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

Saturday, August 30, 2008

2008 Ned Kelly Award - Winners

The CWAA 2008 Ned Kelly Awards were announced last night at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Best Crime Fiction

Shatter by Michael Robotham

Best First Crime Novel

The Low Road by Chris Womersley

Best Non-Fiction

Red Centre, Dead Heart by Evan McHugh

Lifetime Achievement Award

Marele Day

This is Michael Robotham's second Ned Kelly Award after taking out the 2005 Ned with his second novel LOST and a very deserved winner.

I'm also very pleased to see that Chris Womersley picked up the Ned - lovely to see such a noir work get recognised. It's a win that I picked up while reading the book, the proof is in my review of The Low Road..."If ever there were a book that screams Ned Kelly Award contender then this is it" - a pat on the back for Damien.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reading : The Build Up by Phillip Gwynne

I have just finished one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year. The Build Up by Phillip Gwynne is set in Darwin, Australia and features homicide detective Frances "Dusty" Buchanon, a female cop in a male-dominated part of the world.

Hidden amid the easy, knockabout tone of the book lies a nicely crafted murder mystery. The story is based around the discovery of a body...which then goes missing, closely followed by Dusty's position as a homicide detective. Somehow, Dusty has to convince her colleagues that there was a body in the first place, but there's a reason it has disappeared.

The strength of The Build Up lies in the colourful characters dotted throughout, from Dusty herself to Senior Sergeant Dave Kirk who still prefers to call Dusty a frontbum and on to former Australian Rules football star Rob 'Trigger' Tregenza (and his use of a certain Hawthorn footy jumper). Each and every Northern Territorian is given an easy, relaxed attitude that seems to epitomise the land itself.

Gwynne's Darwin is an isolated city that is stolidly casual in attitude with a laid back style that is underlined by every broken rule and politically incorrect comment that is embraced with glee throughout the book. Brothels, Long Grassers, an oppressive heat, an ocean you can't swim in because of the box jellyfish and an endless forbidding landscape in every direction. It's a setting that is different from just about every murder mystery I have ever read and I loved every page of it.

This is a story that works on many levels. From the first page to the last it is engaging with injections of humour softening you up for the serious business of solving a murder and dealing with some shady, extremely dangerous characters.

From what I've heard there is another Dusty Buchanon novel in the works which is great news because one book is simply not enough.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Reading Notes : Splinter by Michael MacConnell

Splinter by Michael MacConnell is the sequel to his outstanding debut thriller, Maelstrom and continues on with the same intensity from where that book left off. FBI agent Sarah Reilly, the protagonist in the first book, is back as unpredictable as ever. She is an intriguing character who plays the emotionally challenged loose cannon to perfection.

The book is set in LA, dealing with the kidnapping and murder of the son of a Hollywood couple. It’s about as high profile a case as it’s possible to get and Sarah attacks it with complete dedication.

The killer proves to be a master manipulator, however, and the murder of the little boy is by no means the last murder in the book. As Sarah progresses through her investigation, key witnesses and people crucial to her case are taken out leading her to believe that the person she’s after is actually working from the inside. Or at least, they have access to information only those close to the case should have.

Splinter is a thriller that is constantly redefining itself as the investigation raises more questions than were originally considered. It’s this complexity, along with a slew of plot twists and direction changes that makes Michael MacConnell’s second novel a memorable book to read.

I'm actually writing a full review of the book at the moment and it will appear on the Australian Crime Fiction Database very shortly. Suffice to say that it is a very satisfying thriller that manages to draw you in and get you involved with apparent ease.

Monday, August 04, 2008

August '08 - New Releases

What a month August promises to be with a couple of first crime novels published this month as well as a second action thriller by one of the short-list nominees for this year's Ned Kelly Awards. Australian books that crime readers should be looking forward to getting their hands on all three of these books.

The Build Up by Phillip Gwynne - (Pan Macmillan Australia) - I am reading this book at the moment and am enjoying it immensely, both for the setting and the engaging style in which it is written. Set in Darwin with occasional trips into the desert The Build Up is as much a biting commentary on the cultural viewpoint of a Northern Territorian as it is a murder mystery. A prostitute is murdered in a camp of disaffected Vietnam Veterans but her body does a disappearing act causing Detective Dusty Buchanon no end of problems. Most people already know that Territorians live by different rules to the rest of the country and Phillip Gwynne drives this point home in emphatic fashion in this classy mystery.

Second Strike by Mark Abernethy - (Allen & Unwin) - This is the second Alan McQueen thriller with the first, Golden Serpent recently short-listed for a Ned Kelly Award. This book fits directly into the post-911 terrorist fiction sub-genre with this threat coming out of Indonesia. Alan McQueen is an Australian spy, an ASIS agent with all the toughness and resourcefulness that makes these kinds of action/thrillers a wild ride from start to finish.

Ghostlines by Nick Gadd - (Scribe Publications) - For the third book to be published in August you're going to have to wait until the end of the month, August 30 in fact. Ghostlines won the 2007 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. According to the media release the story is about a washed up former investigative journalist who stumbles onto a story that grows from tragic accident into a major political intrigue and murder. They don't give literary awards to just anyone so you can be sure that this debut novel will be special.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Carnival of the Criminal Minds #19

Here we are at the 19th stop of the Carnival of Criminal Minds taking over from the fine job done by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

With 18 previous Carnival stops one would think we may have just about seen and hear from every crime site worth checking out – God knows, Bill Crider tried to single-handedly mention ‘em all - but one would be wrong.

As honorary host of this chapter of the Carnival I think it only fitting that I showcase the work and websites of some of the Australian authors who have long kept me entertained. The whole reason I set up the Australian Crime Fiction Database and later the Crime Down Under blog was because when I attempted to track down a list of Australian crime and mystery books online there was simply nothing available. This was before the days of the excellent work put in at Australasian Crime, by the way. So I compiled my own list of authors and their books and then decided others might find it useful. Armed with very little idea about how to go about making a website I took the plunge, bought a domain and started listing authors.

Now, when you get a whiff of all of the mouth-watering reading sitting in front of you there grows a burning desire to track down those books and read them all. And then, when you’ve read those books and you know that those authors are largely unknown, there’s another urge to let everyone in on the rewarding reading they may be missing out on.

So here’s my opportunity to again sing it to the world about Australia’s fine collection of authors, largely unheralded and probably unknown outside our shores.

To a person, the following Australian authors have written crime and thriller novels that have delighted me. Visit their websites, get excited about their work.

David Rollins - David's latest book is Hard Rain and is the 3rd in his Vin Cooper series a very enjoyable blend of military and detective series with one heck of an irreverent main character.
Mark Abernethy - Mark's first book, Golden Serpent has just been shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Award while book no. 2, titled Second Strike has just been released.
Tony Park - apart from writing excellent thrillers set in Africa, Tony writes a very entertaining blog where he relates his journeys through the dark continent in fine style and humour. Tony has recently published Silent Predator, his 5th book. I've also just realised that Tony recently visited my local library...and I missed it - bugger!

Angela Savage - another blogging author with an intimate connection with Thailand. Her first novel, Behind the Night Bazaar is a wonderful crime novel that brings Chiang Mai to vivid life.
Katherine Howell - a former paramedic with lots of paramedic excitement injected into her books. So far Katherine has written 2 books, Frantic and The Darkest Hour, set in Sydney and filled with pacy action.
Jarad Henry - kicked things off with a superbly crafted dark thriller titled Head Shot, set in the seamier streets of Melbourne. He then followed it up this year with another outstanding book, Blood Sunset, that hardboiled fans would love.

Sydney Bauer - legal thrillers set in Boston written with more than just a little flair and plenty of twists and turns.

P.D. Martin - the Sophie Anderson series is set in the US and combines FBI profiling with psychic awareness in a series that carries smoothly from one book to the next. There is an ongoing mystery that moves through the series that is nothing short of intriguing.
Felicity Young - has now written 3 books, the last 2 are police procedurals set in Perth, a location you don't read about all very often. I've only read 2 of the books, An Easeful Death and Harum Scarum but can recommend them both heartily.

So there you go, a couple of blogs to visit as well as some fine Aussie reading to try out.

Finally before I finish up here, I should also make mention of the fine work being done by Daniel Hatadi and the flourishing Crimespace that is one of the greatest places for fans of crime fiction to visit - bar none.

We'll be leaving Australia for Crime Dog One with the next Carnival, Carnival #20 in fact, to be hosted by Anthony Neil Smith.