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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book Mutterings - 25-31 January 2008

The word is getting out there, the insidious creep is gaining momentum and the book that has featured in every muttering so far is once again getting a mention. That's right, Moonlight Downs (or Diamond Dove) is starting to garner reader feedback with Lora Bruggeman at Pop Goes Fiction proclaiming that Adrian Hyland "creates a great portrayal of life in the Northern Territory".

The week before last I mentioned that Glenn Harper at International Noir Fiction had read Bad Debts by Peter Temple. Well it appears that he's managed to pick up one of Temple's stand-alone novels, Identity Theory (known in Australia as In the Evil Day) and gives it the going over treatment.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Review : The Beijing Conspiracy by Adrian d'Hage

Title : The Beijing Conspiracy
Author : Adrian d'Hage
Publisher : Penguin Australia

ISBN : 9780670029587
No Pages : 525
Published Date : September 2007
Sub-Genre : Action Thriller

Adrian d’Hage’s second novel, The Beijing Conspiracy is a global thriller of monumental proportions much like his debut novel The Omega Scroll. This time he uses the spectre of terrorism to set the pulse quickening, but amps the threat up by including an even more horrifying weapon – that of bioterrorism. The spectacle of the Beijing Olympics looms as the major target of al-Qaeda who issue a warning to the west to either meet their demands or suffer 3 warning blows before a final devastating blow is unleashed.

Dr Khalid Kadeer is a senior al-Qaeda leader, a member of a persecuted Uighur Muslim Chinese minority and a biochemist who is responsible for much of the planning of many of the major terrorist attacks of recent times. His latest warning delivered to the White House calls for the US and her allies to leave the Holy Lands of his people or face the consequences. In this day and age, it’s a threat that is more than credible. His early background at the hands of sadistic Chinese soldiers has fostered a deep-seated hatred and burning desire to strike back at his tormentors.
With the US presidential elections looming, the President doesn’t want to be seen to be pushed around by terrorists, so he takes the advice of his advisors and chooses to ignore the warnings. This will be the first of quite a few mistakes made by a government tainted by bigotry, racism and prejudice, not to mention a misplaced list of priorities. By making the elections the priority he opens the way for the first of the 3 warnings to go ahead.

Meanwhile, significant progress is being made on a project that aims to produce a superbug, a genetically altered organism that joins the smallpox virus with Ebola. If a viable delivery method were to be devised it would result in a potentially devastating biological weapon and, with no cure yet found, the death toll would be unimaginable. The scientific research and development is being conducted inside one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, but the head of the company is an overly ambitious man who is so driven by greed, he sets in motion his own sinister plan.

As if enemies from outside the US are not bad enough, a more insidious threat is being hatched from within. This threat feeds on hatred, paranoia and an unending lust for power. The surprise is that it emanates from one of the most powerful men in the world. Rather than prevent the feared devastating blow that has been promised, he and his accomplices could be unwittingly helping their enemies.

In d’Hage’s fictional world, it would seem that many of the world leaders in power are brainless dimwits, again, not so far from the truth casting our eye around at some of the heads of state gracing the world stage at the moment. Making an overwhelming impression on the decision making processes carried out in the story are figures with strong religious beliefs and, whether those beliefs stem from a Christian or Islamic background, the message is the same, when religious fervour takes over, the results can be unpredictable, even catastrophic.

D’Hage brings the story to consecutive peaks by devising the 3 warning blows before a promised devastating blow. By making each of the so-called warnings pretty damn substantial in their own right, the prospect of the final blow is given considerable significance. It’s a hectic thriller that doesn't hold back on delivering solid action sequences some of which manage to wreak the most devastating damage you can possibly imagine.

However, after a monumental build up, some devastating attacks and disastrous scenes of destruction there promises to be a finale that will batch the early highlights. This doesn’t prove to be the case with a rather subdued ending that is more abrupt than memorable and leaves you feeling slightly deflated rather than with the expected buzz.

The fact that Adrian d’Hage has worked as head of security for the 2000 Sydney Olympics where he was required to come up with possible horror scenarios and then devise ways to counter them makes the convincing nature of this story understandable. His field of expertise lies smack-bang in the centre of chemical and biological attacks, so he really knows what he’s talking about – and it shows in the authoritative voice in which this story is delivered.

The Beijing Conspiracy is your classic action thriller based around the modern day terrorist threat giving a tone of sheer desperation born from outrage and fear. Thrown into the mixing pot is the unknown spectre of microbiological weapons that promise death, not just in the hundreds, but in the thousands or even the millions and this gives the book a twist of monumental proportions. This is the kind of post-911 threat that is completely plausible in light of recent real life attacks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Mutterings - 18-24 January 2008

The State Library of Victoria's Summer Reads initiative continues with the guest blogs by the authors involved. This week Adrian Hyland (Diamond Dove) steps up to the plate and knocks down a post or two of great entertainment with the first titled How Dare You Mr Hyland he explains his earlier days working in the Outback and the importance of story telling. He follows this up with his second post Campfire Tales, Take Two in which he tells a story that illustrates the harmony the aboriginal people have with the land. Day 3 has Adrian chatting about The Truth, The Whole Truth and Mr Miller before finishing his stint with a skim over the field of poetry in his essay titled Rainbow Warriors.

At the risk of making this an all-Adrian Hyland all the time Muttering, we can't let this week's post go by without pointing out that Sarah Weinman has reviewed Moonlight Downs (as Diamond Dove is known over there) in the Baltimore Sun. Now that's gotta be good.

Lucinda Schmidt of The Age has done a profile on Garry Disher who will be celebrating 20 years as a full-time author this year. It's a very interesting interview revealing the possible title to his Ned Kelly Award winning Chain of Evidence as well as some valuable advice to budding authors.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mystery Book Reading : Blood Redemption by Alex Palmer

Alex Palmer's second novel The Tattooed Man is about to be released in February and to prepare myself I grabbed a copy of her debut novel, Blood Redemption. Blood Redemption was published back in 2002 and won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel, the Canberra Critics Circle Award for Literature and was the joint winner of the Sisters-in-Crime Davitt Award for Best Crime Novel by a woman. All plaudits, awards, what have you are definitely well justified - this is one very strong crime novel.

It starts with a shooting on the streets of Sydney in which a man lies dead, his wife is critically wounded and their son is traumatised having witnessed it all. Leading the investigation is Detective Inspector Paul Harrigan who is joined at the crime scene by a raw newcomer to the detective ranks, Detective Constable Grace Riordan. Both police officers are given incredibly complex backgrounds which Palmer does a tremendous job incorporating into the story without adversely affecting the pace or rhythm of the story.

This isn't a mystery story, it's a crime novel. That is to say, we know the identity of the killer, Lucy Hurst a homeless young woman who has been brainwashed into taking such drastic action. It's an act that will torment her for the remainder of the book.

"You've seen me when I'm wasted and the only thing I want to feel is nothing. When the only thing that keeps me going is the blood pumping through my veins because I can't fucking stop it. Sometimes I want that blood to run down the nearest drain and take me with it." pg 25

This is as much an examination of Lucy and the past she has had to endure that has led her to this point. Hers is a terrible background, a story of horrible abuse that makes you shudder at the injustice she has suffered. You can feel sympathy for a killer, Alex Palmer proves it.

Alex Palmer paints a tragic story populated with rich characters who demand to be explored further. Paul Harrigan is single father to a very clever teenage boy with cerebral palsy, Grace is marked with a deep scar across her throat, the work of a former lover.

It's been 6 years since this book was written and now we're on the verge of being able to read the sequel. The astonishing thing is: there has been no fanfare for the upcoming release of The Tattooed Man (pub: HarperCollins). That may have to do with the fact that it's been such a long time between drinks, but fair warning to all, if the new one is half as good as Blood Redemption you're in for another cracking read. Go out and get Blood Redemption and enjoy a compelling thriller.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Noir Book Review : The Low Road by Chris Womersley

Title : The Low Road
Author : Chirs Womersley
Publisher : Scribe Publications
ISBN : 9781921215476
Pages : 280
Date Published : Sep 2007
Sub-Genre : Noir Thriller
Author's Website :

The Low Road is a dark chronicle of a brief life on the run as two men try to escape the consequences of their own weaknesses with a misguided belief that salvation is their destiny. Chris Womersley has written a confronting debut novel that offers little hope for the two central characters, pacing them along their desolate road, merely observing their desperate journey. This is an Australian noir thriller in the tradition of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway told in a rich, lavish voice.

In the dirty rooms of the Parkview Motel on the outer fringes of the city, the paths of two men on the run cross in desperate circumstances. Wild is a disgraced doctor hopelessly hooked on morphine and facing a charge of manslaughter, or rather, fleeing from those who would charge him. Lee, on the other hand is a petty crim, a young man currently lying on his motel room bed with a bullet in his side and a bag of cash next to him on the floor. He needs a doctor, no matter how doped up he might be.

Showing the kind of cowardly instincts that brought him the disgrace he now faces, Wild refuses to remove the bullet. Instead, he offers to take Lee to another doctor, someone who lives in an isolated country town, thus serving his own purposes of providing an opportunity to escape while making it look as though he is helping the wounded man.

With Wild at the wheel they set off with the expectation that their journey will be a simple one, albeit uncomfortable for Lee. However these two men have a history of unfailingly making poor choices and they haven’t travelled terribly far before they make their first, marking their passage for anyone who is pursuing them to follow.

Lee’s past begins to seep out as he becomes more affected by his wounds. We get a glimpse into the personal tragedy that marked his early life, the hardship he endured along with his sister and the choices he made that saw him slip into the life of a petty criminal, eventually picked up for his crimes and put into prison where he served a short stretch. It’s his time in prison that proves to have shaped him into a darker individual and this is the side of him that slowly emerges.

Addiction is a concentrated form of futility; it was almost worth it, never quite so.

Wild’s morphine addiction puts their freedom at risk after he loses his stolen supply and goes hunting for more. The needs of a drug addict override all other perils and this is never more evident than in Wild’s midnight forays while Lee slips into and out of consciousness. The story of his slide into addiction is a bleak one which simply gets worse when he reveals the reason why he has, firstly, been suspended from practicing as a doctor and, secondly, come to be facing criminal charges.

Finally there is the looming threat of Josef, an aging gangster who is on a search and destroy mission for making the mistake of entrusting Lee with the money that he has stolen.

The Low Road is set in the grimy outskirts of anytown, a setting that is distinctive only in that there is a feeling of hopeless desolation about it. The two central characters are as pitiful as each other. The first having risked his life for a paltry amount of money while the self-absorbed doctor believes he is travelling towards his own redemption yet still refuses to save himself.

As readers we are on a journey of discovery as we read The Low Road, watching as each character is dissected and laid bare in front of us. Whereas with most stories you feel a deepening affinity for the central characters as the story progresses, I found that the exact opposite was happening in this case. There is a rottenness in both Wild and Lee, a malignancy searching for a place to lie dormant.

The story builds to a shocking conclusion as despair overcomes hope and rage and violence spew forth in a sickening final display. The inevitability of the ending makes it no less provocative and ensures that you’re left thinking about it long after it’s over.

If ever there were a book that screams Ned Kelly Award contender then this is it with outstanding character development coupled with a strong sense of place that simply leaps off the page at you. The subject matter is dark, perhaps even depressing and some readers may be put off by this, but the truth is, Chris Womersley captures the uglier side of life with a vivid clarity that cannot be ignored.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

2008 Award Announcements - Edgars, Lefty, Rocky, Dilys

We've just had a slew of book awards nominee announcements over the last short period of time from around the globe so it's worth taking a look at the lists.


The most recent is the Edgar Awards nominees announced by the Mystery Writers of America. The winners will be announced at the MWA banquet on May 1. These are the biggies and it's definitely worth picking up and reading as many of these as you can.

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (Henry Holt and Company)
Priest by Ken Bruen (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman (Bleak House Books)
Down River by John Hart (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
In the Woods by Tana French (Penguin Group - Viking)
Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard (The Rookery Press)
Head Games by Craig McDonald (Bleak House Books)
Pyres by Derek Nikitas (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Queenpin by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
Blood of Paradise by David Corbett (Random House - Mortalis)
Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks (Serpent's Tail)
Robbie's Wife by Russell Hill (Hard Case Crime)
Who is Conrad Hirst? by Kevin Wignall (Simon & Schuster)


Now we'll check out the Left Coast Crime Convention held in Denver, Colorado from 6-9 March, 2008. At the LCC we find 4 awards being handed out.

The Lefty - (The most humorous mystery published in 2007)


The Rocky - (Best mystery set in the Left Coast Crime geographical region in 2007)

Bill Cameron, LOST DOG

The Arty (Best cover art for a mystery published in 2007). View the covers!

Megan Abbott, QUEENPIN
Laura Benedict, ISABELLA MOON

The Dilys: An award given by members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA), recognizing the book they most enjoyed selling over the past year.

Rhys Bowen, HER ROYAL SPYNESS (Berkley)
William Kent Krueger, THUNDER BAY (Atria)
Lisa Lutz, THE SPELLMAN FILES (Simon & Schuster)
Deanna Raynourn, SILENT IN THE GRAVE (Mira)
Marcus Sakey, THE BLADE ITSELF (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Book Mutterings : 11-17 January 2008

This week we start our tour of the hereabouts with a review and we can find it by checking out Glenn Harper at the International Noir Fiction blog. Glenn has sampled Bad Debts by Peter Temple explaining that he appreciates the complex nature of the first of the Jack Irish books. He also points out that "the Australian setting is vividly drawn". Boy, wait until he read The Broken Shore.

Moving on, we find that the social community site Crimespace is absolutely chock-a-block with members now. In fact, membership has grown to over 1,000 and to celebrate, owner Daniel Hatadi has announced the inaugural Crimespace short story competition - actually it was announced back in October last year - but it's now entering the final few weeks with the deadline of 31st January fast approaching. There is a topic that all stories must adhere to in some small (or large) way and in true patriotic style, Daniel has chosen the theme of 'Australia'. Entries are to be no more than 2,500 words. All the gory details including competition prizes and small print can be found here.

A couple of interviews have come to my notice too, the first is a tad on the old side. Mungo MacCallum has conducted a two-part interview with Shane Maloney which can be viewed by visiting The Monthly website. In the interview they discuss the recent Australian federal election and John Howard's defeat. View Part I & Part II, Maloney's always good value when it comes to interview-fodder.

The second interview comes hard on the heels of the release of Fivefold by Nathan Burrage which has been well publicised already. I'm keen to get my hands on a copy of the book myself. You can catch an interview with Nathan on HorrorScope. Nathan covers a lot of territory from how Fivefold was born to the use of the Kabbalah in the book and has some advice for authors trying to get published before finishing with details of future projects.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thriller Reading - Redback by Lindy Cameron

I'm currently having a great time reading Redback by Lindy Cameron (pub. Mira Books). It's an action thriller novel that introduces a brand new protagonist in the form of Bryn Gideon a commander of a crack team of retrieval specialists. You'll see exactly what these Redbacks are capable of early in the book.Lindy Cameron wastes no time establishing the tone of the book as evidenced by the first few paragraphs.

It was the last good night of Lord James McQuade: he'd been wined, dined and
royally screwed. Truffles, a vintage red and sweet Miss Jones. Sixty-six years old tomorrow and not destined to outlive his wolfhound.

Dargo looked down at the sad old drunk, dribbling and asleep in a dining chair with his pants around his ankles. A peer of the realm who thought cheating on his wife with a tart from Chelsea was a manly way to ring in his next year.

Lulu had been a birthday gift from a supposedly trusted colleague, but Dargo's presence was the price, for Lord James McQuade was an irritation, a sacrifice, a pawn. (pg 1)

While the opening assassination is taking place in slow, methodical fashion, there is a much more action-based attack going on somewhere in the Pacific...

In two seconds flat the four machine gunners were smacked backward into the Banyan tree, paralysed by a precision spread of max-volt T-darts. A quad-shot
crackle of Zeus juice was the only indication that Cooper had fired, but the rebels would be cactus for at least fifteen minutes.

Gideon, whose first task was to get to the lone PRA escort before any hell broke loose, hit the ground running. Cooper was right behind, until he veered away to free the hostages in the other garden, and Wade took off down the path to the rec room.

After dodging garden statues and furniture Gideon leapt - right arm out, Beretta in hand - onto the cabin's veranda just as the soldier padlocked the cabin from the outside.

Gideon was so suddenly right next to him, unfolding out of the dark like a carved island totem come to life, that the rebel's voice locked in fear in his gulping throat. (pp 22-23)

I'm exactly half-way through the book and it's a vast multi-plot story that gallops along with crucial scenes unfolding simultaneously around the world. While the Redback Retrieval Team led by Bryn Gideon is rescuing 36 hostages on a Pacific island (as described above), American journalist Scott Dreher is being hunted by an assassin on the streets of Tokyo. In Peshawar an oddball team of Aussie agents are keeping watch on a suspected terrorist, while over in the US a group of redneck renegades are running around Texas bombing the shit out of the place.

This is turning out to be a high-quality action thriller that maintains a solid pace while measuring out necessary political manouevering and rhetoric in between some resounding moments of sheer edge of the seat moments.

At this stage I have absolutely no idea how the widely flung plotlines are going to come to gether but it promises to be a thrilling ride before I get to the end.
It may be a bit premature for predictions but this has definitely got the feel of the first book in a series to feature Bryn Gideon.

Monday, January 14, 2008


It's a fairly quiet week as far as events in Australia are concerned, although there is the launch of a debut novel to check out in Sydney.

The launch of Fivefold by Nathan Burrage will be held on Thursday, 17 January at the Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney from 6pm onwards. Margo Lanagan, winner of the World Fantasy Award and author of short story collections, will be doing the honours for the night. There's an open invitiation out for the night so anyone prowling through the streets of Sydney doing some late night shopping are welcome to make their way over to the Galaxy Bookshop (143 York St) to check things out. Plenty of details can be found on Nathan's website.

Heading across to LA, for the Matthew Reilly devotees out there, the Six Sacred Stones road show has started and you can check out Matt on Tuesday, 15 January at Barnes & Noble, Huntington Beach from 7:00pm. He then moves on to the heart of town on Wednesday, 16 January when he will be appearing at Metropolis Books, also from 7:00 pm to read, sign and discuss his second Jack West Jr thrill-ride. To round out the busy week he will be stopping off at M Is for Mystery at San Mateo to wow the hordes and sign some product.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Detective Book Review : The Big Score by Peter Corris

Title : The Big Score

Author : Peter Corris
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
ISBN : 9781741752236
Pages : 214
Date Published : Dec 2007
Sub-Genre : Private Detective

Peter Corris has taken his private detective through all manner of hairy situations over the year with varying degrees of success and heartache. In The Big Score, Cliff Hardy is put through his paces, short story style, with his usual no-nonsense attitude, smart-arsed disregard for authority and genius sifting through the chaff to get at the wheat.

Plenty of familiar names and faces make appearances, seen at various stages during the 30 plus books in which Cliff has operated to date. Getting a mention are familiar names like girlfriend Lily Truscott, movie director Bruce Haxton, Cliff’s reliable doctor Ian Sangster, Harry Tickener who has been a faithful source from the very first book and, of course, his ex-wife Cyn gets a mention or two.
This can be a trip down memory lane for you or simply a chance to enjoy the rough and tumble, attitude-fuelled detective as he bullocks his way around Sydney and straight to the heart of the matter.
A quick overview of each of the 11 stories will give you the best idea of what you’re in for when you tackle The Big Score.
Ram Raid : Cliff arrives home to his Glebe house to a welcoming committee of the local cops, one of whom informs him that he is wanted for questioning regarding a shooting. The man he was supposed to have shot was a crim named Cleve Harvey, a bloke Cliff has butted heads with on the odd occasion. To save himself, Cliff has to find out who the real shooter was and why he was implicated.

Copper Nails : It’s a story Sydneysiders may have read about in the local papers. Trees blocking the view of the ocean from a certain set of apartments are suddenly starting to wither and die. Cliff has to find out who is the most likely to benefit from the improved view…and then prove it.

D-i-v-o-r-c-e : Cliff is hired to investigate the husband of a couple going through a sticky divorce. The suspicion is that he’s hiding some of his assets to reduce the settlement he will be obliged to pay. This is a case in which Cliff has to use his charm rather than his brawn and makes a pretty good fist of it.

Crime Writing : A con artist contacts Cliff from the Silverwood Correctional Facility where he has been writing his memoirs, the contents of which he promises will blow some pretty hefty lids off some major names. The manuscript was typed up, old style, on a typewriter and is the only copy. He tells Cliff that he gave it to a screw to smuggle out of the prison so that it could be taken to his literary agent, but the prison guard has disappeared, along with the manuscript. Cliff has to find the guard and the manuscript, but nothing’s ever that straight forward.

Blackmail : The wife of a movie director has been kidnapped and Cliff is hired to find her. But wait a sec, the title of this story is Blackmail, not Kidnap, something screwy’s going on here. It’s a good thing Cliff’s around to drink loads of booze and throw his weight around, all in the line of duty while unravelling a very tangled problem.

Last Will and Testament : A former client is in the final stages of a terminal illness and hires Cliff to track down his ex-wife and child so that he can leave them his fortune. Hardy’s hunt takes him to Wollongong as he chases down an aboriginal former boxer turned country singer in a moving, yet low-key job. This particular story contains many of the elements (compassion, understanding, forthrightness) that makes Cliff Hardy the complicated protagonist that makes him so popular.

Break Point : An up and coming tennis pro has a tendency to go walkabout after playing his tournaments. A sports management agency keen to sign the kid is concerned he might be getting up to no good. Cliff is hired to find the truth and instead finds himself in the middle of a moral dilemma.

Worst Case Scenario : Cliff recounts an investigation at the prompting of his girlfriend Lily and tells a story that would have to be the stuff of nightmares for any private investigator. It’s a story designed to shock and achieves its goal with brutal frankness.

Bookworm : This is an unusual story about a book thief who is stealing the same obscure book from used bookstores around the country. Cliff is hired to take part in a set-up to catch the thief red-handed. Things don’t really go to plan, but there’s a deeper story behind the object of many thefts.

Patriotism : The final story takes Hardy away to a survival camp - an army-type group that undergoes a military experience. Cliff is there to keep an eye on his client’s son. His client is afraid the group could be a terrorist front. In no time flat cliff has gotten under the skin of the camp leader and finds himself ejected from the place but not before he gets involved in a daring escape bid.

The stories that make up The Big Score are diverse and are pure Cliff Hardy at his unpredictable best. Not all investigations have neat endings and so, not all of these stories end neatly. However, they do make you think, asking you to put yourself in the hot seat and challenges you to come out smelling as fresh as Hardy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book Mutterings - 4 - 10 January 08

There's been some reading, some reviewing, some rating and some discussing going on about the odd Australian crime book. here's what they've been saying over the last week or so.

  • Paula Weston at Great Stories has read Golden Serpent by Mark Abernethy and has classed it as one of the best spy thrillers she has read. She gives a big thumbs up to the main character Alan 'Mac' McQueen, approving of his tough-guy fallability.

  • In The Australian, Graeme Blundell casts his eye over three recently released books. First he looks at Maelstrom by Michael MacConnell with mixed feelings before turning his attention to Dorothy Johnston's latest, Eden which is the 3rd book in her series featuring Sandra Mahoney which he finds is part of a series that is improving as it goes along. Finally he, too, looks at Golden Serpent by Mark Abernethy, a book which he devotes many more inches of space to in his column and he manages to make comparisons to Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy and Lee Child.
  • Karen at Aust Crime Fiction has finished her list of Favourites for 2007 breaking them up into her favourite local (Australian) books and favourites from other locations.

  • Kerrie at Mysteries in paradise reports that the fair folk at the Oz Mystery Readers forum have put their heads together to compile a list of their best reads for 2007 with Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland heading the list. It should be noted that the books in the list are books that were read in 2007, not necessarily books that were published in 2007. She has followed that post up with her review of Diamond Dove. By the way, there has been a lot of discussion about this book here in Australia and it will be released by Soho Press in the US in February under the name Moonlight Downs.

  • Rod Lott at Bookgasm has gotten his hands on a copy of The 6 Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly and has revelled in its over-the-toppedness correctly pointing out that the extreme unbelievability factor is exactly what Reilly is aiming for.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Outpost - Issue 6 Released

I've called it Issue 6 but it is just as comfortable being known as the Vol 2. Issue 2 version of The Outpost...or even the January 2008 issue of The Outpost. Whichever way you want to refer to it, the new issue of The Outpost has been released containing 8 new Australian crime short stories.

In this issue you can read about the dangerous cut-throat underworld of the flower industry, an ingenious, very convoluted bank robbery attempt, a neighbourly dispute that began with an overhanging tree branch (they never end well), some Op Shop action, one crazy ole artist, a police procedural investigation into a brutal assault that develops into a much deeper mystery, an almighty murder trial and a lesson to all mystery about the dangers of making rash assumptions.

Cold Comfort by Denis O'Leary
A Case of Murder by Ross Duffy
The Bakery by A.G. Bennett
Flower Power by Kate Smith
Prestige by John Bartlett
Cross by Adi Gibb
'Opping With Pat by Isolde
Nuts In May by Pat Johnson

Garn...have an optic.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mystery Book Review : The Perfect Suspect by Vincent Varjavandi

Title : The Perfect Suspect
Author : Vincent Varjavandi
Publisher : Longueville Media
Date Published : 2006
ISBN : 1920681191
Sub-Genre : Thriller

A quiet country town is usually the ideal destination for people looking to escape the horrors of the past. But in Vincent Varjavandi's debut thriller, The Perfect Suspect, sometimes evil is not quite that simple a thing to escape.

Senior Sergeant Jack Maguire is the commanding officer of the Sanctuary Police Station, a sleepy little coastal town on the New South Wales south coast, a place where nothing much ever happens. It's the kind of place that puts a guy like Maguire into an unsettled reverie.

He wasn't thrilled to admit it, but this morning had provided him with just about the most challenging problem for quite some time. He shook his head with that, trying to avoid another bout of reflection on the way things had panned out since being exiled here. It was an activity he'd spent a lot of time on recently. Either, he'd decided, because he was getting on in years and felt the need to take stock of his life, or more likely, as some kind of bizarre self-inflicted psychological punishment for the way he'd sat back and allowed his life and career to taper off into oblivion.
He doesn't know it at this point but Maguire is about to enter a tumultuous period that will threaten to rip the until now peaceful town apart in the form of the most brutal of murders imaginable.

Working on a two week rotational basis at the Sanctuary hospital is young surgeon Tom Hackett. He has returned from a stint in the US where he worked at the New Orleans Children's Hospital. His return from America comes after his wife was murdered in their family home while he was at work at the hospital. In a bid to occupy any spare time he may have so that he is distracted from the grief over the loss of his wife, he is using the job in Sanctuary to seek what the place is named for.

Unfortunately, this will prove to be the last thing he will find.

First one woman and then a second is murdered, savagely beaten to death with a frying pan, the blows numbering more than 100. In both cases the attacker was invited into his victim's home using 8 year old Laura Roberts as a means of winning their trust.

The second victim was Tom Hackett's secretary and, seeing as he was the last known person to see her before she was killed, he is brought in and questioned by Maguire and his young partner William Tucker. At this point the story gets a little interesting because we learn that Jack Maguire is blessed (or cursed) with an unexplainable ability to accurately read other people's body language and is able to perceive with a high level of accuracy when someone is lying to him. His inability to explain how he does it has gotten him into trouble in the past, indeed, it's the reason he is a small-town cop rather than a big-city homicide detective. After his interview with Tom Hackett he's sure that Hackett is not the killer. His young partner is not as easily convinced and requests that he be allowed to do a little more digging to which Maguire reluctantly agrees.
What follows is a steady build up of damning evidence against Dr Tom Hackett that paints him as a stone-cold killer who has embarked on a spree of slaying that began with his wife. It's only the belief that Jack Maguire has in Hackett's innocence that prevents his immediate arrest. Unfortunately, the only leg Maguire has to stand on is his gut instinct and even he is beginning to doubt it.

The Perfect Suspect begins as a tight psychological thriller that appears to be told along the usual lines where a killer will pick off his victims until our protagonist tracks him down. But this is no ordinary psychological thriller and it soon blossoms out into a much more complex thriller that becomes increasingly confrontational.

The book is imbued with a certain exasperation that builds as the story unfolds emanating through the persona of Jack Maguire. Although certain that Tom Hackett is no killer, he is so riddled with self-doubt that he cannot force himself to convince his partner of the fact. Consequently there is an inevitability about where his hesitancy will take things.

For Tom Hackett's part, his role is that of a victim. The compelling question is why he was chosen to take the blame for the killings. The answer proves to come hidden inside a much more elaborate set up than could ever be imagined. The establishment of the personalities of the characters taking part in proceedings cannot be faulted, having been provided with just the right level of modesty to make them sympathetic yet with a broad streak of capability so that their reactions to various situations are believable. The only weak aspect to the book that I could find was a lack of atmosphere surrounding the setting of the town of Sanctuary. Normally you would get a real sense of small-town community about a country town with a local busybody, most people knowing everyone else, etc. There was absolutely none of this in the case of Sanctuary and I felt the tone of the story suffered as a result. The Perfect Suspect proves to be a compelling thriller with a hidden complexity that plays out to a resounding finale. It's a tightly plotted story that will run you through the gamut of extreme emotional responses.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Reading : Dark Heart: Images of a City by Travis Berketa

One of the less heralded releases from 2007 was Dark Heart: Images of a City by Travis Berketa (pub. Brolga Publishing) which I have managed to get my hands on. I've only read 33 pages so far but it's such a short novel (perhaps it could be called a novella) that this constitutes a quarter of the book.

The story is told by an unnamed, extremely pissed off individual who is fed up with the way society is headed what with increasing violence, crime, drugs and gangs, all of which are seemingly tolerated by the masses. He has decided that he is going to make a difference after losing his family to a variety of violent crimes.

The man turns into a one-man crime wave as he sets about "making the city safe for us". His victims are molesters, drug dealers, crime king-pins and hitmen...and he doesn't go easy on them. His expectations are that he will be hailed a hero for his brave efforts against low-life scum.

One thinks it's the kind of story that must only end badly.

*Updated* I've finished the book and it's a chillingly dark tale that is a kind of prediction of the way that society is headed as well as a warning of just how a killer is made. It's a searingly fast story that leaps forward at every opportunity as the central character changes from a concerned citizen to an enraged violent criminal.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

January 08 New Releases

As is usual here in Australia, January is a quiet time of the year in terms of new crime / thriller releases. In fact, I have only been able to track down one.

Fivefold by Nathan Burrage (pub. Random House) : A debut novel by an author who has had quite a few speculative fiction short stories published in various science fiction and speculative fiction journals. This is billed as a mystical thriller and begins with a discovery beneath a ruined church. Five university friends uncover a secret that has far-reaching consequences. Nathan has also been nominated for an Aurealis Award and won an AntiSF Award for his short stories. You can find out a whole lot more about Nathan, his shorter works plus the opening few pages of Fivefold by visiting his website.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Genre Flash

I picked this up from Angela Savage's blog the other day, but the credit goes to Lindy Cameron for her outstanding initiative and the creation of a very snazzy looking catalogue of genre fiction.

Lindy says that Genre Flash is: "a small, simple but elegant pdf catalogue of any genre fiction or related SinC books, that have been published by Sisters in Crime members - or their Australian women writer friends - in the past 2 years."

Not only does it give a quick review of recently published books, along with publication details and author's websites, there are also previews of some forthcoming releases too. Certainly worth checking out and printing out as you are trying to decide on some worthy summer holiday reading when stocking up the bookshelves.

In an industry that is jam-packed with contenders looking for a brief moment in the spotlight and with the window of opportunity getting seemingly smaller and smaller, authors are looking for ways to get their product out into the attention of the population of readers. Genre Flash is an enterprising idea and deserves a little fanfare, even if it's only through my blog and website.

The initial plan is to produce Genre Flash twice a year but the option to increase that will depend on the traffic it enjoys and on the number of new releases that have been published at the time. I'm pretty sure that when other authors learn of this new opportunity to showcase their work they'll be beating down Lindy's door to be included in future editions.
I reckon it's such a great idea I've put the link over on the right hand border.