of corruption and environmental destruction.

Where are you from / where do you call home?:

9781921922497I was born in Melbourne and call it home, but my heart is divided between Australia and Southeast Asia. When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?: I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. I still have a book of bad poetry that I made as a ten-year-old, complete with ‘About the Author’ blurb on the back cover.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

I believe writing is a craft and you get better with practice. My best work is still to come. Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?: I share a study with my partner, also a crime writer. His desk is ordered. Mine is chaotic. Thus the world balances itself.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I love good writing. I love books that reveal something new about the world and make me feel transported. I read mostly crime fiction and non-genre fiction, as well as at least one classic and one non-fiction book each year. Among contemporary Australian crime writers whose work I admire are Honey Brown, Robert Gott, Wendy James, David Whish-Wilson and Leigh Redhead. Two of my favourite books of all time are The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck by Beatrix Potter stands out from a childhood rich in books as my first thriller. The tale of a naïve duck who accepts the offer of a sandy-whiskered gentleman to incubate her eggs in his feather filled wood-shed still gave me chills more than 30 years later when I read it to my daughter. Jemima Puddle-Duck introduced me the power of literature that unsettles, frightens, arouses, and introduced me to the perennial literary theme of inappropriate relationships.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

I would be an outsider drawn to Asia, like the unnamed narrator in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust, or journalist Guy Hamilton in Christopher Koch’s The Year of Living Dangerously.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

Spare time? I work four days a week, write books, try to maintain an ‘online presence’ and a functioning household with a partner and young child… I sometimes get to knit in front of DVDs. I also enjoy singing along to 80s pop music. Loudly.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I love Lao, Thai, Malaysian, Indian and good Italian food, French cheese and Belgian chocolate. I like New Zealand sauvignon blanc in summer, Australian shiraz in winter and Irish whiskey all year round.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I’m not really one for hero worship, but I have enormous admiration for the people I’ve had the privilege of working with on HIV/AIDS prevention in Southeast Asia over the years. I reserve particular admiration for the bravery and resilience of the Cambodians I worked with.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books
and reading?:

A friend suggested recently that we are headed for another Dark Ages, with the digitisation of so many of our cultural products. I think the biggest challenge is ultimately how we protect and preserve books for future generations.
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Facebook Page URL: a.savage.925
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Doing My Dash With Crime Thrillers

Patricia CornwellI thought I’d done my dash with crime thrillers for a few reasons. First, I had absolutely inhaled all of the Patricia Cornwell books (even the rubbish Southern Cross, before she found her protagonist and winning-formula writing form).

Second, I didn’t think I would find a series, characters, or plots I liked as much—a doctor who’s a lawyer who has an ass-kicking computer-hacker niece and a profiler boyfriend pretty much covers all my reading-requirement bases.

And third (and relating back to my last blog about being, like, totally time poor), I don’t have the time to retreat from work, sleep, and the world in general to devour such page-turners.

But I heard Val McDermid interviewed a few times recently—including in an hour-long session at the 2010 Brisbane Writers Festival—and was utterly sold on her hilarity. I know, right? A crime writer with a wicked sense of humour doesn’t compute. But having not read a single one of her words, I figured someone who is so clearly intelligent, and so compelling, engaging and funny warranted further investigation.

Given that I’ve got almost buckley’s chance of meeting her unless I turn stalker, find out where she lives, and lob up there—the likes of which are less like to see us become friends than me end up in prison and perhaps recognise myself as a bit-part crazy stalker in her next bestseller—the closest I can get to her is via her books.

Wire in the BloodSo I did no research other than to learn how to spell her surname and then picked up the first book of hers I saw. And I’m so glad I did. I’m exhausted because I’ve barely slept in recent days because I’ve sacrificed sleep to ingest large chunks of the book in a short space of time.

I even battled my usual motion sickness to read her book on public transport. The result is that I’ve completed Wire in the Blood and it’s taking every ounce of willpower not to go out and find more.

I’m not sure where Wire in the Blood comes in her series (I know this much from the references to previous adventures: it’s not the first), or even how many books McDermid has written. Nor do I wish to know, because I’d be unplugging the internet, switching off my phone, and shunning every social engagement until I’d made it to the end.

I will inhale these books about a profiler called Tony Hill at some stage. I just need to develop either a time machine that enables me to stop things while I read or some willpower to eke the books out at a reasonable pace. Maybe both.