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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2008 Ned Kelly Awards Short List

Scribe Publications has reported that the short list for the 2008 Ned Kelly Awards has been released and quite a select list of books it is too. The Ned Kelly Awards will be presented at the Melbourne Writers Festival on 29th August at Federation Square starting at 7.30pm. The night promises to be an interesting one with a debate planned addressing the topic “That crime in Australia skirts the big issues, its concern is entertainment.”

Best Crime Fiction

Among the Dead by Robert Gott (Scribe)
Sucked In by Shane Maloney (Text)
El Dorado by Dorothy Porter (Pan Macmillan)
Shatter by Michael Robotham (Hachette Livre)

Best First Crime Novel

The Low Road by Chris Womersley (Scribe)
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (Penguin)
Golden Serpent by Mark Abernethy (Allen & Unwin)

Best Non Fiction

Underbelly: The Gangland War by John Silvester and Andrew Rule (Sly Ink)
Killing Jodie by Janet Fife-Yeomans (Penguin)
Red Centre, Dark Heart by Evan McHugh (Penguin)

As they should be, Scribe is very proud of the fact that two of their publications have been included in the short list - a triumph indeed for the small publisher (is it any wonder they were awarded Small Publisher of the Year).

There are a couple of Australian books in the list that I earmarked as potential NKA winners as I read them this year, and the timing couldn't be better for Mark Abernethy with his latest, the sequel to Golden Serpent, title Second Strike to be published in a matter of days.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Review of Voodoo Doll by Leah Giarratano

I have recently finished reading Voodoo Doll by Leah Giarratano. This is the second novel to feature Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson, picking up where Vodka Doesn't Freeze leaves off. It's a psychological thriller of the highest order starting with a violent home invasion before exploring the dark mind of a killer who is dangerously out of control.

Leah Giarratano has done an outstanding job of taking us inside the minds of her characters, into a nightmare world of destruction and despair. With so many of the minds damaged or healing it is ensured that the unexpected is to be expected.

Voodoo Doll is one of the 50 books that has been chosen for the 2008 Books Alive initiative.

I have written a full review of the book over on the Australian Crime Fiction Database so to avoid duplicating it I will instead invite you to pop over and read my review of Voodoo Doll by Leah Giarratano.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bright Air by Barry Maitland - The Follow Up

A few days ago I mentioned that I was halfway through Barry Maitland's new novel Bright Air with a suggestion that I had an inkling about where he was heading in the second half.

I've long since finished the book and found it a very enjoyable read indeed. I thought, though, that it would be prudent of me to follow up the first post to admit that just about all of the preconceptions I'd made were wrong. Barry Maitland did an outsanding job in developing the story and in the direction he eventually took it.

You can read my full review of Bright Air by Barry Maitland at the Crime Down Under website.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Three Authors You Couldn't Live Without

Karen at Aust Crime Fiction has listed the Three Authors She Couldn’t Live Without, an idea she pinched from David J Montgomery at Crime Fiction Blog who borrowed it from elsewhere. At the end Karen asked others to pick up the challenge so what the hell.

Now this is going to seem to be flying in the face of the subject of my own blog, but my number 1 and 2 favourite authors are not Australian.

Dennis Lehane. I’m still mourning the end of the Kenzie and Gennaro series and occasionally go back to re-read the books. Mystic River made up for the loss somewhat, though.

George Pelecanos. Gritty, tough and nothing at all held back, Pelecanos gets down into the sleaziest, drug riddled parts of Washington DC hitting the mark time and again with scene depiction and use of language. I’ve enjoyed the work these two have done on The Wire, too, by the way.

Chris Womersley. I’m a big fan of noir fiction and Chris’ debut novel, The Low Road is exactly the kind of desolate story that my warp mind really appreciates. I’m waiting with the hope that he will see his way clear to write another similarly dark and moody tale.

So there you go folks, challenge acknowledged and met. Anyone else out there with authors they'd like to bestow their praise upon?

July '08 - New Releases

July heralds the release of 4 much anticipated Australian books. When I say “much anticipated” I am naturally referring to my own eagerness to read these new books. The 4 books I have details of are by authors who have already established themselves as fine storytellers (my opinion). To categorise the books I would put them down as 1 action thriller, 1 mystery and 2 psychological thrillers.

Hard Rain by David Rollins (pub. Pan Macmillan) This is the 3rd book in the Vin Cooper series and is set in Istanbul, Turkey. Cooper is a US Air Force OSI Special Agent and he and his partner Anna Masters have been called in to investigate the murder of the Air Force Attache in Turkey. This story fires straight out of the blocks, features all of Vin Cooper’s acerbic wit and is blessed with a consistently high action level. Find out more at David's website.

Bright Air by Barry Maitland (pub. Allen & Unwin) Maitland is most well known as the author of the superb Brock and Kolla police procedural series. Bright Air is a departure from the series, his first stand-alone mystery set in Australia – Sydney and Lord Howe Island. The death of Lucy Corcoran, at first thought to be a tragic rock-climbing accident could be something more sinister. Friends of Lucy, Josh and Anna are compelled by their personal feelings of guilt to seek out the truth. Excellent character-based mystery. Find out more at Barry's website.

Voodoo Doll by Leah Giarratano (pub. Random House) Sydney police detective Jill Jackson is back after the harrowing events of Vodka Doesn’t Freeze. She has been promoted and moved to Liverpool in Sydney’s south-west to be part of a taskforce charged with tracking down a gang of violent home invaders. Jill Jackson would have to be one of the most complex, troubled protagonists I have come across and her personality gives this book even greater interest.

Splinter by Michael MacConnell (pub. Hachette Australia) FBI agent Sarah Reilly is working on a child homicide case. It’s high profile and harrowing but it’s also a case that turns nasty. As with Michael MacConnell’s first thriller, Maelstrom, Sarah is facing a case that is far bigger than it first appears. She also has to face memories of events from her own past which are brought back in the course of the investigation.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Currently Reading Bright Air by Barry Maitland

Barry Maitland’s new novel, Bright Air (pub. Allen & Unwin) has been released today, an event certainly worth noting. It’s even more noteworthy when you learn that this is a stand-alone novel, not part of the immensely popular Brock and Kolla series. On top of that, the story is set in Sydney as opposed to the series books which are set in England.

I am almost exactly halfway through reading Bright Air at the moment and would classify it as one of those mystery novels that is very careful in the build up. Maitland has put a lot of effort into setting the scene for us. It feels as though the reader is being prepared for a shocking revelation – just my own impression, mind you.

Here’s a brief overview to give you an idea of what the plot’s about. The opening finds us at the home of Josh Ambler. Josh has recently returned from London where he worked for a few years as a merchant banker. He is visited by a friend from his past. Anna was one of a group of friends he knew from his university days, all with a passion for rock-climbing. Josh took up the sport as a way of meeting Anna’s friend, Lucy or Luce as she was known to all. They wound up dating and became very close until Josh broke it off and moved to London.

While Josh was in London Luce died in a climbing accident on Lord Howe Island while doing a field study for her university degree. With her at the time were some of the members of their circle of friends: Owen, Curtis, Damien and Marcus. The coroner’s report found that her death was an accident but her body was never recovered.

The reason that Anna has come to see Josh is because two more members of the party, Owen and Curtis, have also died, also in a climbing accident. Before he died Owen revealed to Anna that there was more to Luce’s death than what the coroner concluded. What he actually said to Anna was, “We killed her.”

Now Anna has come to enlist Josh in finding out what really happened on Lord Howe Island.

The story switches from the present day and Josh and Anna’s progress to the early days of their relationship and their rock-climbing experiences together. The personalities of all of the members of the group are gradually revealed, as are the details of what happened between Josh and Luce.

Barry Maitland writes with a strong, fulfilling style that commands your attention. The rock-climbing sequences provide an added interest but it’s the depth of the character portraits where the real strength to the story lies. There are also some moving instances of self-awareness that creeps into Josh’s narrative as he looks back on his time with Luce.

When I thought about it, I was amazed to realise how totally insulated my life had been from this world until I’d started climbing with Luce. Nature to me had been no more than a marginal risk of hurricanes or floods that could be managed with a range of financial instruments. I had only ever seen true wilderness through the filter of a TV screen or an aeroplane window. And now I was about as fully exposed to it as one could be, suspended in a gossamer net high up a mountain face in bright air.
Half the book to go and I am fully engaged, as I find I often am while reading a Barry Maitland novel. Sure, I’ve made some guesses about which way I think the story’s going to go – good stories compel you to do just that, I reckon. But I’ll keep those guesses to myself.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Genre Flash 2

The start of the year introduced Australia to Genre Flash, a publication showcasing some of the latest hot new release crime novels and true crime books. It's six months down the track and the second Genre Flash has just been released.

This issue is 14 pages strong and highlights books such as Fan Mail by P.D. Martin, The Mystery of the Missing Masterpiece by Robin Bowles, Alibi by Sydney Bauer, Blood Sunset by Jarad Henry and Harum Scarum by Felicity Young to name just a few.

Genre Flash is filled to the brim with quality Australian books to track down and come complete with story overviews, added author information, details on where to find the books and a list of upcoming novels from the featured authors.

Take a look at Genre Flash 2 to help satisfy the longing to read an Austalian book today.