Mystery and crime books from Australia. News, views, reviews, releases and author appearances - crime fiction in Australia. Crime novels, mystery novels, detective stories, police procedural books, thrillers and soft-boiled mysteries

Friday, September 21, 2007

Maelstrom Released in October

Waaay back at the start of August I announced that the debut thriller by Michael MacConnell, Maelstrom, was going to be released that month. Well apparently there have been a few cover-related glitches that have caused a postponement of the publishing date. The word is though, that the book has now been finished, complete with a cover, and will be published by Hachette Livre in October.

As a refresher, here’s how the synopsis for the book reads, taken from the publisher’s website:

Sarah Riley is the daughter of FBI legend Harry Reilly. Her father made his reputation hunting down on of America’s worst serial killers. But Harry never met the violet-eyed man. Sarah has inherited her father’s impulsive intuition and is making a name for herself as a rookie FBI agent. Given the job of investigating a recent double murder, she uncovers some strange anomalies in the modus operandi of the killer… and a maelstrom of evil is unleashed as a killer finds himself hunted by more than one adversary. A chilling thriller that introduces a new heroine… someone who will give Clarice Starling a run for her money.

With the promise of a serial-killer plot, and a Silence of the Lambs comparison to boot, I'm still looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this one.

(At some point I might get around to adding Michael's bio to his author page over at, too)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I See You on the Streets of Australia

You’ve got to hand it to some publishers who are going out of their way to come up with bold new marketing techniques to put their new releases in the hands of readers.

On September 3 Hachette Livre unleashed I See You by Gregg Hurwitz (titled The Crime Writer in the US) on Australia using to “spread the word” of the new release. Hachette have issued an announcement saying that they would spread 200 copies of the book which have been registered with their own unique identification number and left in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Hobart.

The concept of is to provide a means of sharing the enjoyment of reading through its members by leaving books for others to find. The books are adorned with bright Post-It notes urging people to pick them up and instructions that invite the finder to make a journal entry at It’s then possible to track how far the book has travelled as well as what the readers thought of it.

Will the concept be successful? Is there any way to measure success?

Checking out the bookcrossing site, I found that only 73 releases for I See You have been logged by LittleBrown (out of the advertised 200) and 5 of those have had finders report back. I suppose one argument is that there are 5 people who may not have otherwise picked up the book but after 2 weeks it seems that the response has been a little quiet.

Still and all, the campaign is only 2 weeks old at this stage so it may still be about to take off as more of the books are registered.

Be on the lookout for I See You by Gregg Hurwitz.

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Release : Eden

Eden by Dorothy Johnston is the 3rd book in a series set in Canberra and featuring Sandra Mahoney. She runs a security consultancy business that was born in The Trojan Dog and was more fully developed in The White Tower. We now get to see the result of even more experience in Eden.

Wakefield Press have published all books in the series with Eden being published this month (September). From the publisher’s blurb it looks as though we’re investigating the death of a Canberra politician. But as a bit of a teaser there is mention that the (male) politician may have been photographed in a dress and a blonde wig. One senses we’re going for the saucy angle, here.

The Sandra Mahoney books have grown on me with the first one (The Trojan Dog) leaving me cold, but the second (The White Tower) hit the mark nicely providing a very satisfying mystery. I’ll be trying to get my hands on a copy of Eden shortly to see just how it stacks up.

BTW : Dorothy Johnston is also the author of One For the Master which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 1999.

For all the latest Australian book releases in crime visit the Australian Crime Fiction Database.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Review : Bye Bye Baby by Lauren Crow

Title : Bye Bye Baby
Author : Lauren Crow
Publisher : Harper Collins Australia
Date Published : August 2007
ISBN : 0732284457
Sub- Genre : Psychological Thriller

A brutal tale of revenge that will have many readers torn between what is right and what is just is the theme of Lauren Crow’s debut thriller Bye Bye Baby. This is a psychological thriller that takes you deep into many tormented minds laying emotions bare in confronting fashion. Crow also does a tremendous job of allowing us to identify fully with her characters, whether they be good or bad, allowing us to decide on our feelings towards them.

A despicable crime was committed 30 years ago, schoolyard bullying was taken to a much more dangerous level than normal and lives were changed beyond repair as a result. Now those responsible must pay…and the price is their lives.

The deep wound that he and the others had inflicted upon me all those years ago had only pretended to heal. Beneath the scab of the new life I’d built, the injury had festered.

The first body was found in Lincolnshire. The man had been drugged with Rohypnol, stabbed in the chest and then been emasculated and had his lips cut off before his face was daubed with blue paint. It was a very distinctive murder. So when the second body turned up in another part of the country with the same distinctive MO, the police quickly realise that they have a serial killer on their hands and call in Scotland Yard.

Heading the investigation is DCI Jack Hawksworth, one of the finest young detective at the Yard who is widely acknowledged as the rising star in the force. Blessed with good looks he backs it up with a strong temperament and a personality that encourages a fierce loyalty in his subordinates. He puts together a strong team of detectives, among them is DI Karen Carter, a particularly sharp and insightful investigator in her own right.

The investigation progresses apace and while it does we are given first hand insight into why Jack has been promoted to DCI at such a young age. We also learn of the admiration that Karen Carter has for her boss, an admiration that goes beyond the professional. It’s something that Hawksworth is unaware of but, for the engaged Detective Inspector, it’s a distraction that impinges on her concentration and decision making ability. (It’s pretty obvious from early on that her feelings will become important later in the story). The tensions and emotions that develop throughout the book are finely handled by the author making them an important part in the development of the plot.

An unusual feature of the book is that we become closely acquainted to the killer and, at times, feel as though we can readily identify with the emotions that are displayed. You can even be forgiven for asking yourself whether you wouldn’t be tempted to do the same thing if you were put in a similar situation, making this a very involving book.

Lauren Crow writes with great maturity and style. The story contains a series of plot twists but she chooses not to draw them out for unreasonable lengths of time, instead she uses them to progress the story to its next level. I found that by the time I realised where I was being led, my suspicions were quickly confirmed and we were moving on.

Only occasionally did the dialogue deteriorate although when it did, it did so in jarringly obvious fashion. The most noticeable occasion occurred when a father was talking to his son and said, “I beseech you, son.” Beseech? In my 40 years on this earth I can’t say that I have ever heard a single person actually use that word in conversation. This minor negative can be easily overlooked, however.

Bye Bye Baby is more confronting than your average psychological thriller and Crow's detailed character analysis ensures that this is also more than a simple police procedural mystery. The story satisfies on many levels, the well-ordered investigation, Jack Hawksworth’s barely in control personal life, and the need of the killer to continue seeking revenge. There is a tangible deadline set from early on and everything leads inexorably to that point.

With any luck this is the first book in a series to feature DCI Jack Hawksworth and DI Karen Carter. Their relationship is far from what you might expect and he is the kind of character who begs to be continually discovered.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Angela Savage Reflects

Angela Savage has managed to overcome the blow of failing to pick up the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel with Behind the Night Bazaar. In fact, she has turned things around with a magnificently choreographed piece of basking in the reflected glory of two winners by posing, rose-between-two-thorns-style with Adrian Hyland and Garry Disher. Angela has posted the photo on her blog for all to admire. Very nicely done, Angela.

One wonders what happened to the photos Angela had taken with Michael Robotham and Jaclyn Moriaty, Richard Flanagan and Laurent Boulanger, Barry Maitland and Adrian Hyland, etc, etc.

In an earlier post on her blog, Angela has promised to maintain her blog but will cut back her posts in favour of her next novel. That will be fine Angela because we all want to know what Jayne Keeney has been up to this past year.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Golden Serpent Trailer on YouTube

Last week I posted the video trailer of Sensitive New Age Spy by Geoff McGeachin as a bit of a teaser for the book and as an example of the maketing methods that are embarked upon these days. I also posted my review of Golden Serpent by Mark Abernethy, his debut thriller.

Well, after a bit of searching I have since found the publicity trailer for Golden Serpent too, which is as action-packed as the book itself.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Reading : Bye Bye Baby by Lauren Crow

I've just finished reading an outstanding debut novel by Lauren Crow titled Bye Bye Baby. It's a moving thriller involving an abused child who comes back 30 years later to begin meting out justice. The justice is a particularly brutal death for the bullying boys who were responsible so many years ago.

Introduced in the story is a young Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector named Jack Hawksworth who heads the investigation into the killings. He is a charismatic man who gets the best out of his team with a sharp analytic mind combined with outstanding people skills.

Crow does an outstanding job of getting inside the head of the killer and even going so far as making us sympathetic to their plight. No, you're not actually cheering for the killer to get away with it but you can also see that there's more than 1 victim in this story.

This is a terrific book for police procedural readers who like books like Peter Robinson's DI Banks books or Barry Maitland's Brock and Kolla books. The characterisation is strong throughout the book and plays a major part in the success of the story along with a good feel for how far to take a plot twist not to mention how much to reveal and when.

I was a little unsure whether to count Crow as an Australian author, after all, she was born and raised in Brighton, England (where parts of Bye Bye Baby is set) and has only recently moved to Adelaide. But then I came across a reference to a person wearing a "daggy tracksuit" and later on Jack is treated to a mug of Milo which sealed the deal for me. Australian author...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Review : Golden Serpent by Mark Abernethy

Title : Golden Serpent
Author: Mark Abernethy
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Date Published: 2007
ISBN-13: 9781741752250
Sub-Genre: Action Thriller

The espionage / thriller subgenre has been through a bit of a change of direction over the past few years. In the 60s and 70s it was all about the Cold War and US and British spies fought the Russians and the East Germans. In the 80s we drifted over to a war against South American drug lords thanks to a Tom Clancy novel or two. These days the enemy is the terrorist. And whether he comes from the Middle East or Indonesia, Russia or East Germany or Colombia, the stakes are usually the same. The lives of millions of unsuspecting people are in the hands of a few brave soldiers working covertly at an incredibly high level of efficiency.

Mark Abernethy continues this fine tradition with his stirring debut thriller, Golden Serpent. It's a novel that is quite reminiscent of a Tom Clancy thriller or, if you want to remain closer to home, a David A. Rollins thriller.

The protagonist is Alan "Mac" McQueen, a spy with the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) who is within spitting distance of retirement. But getting out of the intelligence game is a lot more difficult than simply applying for a new job and his superiors give him one last assignment.

Mac's assignment is to locate and return an Australian agent who had been posted to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta but is now missing. She may have been kidnapped or she may have turned and has disappeared of her own free will. Either way she has to be found.

To help him on his mission he has at his disposal a team of US Green Berets who will provide a lot of the hands-on "wet work". They will also provide us with heaps of action sequences to get our teeth into. But once he arrives in Jakarta and contacts his informant there Mac soon learns that this job will be anything but straightforward. There are killers on his trail and he's not sure whose side they're actually on. Before he knows what has happened he has strong suspicions that someone from his office is working against him.

His mission becomes even more complicated when he learns that one of the men he is chasing is Abu Sabaya, one of the most highly organised and dangerous terrorists in the world. This comes as a nasty shock to Mac because he thought he had killed Sabaya 5 years earlier. Now he finds that not only is he alive but he is also in possession of a bulk load of a deadly nerve agent known as VX and is threatening to unleash it on one of the most populous cities in Asia.

If only that was all Mac had to worry about. This is only the beginning of a very bad week for the retiring intelligence agent.

Covert operations involving highly trained men such as US Green Berets or British SAS soldier, who have been given a licence to infiltrate enemy camps and use whatever force they deem necessary is generally a recipe for a fast-paced thriller. This is exactly what Golden Serpent delivers. Plenty of Aussie dialogue is mixed in with full-on action sequences performed by professional soldiers unencumbered by annoying obstacles like consciences and rules of engagement. When the mission involves using whatever force is deemed necessary you can be sure that there will be plenty of force used.

The book reaches ever-increasing high points as one mission carries on into the next, each one more dangerous that the last. Failure carries ever greater implications as we go along, too, as we are taken from one crisis to the next. It slowly becomes apparent that we are being drawn into a complicated scenario with the waters muddied by a complex web of lies and deceit making it difficult for Mac to operate.

Abernethy uses a subtle but effective technique to generate an insidious fear of the unknown feeling about the mission by never letting us catch a glimpse of the men that Mac is pursuing. Their names are mentioned often so that they are given an other-worldly aura about their power, but they remain tantalisingly insubstantial for much of the story.

Often times in these kinds of books (action / adventure) the hero is portrayed as an emotionless automaton who wades into battle with nary a second's thought to the danger that lies ahead. These kinds of guys are about as difficult to feel any affinity with as you can get with the average Joe reader encumbered with a normal helping of fear. With Alan McQueen you've got a guy who is fully responsive to what lies ahead and his body reacts in much the same way as I would imagine mine would - the sweating, the racing heart, the adrenaline, the vomiting - all natural human reactions and all attributable to our hero.

Fans of high volatile, well-planned covert operations will enjoy Golden Serpent as it charges fearlessly into battle. A balance of action and political intrigue backed by a protagonist with whom it is easy to identify makes it an easy to digest thriller.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

September 07 New Releases

The number of new release Australian crime novels for September has dwindled down to 4 books that I am aware of at this stage. Here's the quick rundown for those of you who simply have to get your fix of Aussie reading.

Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood (pub. Allen & Unwin) : This is the 4th book in Kerry's "other" series, i.e. the Corinna Chapman series. This is a series on the cosy side with Corinna owning a Melbourne bakery and living in an apartment building that is choc-a-block full of eccentric characters. Among the fantastic muffin recipes and trips to a hellfire-type nightclub accompanied by Mistress Dread, Corinna and boyfriend Daniel also find time to pick their way through the odd mystery. In Trick or Treat it appears Corinna is in for some competition on a couple of fronts.

Dead Lonely by Helen Fitzgerald (pub. Allen & Unwin) : A debut novel, this is a thriller about betrayal and murder. When one friend seduces another friend's husband a holiday in the Scottish Highlands tuns more into a nightmare.

The Low Road by Chris Womersley (pub. Scribe Publications) : Another debut novel, this is a much darker urban thriller this looks like a wild ride as the main characters are either running from their past lives or past sins or simply wandering aimlessly giving in to a drug-addled miasma. From the write-up of this book it sounds like a dark character-based thriller for noir readers.

Bloody Ham by Brian Kavanagh (pub. BeWrite Books) : Apparently this book is still going to be published in September although details are a little sketchy. It's the 3rd book in the Belinda Lawrence series, a cozy mystery series. A film is being made in a historic house in Surrey when first a leading player drops dead followed by a crew member being stabbed to death. Belinda finds herself in the frame for the deaths and is forced to investigate to clear her name.

Reading : Safari by Tony Park

August saw the release of Safari, Tony Park's 4th action adventure thriller which is again set in Africa and, like his other 3 books, Far Horizon, Zambezi and African Sky, combines the wonder of the untamed wilds of the continent with a solidly crafted thriller.

In this case the setting is initially Zimbabwe with comment made on the plight of the African wild dog before moving on to the Democratic Republic of Congo where we are introduced to the mountain gorillas that inhabit the region.

Poaching of the African wildlife has long been a problem with the numbers of many animal species now severely depleted. Park uses the poaching issue coupled with the troubled living conditions in Zimbabwe following the devastation caused by political turmoil in the country as the founding fact upon which the story is set.

Legal hunting versus illegal poaching - it seems to be a matter of semantics except that it is legal to shoot a poacher if it is considered that it is done in self defence. A good proportion of the book is about this fine distinction and forms the basis of a fascinating thriller as the confrontations begin to take place.

Safari takes you to an exotic location and Park does an outstanding job of seducing you with the majesty of the setting through his superior descriptive prose. If you like to travel the world vicariously through books reading Safari will give you a great feel for Zimbabwe. Chuck in a horrifying scenario of murder and outlandish criminal behaviour as well as a complicated romantic interlude and you've got another highly compelling book on your hands.

Tony Park is making a habit of writing these "highly compelling" books and it's well worth your while checking out all 4 of them. Not only that you can anticipate his 5th book sometime in 2008 with work apparently well under way.

To get inside the head of Tony Park as well as plenty of info about his travels in Africa (and also to see him bathing al fresco) you might like to check out his blog.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sensitive New Age Spy Promo on YouTube

The latest in book promotion techniques has just been unleashed by Geoff McGeachin with the launch of his publicity video for Sensitive New Age Spy on YouTube.

Reviews in newspapers are so nineties and internet reviews in e-zines and blogs are a dime a dozen these days. But nothing beats snappy montages of plot teasers interlaced with (fantastically well-written, ahem) blurbs about the book all topped off with just a hint of skin to get you interested in a book.

So what does it all look like? Pretty damned good, if you ask me - which I believe you just did. But don't take my word for it, have a look for yourself.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Positive Peter Temple Reviews Continue

Peter Temple has had some good press for The Broken Shore, he's won the odd award or two for it, too. But when it comes to positive reviews, I doubt he's received the plaudits that he has received in a review of the book at Material Witness.

It's hard to ignore raves such as: "a book that is so powerful, so atmospheric, so well written, that time seems to stand still while reading it."

Followed later in the piece by "This is a staggeringly good novel, which has just about everything."

And finished off with : "The Broken Shore is, lights out, the best book I have read this and probably last year."

All of this is completely true, of course, (he says in a totally unbiased, unjingoistic way) and continues on the wave of acclaim that has been sweeping across international borders of late. With news that Temple's new book (titled Truth) is in the offing in 2008 and containing characters from The Broken Shore, it is already the book whose publication I am most anticipating for the new year.

You can also read a pretty good review of The Broken Shore here too.