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 19, 2008

Reading Notes : A Beautiful Place To Die by Malla Nunn

There have been a number of high quality debut Australian book releases in the last couple of months that have come my way. I’m gradually getting to each one and have been impressed by all of them.

A particularly strong novel is A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Pan Macmillan Australia), a murder mystery set in South Africa in the 1950s. The time and setting are significant because of the Racial Segregation laws that were in place at the time. The story explores these laws throughout the book and the attitudes of characters play a major role in the tone of the book and in the story’s outcome.

A Beautiful Place To Die introduces police detective Emmanuel Cooper who is called to a small town to investigate the murder of the town’s police captain. What he has walked into, though is a dangerously poised tinderbox of emotions as the sons of the dead man deal with their rage and grief by looking for someone to blame. Their attention sits squarely on the black community and Cooper is forced to act as the voice of reason, unsure of the authority he might be able to exert in such a remote town.

Moving in to take over are the police Security Branch, the feared enforcers of the racial laws that rule the land. Their intention is to find the kind of suspect that suits their needs, which leaves it up to Cooper to work surreptitiously to find the true murderer, regardless of the colour of his skin.

The story builds quickly in intensity as pressure is placed on Emmanuel - and not from the direction you would expect it to come. This is obviously a heartfelt subject for the author and it is told with great style.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reading Notes : As Darkness Falls by Bronwyn Parry

Another new voice in Australian literature has just been heard with the release of As Darkness Falls by Bronwyn Parry. The book is published by Hachette Australia. This novel combines the pulse-racing thriller story with a country Australia setting that is rarely experienced by city-dwellers.

It is the kind of story that allows you to comfortably fall into, losing yourself in the smooth, flowing story told by a gifted storyteller.

As Darkness Falls is a romantic suspense novel set in the north-west corner of New South Wales in the tiny town of Dungirri. The setup is that Isabelle O'Connell is asked to return to her home town a year after she is nearly killed by an angry mob while trying to protect a suspected murderer. The man she was trying to protect was implicated in a child abduction and murder case.

Now, a year later, Isabelle is living alone on a remote property on extended leave from the police force and only a week out from retirement. The call to duty comes from DCI Alex Goddard who has come to tell her that another child has gone missing in Dungirri. She instinctively agrees to help.

There is no let up from the emotional turmoil that surround everyone the moment our attention turns to the small town. Pressure comes from the urgency that is put into finding the small girl. Added pressure comes from attacks on Isabelle herself. And finally, caught up in the midst of all this is the desperate romance hopelessly complicating it all.

This is a fine debut novel from go to whoa, a desperate thriller that also works as a moving love story.

Bronwyn Parry was awarded the 2007 Golden Heart Award by the Romance Writers of America for As Darkness Falls.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

September '08 - New Releases

So far, I have had word of 4 new crime novels that I would class as Australian crime fiction, even though 2 of the authors are now based overseas. They are a diverse bunch of books with a small town thriller, a Scottish noir, Russian noir and Sydney-based corruption novel providing a little bit of something from everywhere. Definitely some fascinating reading for the month of September.

As Darkness Falls by Bronwyn Parry (pub. Hachette Australia) The manuscript titled “Falling Into Darkness” was awarded the 2007 Golden Heart Award by the Romance Writers of America as well as the Romance Writers of Australia Single and Loving It! (STALI) Contest in 2005. This is a romance / thriller of undoubted quality set in outback New South Wales.

You can find out more about her by visiting the official website of Bronwyn Parry.

Paying For It by Tony Black (pub. Preface Publishing) This is a Scottish Noir thriller set in Edinburgh featuring Gus Dury, an alcoholic former journalist who is cajoled into investigating the death of his boss’ son. This is tough, dingy, well-written and admirably paced novel that skates the edges of despair as Gus goes head to head with one of the city’s most formidable mobsters. Tony Black has already made his presence felt with a short story that has been published here at The Outpost titled Crate-Load of Grief.

Crooked by Camilla Nelson (pub. Random House) This book looks as though it’s a real hell-raiser with the publisher blurb promising corruption, crooked politicians and honest crims. It also mentions that some of Sydney’s most notorious gangland identities have been used as the backdrop to the story. It looks tough and it looks mean and this has got me intrigued.

Stray Dog Winter by David Francis (pub. Allen & Unwin) Speaking of intrigued, Stray Dog Winter came with a media release that bills it as a Soviet noir “sexpionage” novel set in 1980s Moscow reveals dangerous secrets between siblings. I have this one sitting waiting to be read and if the praise of Debra Adelaide is to be heeded we can expect the story to be: “Permeated with a brooding unease, powerfully matched by the palpable cold of winter in Moscow…sinister, suspenseful and beautifully written.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reading Notes : Ghostlines by Nick Gadd

The 2007 Victorian Premiers Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript was won by Nick Gadd for a novel about a washed up award-winning investigative journalist who now works for a suburban newspaper. That book has now been published as Ghostlines by Scribe Publications and it is an emotionally-charged debut occasionally marked with despair and guilt but presented with admirable style.

A tragic accident at a local railway crossing sees him simply going through the motions, more intent on getting home and drinking himself to sleep to the strains of Coltrane’s saxophone. Somewhere between asking people how they felt about the accident and filing the story his usual numbness to the people affected begins to wear off and he finds that there may be more to the story than a simple level-crossing accident.

A Melbourne art group from the 1950s, the work of a noted local artist and the haunting image of a woman captured in a portrait found in the house of a lonely old man are the catalysts to a most intriguing mystery. Phillip Trudeau is the troubled protagonist in the story, a man who has had his share of hardships, paying for crossing the wrong powerful people in the past. He’s the down but not out type of underdog whom you hope will succeed, but it could go either way.

Ghostlines is a worthy winner of the 2007 VPLA, it’s a powerful novel that is not without its surprises. Definitely one to look out for and a strong contender for future awards down the track. Put Nick Gadd down as an author to follow for the future.

I have written a full review for Ghostlines by Nick Gadd and it can be found by clicking on the link.