Best new crime reads in July

CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH


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Black Teeth by Zane Lovitt

If you are a local who decides to rush out and buy Black Teeth just after you read this review, you’ll find yourself with the ultimate literary luxury: reading a book in July in Melbourne set in a Melbourne July not so long ago. When you turn the pages you’ll be wearing gloves, just like Jason Ginaff does a lot of the time, since he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t like the cold, or leaving fingerprints. But what he does like is finding the digital fingerprints of others: businesses can have their potential employees investigated, their deleted MySpace pages and embarrassing pasts retrieved. Potential friends can have their Twitter accounts hacked to see what they are like. And those off the grid – like retired detective and technophobe Glen Tyan – can still be found, if Jason so wanted to find him. Or find Rudy Alamein, direly awkward twentysomething, rich, alone, bitter and full of revenge, waiting in the dark with a jagged tattoo on his hand. One that Jason has as well.

Lovitt was the Ned Kelly Award-winning author of the collection The Midnight Promise, and this full-length novel is another testament to his skills as a storyteller. The voice of Jason, an ungainly tech-head who would righteously mock me in online forums for using the phrase ‘tech-head’, is clear and true: a man shrouded in anxiety and embedded in the world of his laptop, infrequently surfacing under a new identity to face the world and stitch someone up. Life is fairly standard for him until tracking down the blustery Tyan and the unpredictable Alamein leads him to the final days of retribution invested in a decades-old crime. Thick with deception, and with a core mystery that unravels along with Jason’s moral code, this is a tale both dangerous and faintly absurd in the best kind of way – when a non-professional investigator stumbles into a dangerous situation and we follow gladly along with him.


NEW CRIME FICTION


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Bad Blood by Gary Kemble

Recently I had a customer ask me for an occult-based crime book, and I was uncharacteristically lost for words. Now I hope I see them again, so I can push Bad Blood into their hands: this, the second book by Brisbane-based Kemble from excellent local imprint Echo. Harry Hendrick is recovering both physically and mentally from the bizarre events of Skin Deep, but what happened lingers in the memory of those around him. So, when another inexplicable crime turns up, the latest in a series of gruesome suicides, the police discreetly knock on Harry’s door to see if he, someone who can work around the usual structures, can help out – especially since, in case he was hesitant, they have some footage of a moment in his life he’d rather forget. But Harry’s quest sees him in a seductive danger he might not be able – or willing – to escape from.


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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This is the story of a dinner party – two couples, neighbours, one childless, and one with a six-month-old baby next door and their baby monitor with them to listen in on their daughter. Each half hour they return to check on her. And when they finally go home at one in the morning, she’s not there. Everyone in my own house was long asleep by the time I finished my single-night rampage through Shari Lapena’s debut novel, trying to find out what happened to little Cora. Her parents, Anne and Marco, are plagued with both guilt and hate mail for leaving her behind, and the two of them are at odds with each other, full of blame and the smaller-scale conflicts of a disintegrating marriage – and the kind of large-scale secrets that make reading such a thrill.


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Devour by L. A. Larkin

Seven words into Devour I was looking up the word ‘kalabatic’ (it’s a type of freezing wind), but fifty pages later I wasn’t stopping for anything. A drilling engineer dies of hypothermia in Antarctica, and the project leader suspects murder – and sabotage of the British project that is trying to beat the Russians to the potential life in a frozen underground lake. Following a tragic end to the story she was researching in Kabul, investigative journalist Olivia Wolfe is dispatched to Antarctica to give her distance from Afghanistan and to figure out what’s happening in the ice. But Wolfe is a woman prone to enemies – will being on the frozen continent stop them? Australian-British Larkin is the kind of author who speeds up the heartrate, makes you look over your shoulder and almost convinces you of the need to put on toasty gloves to read this icy thriller.


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The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller

Arwood is a bored soldier thrown headfirst into chaos as the Iraq War draws to a bloody close – and who leaves his post a man haunted by his decisions and the tragic fate he inadvertently caused a young girl in a green dress. (Note: as she is an actual youthful girl, this narrowly avoids my frustration at being another ‘girl’ book.) Twenty-two years later, Arwood contacts Benton, the journalist who was there with him that day, and tells him to turn on the television. On the news, a girl in a green dress waiting patiently in a queue in Kurdistan, and one of the victims of a mortar attack. But they already saw her die once, decades earlier – and so the men return to the Middle East, to find what is a girl, or a ghost. Miller’s literary warzones are a palpable, dusty experience, the shells crashing in your ears, the danger, the terror, the humour all immediate on the page, death and brutality just a sentence away from humanity, beauty and open cracked hearts of those close to the war.


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Black Water by Louise Doughty

Part of an accidental title theme this month – the excellent Michel Bussi, author of After the Crash has a book out this month called Black Water Lilies – here is the next book by Doughty, who wrote the word-of-mouth bestseller Apple Tree Yard. There are apples here too, the ones John Harper buys at the night market at Ubud, where he is currently staying in a hut halfway up a mountain. He has been sent there by his organisation for a break after something went wrong – too wrong – but on that mountain, in that hut, he is certain he has been sent there to meet his end. Surrendering to the inevitable, he goes for a drink – and there, he meets Rita, and the past he has suppressed, decades of secrecy and pain and life, is laid bare. Doughty is the master of small, vivid moments – the way someone holds their hands, how the rain drains all other sound from the world  – and creates a humid, oppressive environment in a tropical paradise and all that led Harper there.


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I am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist (translated by Marlaine Delargy)

Here’s something to absolutely not take on a camping holiday with you: Lindqvist’s new mind-bending horror-thriller, where a group of holidaymakers – two young families, two older couples, a handful of pets – wake up fresh one morning and get out of their caravans only to find that the world has been transformed into nothing but their vans, their cars, a blue sunless sky, perfectly even green grass, and radios that pick up 1960s Swedish pop. Lindqvist, who loves to plumb the depths of humanity by changing the rules of the world we live in, asks: in a world of limited paradise, who are you, and what would you become? (Apart from relieved that you won’t get any more bills.) And perhaps, there is something out there, but how far do you have to travel in a blank expanse before something changes? Let the author of Let the Right One In keep you awake, seeing as you never know what will happen when you go to sleep around him.


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A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas (translated by Sian Reynolds)

My colleague and Readings Art expert Margaret is a huge fan of Vargas’s slightly offbeat, utterly absorbing French crime fiction, and will cheer at the release of a new Commissaire Adamsberg book. Here, a series of deaths that appear on the surface to be suicides (but as we all know, they rarely are in fiction) are found to be connected by an Icelandic tour group from a decade earlier. There’s a mysterious symbol to translate, an alarming throwback to the French Revolution via a link with (deep breath) The Association for the Study of the Writings of Maximilien Robespierre, and something chillingly supernatural in the frozen climes of Iceland. A four-time winner of the CWA International Dagger, Vargas is a proven balm for winter.


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Streets of Darkness by A. A. Dhand

Available 16 July

Detective Inspector Harry Virdee is not exactly a Detective Inspector any longer – pending his suspension for an assault that was possibly justified but entirely out of the bounds of the law. His wife doesn’t know about the suspension just yet – she is overdue with their first baby, and with the way their relationship has already cracked the foundations of their own families, he doesn’t want to upset her. But a recently elected politician is found – by Virdee – strung up on a wall, and with a boss on the brink of retirement and a soon-to-be politically charged festival happening that night, Virdee finds himself tasked with finding the killer and granted the freedom of the already suspended, but with all the same connections – and the ones he’d always had, and kept to himself. This is a dark, brutal and addictive story of a town simmering with despair and tensions, boiled down to one Sikh detective, married to a Muslim, ostracised by the world, but still willing to fight for it.


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When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson

Available 26 July

Inspector Alan Banks is Inspector no longer–for now he’s risen a few syllables to Detective Superintendent, and faces the kind of crime that’s all too real, as he investigates a decades-old sexual assault where the perpetrator not only got away with it, but rose steadily to become Danny Caxton, one of Britain’s most beloved celebrities. Banks is determined to see justice served, but the media frenzy around it and the grim realisation of the path the investigation is taking is a stark reminder of the enormity of the job his promotion entails. Meanwhile, DI Annie Cabbot has another murder to solve–the brutal murder of a girl found beaten to death on a desolate roadside, the victim a fourteen-year-old girl, the same age as Caxton’s victim, years before. A compelling and heartbreaking look at the treatment of women over the years, by one of Britain’s bestselling writers.


Fiona Hardy blogs about Crime Fiction at readingkills.com and puts together the Dead Write column for the Readings Monthly newsletter.

The Girl in Green

The Girl in Green

Derek Miller

$32.99Buy now

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