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, 2012

Reading Notes - Comeback by Peter Corris

‘Cliff Hardy, I heard you’d retired.’ Marcia had the voice all brothel receptionist have – smooth, reassuring, comforting, designed to put the punters at their ease.
‘I’m making a comeback. Is Ruby available?’

Comeback (Allen & Unwin, 2011) is the 37th book in the outstanding Cliff Hardy series (if you count the two short story collections) and continues the rocky life of the Sydney-based private detective. No matter what type of setback is placed in his way, whether it be loss of partners, severe medical conditions or the loss of his licence, Cliff manages to continue to prove that he is the ultimate survivor and struggles on in typical gritty style.

In recent times Cliff Hardy has been somewhat at a loss to decide what to do with himself thanks to the loss of his private inquiry agent’s licence. But a recent High Court ruling has found that life bans are unconstitutional which provides Cliff with the motivation he needs to reapply for his licence and, with a little bit of help from old friend and lawyer Viv Garner, quickly sets up his practice in a new office and with a rekindled outlook.

The first case in the new practice involves a young actor, Bobby Forrest, who wants to hire Hardy because he believes he is the victim of a stalker. He is unable to identify the stalker and this intrigues Hardy enough for him to take the case.

I’d had the house a long time, ever since my marriage to Cyn, and it was imbued with memories, some bad, mostly good. I’d made love there, spilt blood and had some of my own spilt. There’s been times when I was flush with money and other times, like now, when funds were low. I knew I should find a way to shake all this loose and go somewhere else, but I was back in business and somehow that seemed to make keeping the house and the memories all the more important.

Although Hardy diligently follows Forrest from place to place to get a handle on who is stalker might
be, he is unprepared for the attack when it comes. He is left with a dead client, a police detective who is particularly unimpressed and a burning need to finish his investigation. The case that started out as a protection gig develops into a hunt for a murderer.

What Hardy discovers is that the case was more complex than he was first led to believe. He has to work his way through the jealous love triangle and unravel the tangle of rage, disappointment and acts of revenge before he can move on to working out who might have wanted to kill Bobby Forrest.

Hardy is relentless, which is the quality that has made him such an enduringly popular character. He is undeterred by the fact that his case appears to flounder and change perspective and, if anything, finds himself more galvanised into action. This is the Cliff Hardy that keeps the readers coming back for more.
I wasn’t sleeping well. A matter of loneliness and a feeling that I wasn’t accomplishing as much as  I should. So I was happy about making an early start. They say everyone is working longer hours these days and I assumed it applied to people in the security business, especially senior people if they wanted to stay senior. And why not me as well?

What is made obvious as Comeback unfolds is that Cliff Hardy is back and ready to continue on for quite a few more cases yet. He has been able to adapt to the modern world with the online presence and modern technologies required to survive. His old-fashioned detective skills are still relevant and equip him with the arsenal to get the job done.

Most importantly, he still has the passion and the fire to perform strongly and this is not only important for him as a character but is also important for the reader because it ensures that Cliff Hardy remains believable.

There is a shift in pace in the way Comeback unfolds and it is more methodical in the way in which Hardy goes about his investigations. Put this down to his advancing age, but also to the years of experience he has had in his job. Cliff can still dish out the punishment but he is also taking his knocks and has to spend more time in the gym to keep himself fit. The medication that he is taking for his heart trouble (Deep Water) highlights the fact that this is a guy dealing with real life issues and just trying to do his job to scratch out a living the best way he knows how.

Find a listing of the entire Cliff Hardy series as well as other works by visiting the Peter Corris page at Crime Down Under. Get all of the official news and information by checking out the Peter Corris website.

Australian Books Read - December 2012

It has been a month of returning to the passion that I have a great commitment to, namely reading Australian crime fiction. This has come after spending a few months leaning more towards books written by overseas authors. The return has reminded me of the wealth of talent that is being produced by our local authors. Actually, to check my pile of books waiting to be read, the talent pool appears to be on the rise.

In December, I finished reading the following books by Australian authors.

Thrill City by Leigh Redhead
Wyatt by Garry Disher
Murder and Redemption by Noel Mealey
Comeback by Peter Corris

This represents far less than half the books that I read this month but it also represents all of the books that I read that were published in the last decade. My aim over the next year is to move my focus more towards the local market and I expect my reading numbers to drastically increase.

Keeping The Balance

I am primarily a reader of hardboiled and noir crime novels with a great liking for the older detective series. This is where series by Disher, Corris and Temple, among others, have provided me with great pleasure.

Obviously, not all Australian crime novels meet my preferences with some of the "romantic thrillers" being forced past my eyes and into my brain. To stop from becoming jaded from all of the local content I am also balancing out my effort by continuing to read through detective series from some overseas established authors.

I have recently started making my way through Bill Pronzini's Nameless detective series and intend on continuing through until I have read the entire oeuvre. I have also recently discovered John Lutz and even though they are a little difficult to track down here in Australia (at least, for a reasonable price) I want to make my way through his entire Alo Nudger series of 10 novels plus one short story collection.

I think if I can keep my reading selection well balanced it will ensure that it will remain fun rather than becoming more of a chore.

That said, there are still Peter Corris books for me to read not to mention books by many of the lesser known but just as talented authors. Sitting on the stand next to my bed is a pile of books from Corris' Cliff Hardy series and they are going to be read during January. I also have The Cartographer by Peter Twohig and Ludo by Boyd Anderson to read and they will be read and reviewed by the end of next month too.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reading Notes: Wyatt by Garry Disher

The 7th book in the Wyatt series by Garry Disher, appropriately titled “Wyatt” has prompted me to do something that I almost never do, I have re-read the book! Not only that, I enjoyed it just as much the second time through. So rather than simply being a Reading Notes post, this is more of a Re-Reading Notes.

For those who have never read them, the books in the Wyatt series are a little different to the majority of crime novels because the main character is a professional criminal. Very similar to the Parker series written by Richard Stark this is a hardboiled crime series that turns the bad guy into a good guy in the eye of the reader. It gives the story a fresh perspective.

In this book Wyatt gets involved in a plan to rob a jeweller of his stash of precious stones as he delivers them to other jewellery stores. He has a preference for stealing from crooks and the jeweller qualifies because he tends to shift stolen goods among the legitimate goods. Although usually extremely careful in the jobs he pulls and the people he works with, this job goes sour in two very important factors. The first is that he is double crossed by one of his accomplices and the second is that the loot turns out to be stolen bearer bonds worth millions rather than the expected stones.

Wyatt is driven by two powerful motivating factors. First, the man who betrayed him must pay. Revenge is one of the qualities that marks Wyatt as a character of great interest and, when he has been crossed, there is no-one more determined or ruthless. Second, Wyatt still wants to come out of this with some kind of pay off and those bearer bonds are worth taking a risk over.

What makes the book, and the entire series for that matter, so enjoyable is the fact that there is rarely a wasted word. Events unfold very quickly and this ensures the story moves along at a good pace. Wyatt is a character who is not tied down by the same types of emotions that the normal person is. He is concerned only with how he is going to solve the problem that sits directly in front of him. Attacks of conscience and emotion don’t play a part in how he operates and this frees him up to get on with the more important (and more interesting) tasks of planning and carrying out his operations.

Many have noted the similarity to Donald Westlake's Parker series that he writes under the Richard Stark pseudonym. In Wyatt, Garry Disher has left little doubt about the comparison and has included at least three hat tips for fans of both series:

1. One of Wyatt’s accomplices has been given the surname of Stark, in this case her name is Lydia Stark
2. To get himself out of trouble when thrown in the drunk tank, Wyatt borrows the identity of the man next to him. The identity that he uses is Parker.
3. Wyatt’s home is a pair of apartments that are housed in a highrise complex called the Westlake Towers.

As already mentioned, Wyatt is the 7th book in the series and this book ends a 13 year hiatus in the series. If you feel compelled to get started on the entire series I have provided the complete list below.

Kickback (1991)
Paydirt (1992)
Deathdeal (1993)
Crosskill (1994)
Port Vila Blues (1995)
The Fallout (1997)
Wyatt (2010)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Thrill City by Leigh Redhead

My copy of Thrill City (pub. Allen & Unwin) has been lying on my bookshelf for over a year and I was happy to rediscover it just last week. It prompted me to put aside the book I was in the process of reading and immerse myself in another Simone Kirsch investigation.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the work of Leigh Redhead, she has written a private investigator series featuring former stripper and now occasional PI Simone Kirsch. Thrill City is the fourth book in the series following on from Peepshow, Rubdown and Cherry Pie. The series borders on the edge of the hardboiled realm tempered by the inclusion of a witty and occasionally cynical turn of phrase to keep things just light enough to raise the occasional smirk.

My Brief Review

As for Thrill City, it opens with the news that Kirsch has finally become a licensed private investigator and is now able to strike out on her own. The Melbourne-based former stripper is going to have a go at making a go of it alone and is settling into the job of snapping photos of workers comp insurance scam artists and the like.

The mundane, everyday life of the PI is broken up when crime author Nick Austin walks into her office and asks that she allow him to ride along with her for a couple of days so that he can research for his next novel. It’s easy money for Kirsch and she agrees to the proposition. But there’s no such thing as easy money and a series of weird scenes at a weekend writer’s convention winds up with a dead body with Simone plunked right in the middle.

Nick Austin disappears and the police are on his trail with Simone now key to their inquiries. The action moves fast and culminates in an exciting showdown that starts in Broken Hill and finishes well into the empty expanses of the Australian desert.

When Simone Kirsch works as a PI the story flows quickly and smoothly and it remains consistently interesting. The problem I had, and this is coming from a reader who prefers the hardboiled genre, was that personal issues were continually allowed to get in the way of the story which severely hampered its flow. Simone was way too concerned with how her boyfriend, Sean, would react to her investigation (he didn’t react well) and she was repeatedly intimidated and restricted by other male characters in her life. It definitely bogged down the story with a lot of unnecessary guff.

Too often Kirsch was hamstrung by worries about what other people thought. Would Sean approve? Would he get angry with her for investigating? Who Cares! I found myself getting irritated with her hesitancy, pleading with her to get on and investigate the damn case. After all, that was why I opened the pages of the book in the first place.

When she finally throws caution to the wind it is as if the chain that was holding her back snaps and the everything goes into fast forward in an out of control rush. She lurches into unstoppable action as she goes all out on her search for the missing Nick Austin. All hell breaks loose in fine fashion and we are treated to a free-flowing ending.

It is obvious that Redhead has had some fun with her treatment of the crime fiction literary field taking a few stabs at the profession in which she herself works. There is a sense of fun over the way some authors are portrayed as well as a few stabs at the literary establishment.

Thrill City drags Simone Kirsch further into the private investigation profession, dirties her up a bit and probably adds a scar or two, if not physically then definitely mentally. It appears that there is more work in store for Kirsch to throw herself at.

Thrill City can be bought from the following locations: for US based readers. for UK based readers. for Australian readers

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A New Angela Savage Book To Be Released in 2013

In her recent blog post as part of David Whish-Wilson’s Next Big Thing meme Angela Savage revealed that the title of her next book is The Dying Beach. She went on to add that the book is expected to be released in July 2013.

As with her first two books, Behind the Night Bazaar and The Half-Child, the new book will feature Australian private investigator Jayne Keeney and is set in Thailand. The book will be published by Text Publishing.

This is definitely good news for the fans of the Jayne Keeney series which started off in fine style with Behind the Night Bazaar (which was short-listed for the 2007 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel) and was then followed up by the outstanding The Half-Child. If you haven’t had a chance to read one or both of these books, you’ve now been given a good 6 months to make the effort and read them before the new book is released. It will be well worth the effort.

For those who want to know more about the forthcoming book, Angela reveals quite a bit about the premise behind the book’s storyline, the inspiration for the story as well as few other choice tidbits. Take a look at Angela’s entry in the Next Big Thing on her blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

P.D. Martin Turns to E-Books with Hell's Fury

For those who have been looking for P.D. Martin’s latest books in the traditional bookstores the reason you haven’t found them is because they are e-books.

After more than two years P.D. Martin has published a new novel. This follows five books in the Sophie Anderson series as well as a novella and a couple of short stories. The book is titled Hell’s Fury and has been published as a Kindle and Smashwords e-book.

This is good news for all fans of P.D. Martin novels and I am sure there are many who have been anxiously waiting for the next book to be published.

Hell’s Fury is not a Sophie Anderson novel. Instead it is a spy novel and by all accounts is a cracking read. In fact, the book was started around the same time as Body Count (the first Sophie Anderson book) but has sat unfinished for years. A series of events that Phillipa discusses on her website has led to the book being finished and then published as an e-book.

The good news for those who have enjoyed Martin’s novels in the past is that it can be quickly and easily downloaded from either Amazon or Smashwords for only $3.95.

It is also possible to buy the Sophie Anderson e-book novella titled Coming Home plus a pair of short stories that have been bundled together in Kindle format titled The Missing . All of them can be found at Amazon.