2022 Crime fiction highlights

Each December, as we barrel towards Christmas, I really enjoy looking back over the year in crime. There are books that feel like they've been a part of the crime canon for years; there are some that I still refer to as 'this new book' even though they've been out for ten months; and there are just so, so many good titles, each and every year. 

As the year began, we had a slew of great Australian books — Maryrose Cuskelly's searing, historical canefields murder case, The Cane; Dinuka McKenzie's hit book about a crime in a flood (back before such things became Far Too Real), The Torrent; its polar opposite in Michael Trant's West Australian drought book about an old dogger out to save a man abandoned to the desert, Wild Dogs;  and a much more urban cosy crime set in the art world with Michael Levitt's, The Gallerist

This followed with Aoife Clifford's watery, gripping coastal mystery, When We Fall; Jane Caro's brutal book about domestic abuse, The Mother; a new Caleb Zelic book by the excellent Emma Viskic, Those Who Perish; and the thrillingly-slash-violently local Brunswick Street Blues by Sally Bothroyd. I can't breeze through March's releases without mentioning Dolly Parton's very first crime book, Run Rose Run, written with James Patterson (I can't even make a joke that it was Powerhouse Patterson's 'first book out this month' because is was his SECOND.)

We had Nina D. Campbell's revenge thriller Daughters of Eve, an extreme favourite of my colleague Julia Jackson, who did many of Dead Write's reviews this year. As we get close to the season when many will catch up with their loved ones, it seems pertinent to remind you of Benjamin Stevenson's murderous family reunion thriller Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone; for everyone who's thinking of a beachside retreat, don't forget Alice Clark-Platts' locked-room paradise thriller The Cove. Shelley Burr released the gripping Wake, a rural Australian thriller with a podcaster chasing an old crime; West Australian Dervla McTiernan headed to America for her simmering prison justice novel, The Murder Rule; one of Australia's most notorious hangmen, Robert Howard, has a darkly enthralling true crime book dedicated to those he executed in Rachel Franks' The Uncommon Hangman.

As we got into the wintery middle of the year, we were warmed by Sulari Gentill's contemporary Boston university mystery, The Woman in the Library; Hayley Scrivenor's widely acclaimed small-town thriller, Dirt Town; Adrian McKinty's definitely-not-French-Island-set The Island, full of sharks and action-packed revenge; and Pamela Hart's dramatically entertaining rock n roll mystery, An A-list for Death. Margaret Hickey followed up her bestselling Cutter's End with a dead body and a missing cop in Stone Town; Anna Snoekstra sends her main character all over Australia to escape her past in Out of Breath; two adult sisters cause turmoil in Helen Fitzgerald's psychological thriller, Keep Her Sweet; and Kimberley Starr heads to Victoria's beautiful hills in the missing-person mystery Map of Night.

Customers often ask me for spy thrillers, and there's sadly not much around at the moment. I was thrilled, therefore, when we received Alias Emma, a rollicking spy chase through London by definitely-her-real-name Ava Glass. Michael Bennett's shattering Better the Blood, with a Maori detective defending mistakes in her past, was as devastating as it was fascinating; something that can also be said for true crime champion Vikki Petraitis' first foray into fiction, The Unbelieved, which tackles sexual assault in small towns that try to sweep such things under the rug. Julia loved No Country for Girls by Emma Styles, a rollicking car-chase across Western Australia in a lime-green ute with a bag of gold; Richard Osman made another bag of gold of his own after releasing his third Thursday Murder Club title, The Bullet that Missed; Brett Adams went meta in his literary-professor mystery Blood & Ink; Petronella McGovern unleashed a whole town of secrets with The Liars; and Peter Papathanasiou's detective George Manolis goes on a retreat to Greece (but gets anything but rest) in The Invisible.

As the year drew to a close, Jane Harper released another book to cheering hordes with another — and maybe the last? — Aaron Falk book, this time set in wine country, with Exiles; Inga Vesper moves from the 50s to the 70s (but also back to the 30s) with This Wild, Wild Country; Emeric Pressburger's classic, engrossing unreliable narrator of a noir, The Glass Pearls, was rereleased; Vikki Wakefield delved into adult crime with her missing-child-returned psychological twister, After You Were Gone; Peter Doyle revisits his police detective uncle's old case files in the true crime grab-bag, Suburban Noir; and Chris Hammer releases another rural-set tome with The Tilt.

Holly Throsby closed out the year with the 1990s-set gentle slow burn of Clarke; Kerry Greenwood released everyone's aunt's Christmas present with Murder in Williamstown; Pip Drysdale sees some sweet revenge in her newest gripping read, The Next Girl; Garry Disher returns to South Australia and small-town cop Paul Hirschhausen with Day's End; and Oriana Ramunno devastates with her Auschwitz-set Nazi police procedural, Ashes in the Snow.

Of course, there are always absolute gems that I miss in this — there's no way to mention every good book this year! (I can already see my editor sweating at this word count as I send this email.) If you love something I've missed, tell us, tell your friends, borrow it, buy it — and bask in the wonder that is 2022's excellent crime list. Here's to way more horrible (fictional!) crimes committed in 2023!

Cover image for The Woman in the Library

The Woman in the Library

Sulari Gentill

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