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

Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 New Releases

As we consign the year 2007 to the history books and every newspaper, literary blog and on-line forum have compiled their Best of 2007 lists (I was away that day), we now look ahead to what's in store for us in 2008.

The Age has jumped in first with their in depth look at the forthcoming releases for the year.

Paring it down to new Australian crime releases (as well as correcting an error or two) I can give you a brief run down of what we can look forward to plus a few rumours that are still to be confirmed.

In January, The Tattooed Man by Alex Palmer (HarperCollins) will be released as will the debut novel Fivefold by Nathan Burrage (Random House).

Moving on to February, Fan Mail by P.D. Martin (Pan Macmillan) will take the number of Sophie Anderson books to 3.

In March, Murder on the Apricot Coast by Marion Halligan (Allen & Unwin) will be released. I expect this will be a follow up novel to the 2006 The Apricot Colonel.

April will see the release of Sydney Bauer's 3rd novel, Alibi (Pan Macmillan) featuring lawyer David Cavanaugh.

May gives us 3 releases at this stage. Katherine Howell's second novel The Darkest Hour (Pan Macmillan) comes out, as does Shatter by Michael Robotham (Sphere) and a debut novel A Deadly Business by Lenny Bartulin (Scribe).

In July we can look forward to Leah Giarratano's 2nd thriller titled Voodoo Doll (Random House).

In August, the 3rd book by James Phelan , Blood Oil, is due to be released.

The hints keep coming that Garry Disher's new novel will be out in November and it will be a new Wyatt novel. I'll keep my ears and eyes peeled for more word on this front. I'm still waiting for confirmation that the new novel by Peter Temple (possibly titled Truth) will be coming out at some stage during the year. There will be a new John Birmingham book out later in the year but the title is still to be finalised. I've also jotted Tony Park's name down because he keeps mentioning on his blog that work is progressing well on novel number 5.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review : Skin and Bone by Kathryn Fox

Title : Skin and Bone

Author : Kathryn Fox
Date Published : 2007
ISBN-13 : 9781405038225
Sub-Genre : Police Procedural / Thriller

Similar to Michael Robotham's practise of taking minor characters from his previous books and featuring them as protagonists in the next, Kathryn Fox has promoted Detective Sergeant Kate Farrer from bit player in the Anya Crichton books (Malicious Intent, Without Consent) to lead in Skin and Bone. In so doing she has moved the focus away from the forensic pathology side of criminalistics and moved to the coal-face of the homicide detective office in a police procedural story that twists behind a series of cunning facades.

The pressure is on Detective Kate Farrer right from the first page of Skin and Bone. She has just returned to work after recovering from a hellish ordeal a few months earlier and is determined to carry on with her usual high quality efficiency. Our first impression of her, though, is that she is far from rehabilitated and is still hampered by side-effects from being held captive, battling panic attacks and claustrophobia. She also has to go through the added aggravation of breaking in a new partner. Then there's the rampant chauvinism thrust at her by some of her fellow detectives.

The story opens at the scene of a suspected arson that is complicated by one victim found in the ashes, making it a possible murder investigation. The victim appears to be female and the presence of a nappy bag in the house suggests that the dead woman has also recently had a baby but there are no remains found in the wreckage, meaning that there is also a missing child to worry about. Her new partner is DC Oliver Parke, a young and enthusiastic family man with whom Kate is particularly aloof, allowing herself to be irritated by his attempts to win her favour.

Before Farrer and Parke can get started on the complicated arson/murder/missing investigation they are handed a second case to look into. To Kate's great annoyance the new case is a missing person case that has been given a high priority because the woman who has gone missing is the daughter of a wealthy businessman who is in turn a friend of the police commissioner. It's a case that looks like it will lead nowhere and can only waste time that would be more valuably spent on their original case.

The missing woman is Candice Penfold and when they begin their investigation they learn that she had been involved with a man named Mark Dobbie. Dobbie had been pursuing her sister and, when he was soundly rebuffed, turned his attention to Candice. His police record flags him as a definite avenue though which they can travel and what they find is a repulsive piece of work who believes is God's gift to women. He is a man who obsessively works out and who uses women in the most abhorrent ways. The man is obviously a piece of trash and he has committed more than his fair share of crimes in the past, some of which are unearthed by Kate and Oliver...but the question of whether he is involved in Candice's disappearance remains unclear.
Just as all the pieces appear to be falling into place in a complicated investigation, a series of seemingly unrelated incidents tumble in on each other. The results of which mean that Kate 1) loses her prime suspect, 2) finds herself in danger of losing her job , and 3) comes within a whisker of losing her life.

Skin and Bone is anything but straightforward. Not only are there a multitude of complexities laid into the parallel investigations, but there is a rich development in the relationship between Kate and Oliver providing it's own fascination. A further dimension of intrigue is injected into the story by the inclusion of a side-story that will sound familiar to many Australians Australian readers will also recognise a particular side-story that sounds similar to a recent high profile trial in Sydney.

As a police procedural, the story builds gradually in momentum as leads are chased down, suspects are interviewed and dismissed and forensic evidence is examined. But that's not to say that the story wanders in any way. In fact, with two key investigations to take care of, there is a feeling that progress is constantly being made.

On the whole I found Skin and Bone to be an extremely entertaining novel. However, there are a couple of problem areas that had me scratching my head. The first comes when Kate Farrer suddenly decides to interview the friend of her prime suspect, which wouldn't normally seem so unusual, except she decided to pop over to his house at 5 in the morning. It was a totally implausible scenario and comes across as a clumsy attempt to set up a thrilling scene.

My only other problem is that the plot is overly dependent on coincidence. As a reader you kind of guess that when a protagonist works on two cases at the same time there's more than a reasonable chance that they will somehow be related to each other, but in this case, the piece just seem to snick together too neatly for my liking.

Skin and Bone is a solid murder thriller that is strong in character development. The issue of the mistreatment of women by men is a strong theme throughout the book, not just of the murder victims but also the treatment that Kate herself has to endure. Kate Farrer proves to be a fiercely independent woman who starts out as a fairly unlikable protagonist but who grows and develops greatly as the story progresses. One feels there is more to learn about the Sydney homicide detective.
You can find out more about Kathryn Fox including the UK release date for Skin and Bone by visiting her website.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Summer Read Author Appearances

The State Library of Victoria's Summer Read program runs from 20 November to 1 February with participating authors contributing to the SLV's blog. Additional features of the program are a series of author appearances at various libraries around Melbourne. So pull out your diaries and mark the following dates down

Garry Disher will be visiting the Hastings Library on the Mornington Peninsula on Tuesday, January 15th at 6:30pm. An appropriate location given the setting of his Challis and Destry books, the latest of which is Chain of Evidence. Booking details here.

Dorothy Porter, author of the verse novel El Dorado will be at the Caulfield Library on Thursday, January 17 from 7:00 - 9:00pm. To make a booking you can visit this website.

Adrian Hyland, author of Diamond Dove, will be speaking at Sam Merrifield Library on Thursday, January 17th at 7pm. This is a free event but places must be booked beforehand. Details available here.

A week later, Adrian will be out at the Gisborne Library from 7:30 - 8:30pm. The date to remember for this one is Thursday, 24th January. Details here.

You can meet James Phelan, author of Patriot Act at Geelong City Library on Thursday, January 24th at 6:30pm. All the details can be found here.

An important decision will have to be made because Michelle de Kretser, author of The Lost Dog will be at the City Library, also on Thursday, January 24th at 6:30pm. To book to meet Michelle just visit the website.

Now, if it's a riotous night you're after then you can't go past a chat with Max Barry, author of The Company. He will be at the Brighton Library on Thursday, 31 January at 6:30pm. Booking details here.

That's a pretty good start to the year for the Victorian crime readers among us. Get along and support the local authors. I've picked a selection of crime/thriller authors from the list (I use the term crime/mystery rather loosely for some of the authors listed above), but there are many more appearances on the program. If you'd like to attend an author appearance check out the full list here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reading : The Low Road by Chris Womersley

I’ve just started reading The Low Road by Chris Womersley today, in fact I’m only around 40 pages into it. I’d heard some good reports of the book and it has lived up to my expectations so far. Even at this early stage though I’m struck by the intensity of his prose and the quality of the language in which even the most mundane of scenes are described. There is a strong air of despair to the story, a feeling that things are not going to go easy for those who are trapped within the covers.

There's something about the way the early scenes are described that strikes a chord within me, I reckon they're worth repeating here:

Wild slept in the back seat of his car for two nights before checking into a dingy motel at the frayed hem of the city, where practical buildings are low to the ground.

It could have simply been the edge of the city but the more descriptive phrase leaves you in no doubt about the part of town he was staying.

Stretching into the distance was a relentless urban grammar of rooftops, antennae, wires and flickering lights. A flock of birds rose and arced against the clouds like a slow throw of pepper.
Wonderful imagery, in my opinion. And then there's the moment Lee aught the bullet.

With a grimace he lifted the blood-soaked t-shirt to expose a black, pea-sized hole, fringed by a mineral crust of dried blood. The surrounding skin was swollen, tender. There was blood all over his hands and smears of it on his jeans. His own blood, presumably, although he couldn’t be entirely sure. He flinched at the memory of that woman and the jump of her gun. That blunt truck of surprise. Her slow blink. Bang.

The story starts with Lee lying shot in the side and slowly bleeding in a grimy motel room, a bag of stolen money lying on the floor nearby. Joining him is Wild, a disgraced doctor on the run who reluctantly tends to Lee’s injuries. They both have a common goal, they both have to get away, but they’ve also got trouble on their tail in the form of a man named Josef.

Good noir thrillers really draw you into the depths of the story, dragging you down so that you really experience the story rather than simply read it. Right now, I can feel the first subtle tugs. It's a journey I'm fully prepared to take.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Reading : The Big Score by Peter Corris

I’m currently reading the latest Cliff Hardy book by Peter Corris, The Big Score. This is another collection of short stories featuring the tough Sydney private enquiry agent.

The stories are obviously fairly recent because Cliff has the use of a mobile phone, doesn’t smoke, uses Viv Garner as his solicitor and is going out with Lily. But they also fall before his last novel, Appeal Denied, because Cliff still holds his PEA license.

I am partway through the 5th of 11 stories that make up the book and they have all been consistently punchy, running to around 10 pages per story. As in real life, not all of Cliff’s investigations end neatly or satisfactorily, often times we just have to content in knowing who dunnit and how rather than the fact that they are going to pay for doing it.

Each story exhibits the usual display of guts and/or ingenuity on Hardy’s part and, for fans of the series, continues on the solid tradition that has made the series so popular for so long in which Hardy wades in boots and all and bugger the sensitivities of those around him.

Book Details:
The Big Score by Peter Corris
pub. Allen & Unwin
ISBN. 9781741752236
214 pages

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Six Sacred Stones - The Comic

In a nifty promotional idea, Simon and Schuster have announced a competition for US and Canadian residents in which you are asked to create a comic strip based on Chapter 1 of Matthew Reilly's new action thriller 6 Sacred Stones. The competition website includes a link to an excerpt of the first chapter so budding comic writers be inspired to create a masterpiece.

The winning entry is going to be included in the mass market edition of the book. You've got until 11:59 ET on March 1, 2008 to get it in so get cracking and do Reilly's non-stop action proud.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ross Duncan Review and Interview

The folks over at The Compulsive Reader have been busy with a steady stream of reviews and interviews. One of their more recent subjects has been Ross Duncan, author of All Those Bright Crosses. The transcript of the interview conducted by Magdalena Ball can be read on The Compulsive Reader website or, alternatively, you can sit back and relax and listen to the audio version of the interview.

Accompanying the interview is a review of All Those Bright Crosses in which Magdalena effecitvely captures the unmistakable strengths of the book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Garry Disher Answers the Parker Question

A few days ago I posted about Garry Disher's articles at the State Library of Victoria Great Summer Reads Blog. Peter from Detectives Beyond Borders put the question of the relationship between Disher's Wyatt and Richard Stark's Parker to him.

Garry Disher has wasted little time in penning his response to Peter and it makes for still more fascinating insight into Wyatt the character as well as the place of the criminal as protagonist in the crime genre.

In another post Disher spoke (among many other things) about the popularity of his books in Germany which prompted the question from one reader asking him why he thought he had won such popularity from the German readers. It's a question that he again goes to great lengths to answer.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Spinetingler Award Nominations

Many crime fiction fans would already be aware of, and have devoured, each on-line edition of Spinetingler Magazine and so would be aware of the new set of awards that were feted a few months ago. The nominations for the inaugural Spinetingler Awards have now been announced with the usual “Best Novel” type categories joined by one or two new ones not seen at the Edgars, Anthonys, etc.

All the details of the awards and the nominees are listed on the CrimeZine site, but of interest to Australian readers are the inclusion of Text Publishing, picking up a nom in the Best Publisher category and Daniel Hatadi earning a Special Services to the industry nomination for his wonderful Crimespace site.

(Added later 'cos I'm not quite as up on things as perhaps I could be) As Sandra Ruttan has pointed out, Amra Pajalic has also received a nomination in the Best Short Story On the Web category for her story The Living Dead which appeared in Spinetingler Magazine.

These awards are interactive in that we can all vote for them by sending an email to Sandra Ruttan at Spinetingler Magazine. Voting is open now and will remain so until December 30, 2007. Only one email will be accepted per person so you need to send your votes in for all categories in the one message. Sandra has listed all the pertinent instructions at CrimeZine so pop on over and check it out.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Garry Disher Tells All

I came across this extremely interesting article by Garry Disher on the State Library of Victoria blog today. In it he examines in great depth the ideas, planning and characters that go into his two series, the Wyatt series and the Challis and Destry series.

Of particular interst to me was his discussion of the persona of Wyatt and his own theory about why he thinks a criminal protagonist is so appealing to readers. He also slips in the tantalising news that he is in the process of writing a 7th Wyatt book. (The speculation / rumours from earlier in the year are true).

The six Wyatt books are : Kickback, Paydirt, Deathdeal, Crosskill, Port Vila Blues and The Fallout

He then turns his attention to the Challis and Destry books listing the main elements of the series and how he comes up with ideas for the crimes contained in each book. He also eplains why the series has expanded from being known as "The Challis Series" to "The Challis and Destry Series".

The four Challis & Destry books are : The Dragon Man, Kittyhawk Down, Snapshot and Chain of Evidence.

A couple of days earlier, Disher contributed another article to the SLV blog titled "Becoming a Fiction Writer...get some tips from Garry Disher". This reads as more of a bio on Disher explaining his background and upbringing before going on to give a few tips on how he thinks talented young writers might succeed at their craft.

As I said earlier, the two articles make for some very interesting reading, particularly if you are a fan of Disher. And if you're not (yet) but enjoy top quality hardboiled crime fiction, it's well worth the effort to track down the books listed above.