The best new crime reads in April



Eight Lives by Susan Hurley

When a young Vietnamese-Australian doctor makes a medical breakthrough, inventing a drug that could essentially help broken immune systems fix themselves, everything seems as golden as the name bestowed upon him: David Tran, Golden Boy. But seven months after David appears on television, celebrating the financial backing that will lead to testing, trials, and a hopeful future, he is dead. How and why he died are the questions everyone is asking. And so the story of how he ended up dead on a hospital room floor is told by those who know the most: David’s sister, Ly, struggling with everyone’s secrets; his childhood best friend, Miles, whose family supported David’s for years; David’s frosty, sanctimonious and occasionally self-aware girlfriend, Abigail; his research assistant, Rosa, overwhelmed with everyone’s expectations, including her own; and Foxy, the fix-it man who needs to find out to make sure that David’s death doesn’t affect any of his clients in any negative way.

This back-and-forth in time and voice is expertly written, with the slow release of everyone’s knowledge and discoveries painting a picture of the brilliant David that is much more complex than any ‘Golden Boy’ persona. Despite their best efforts, none of the storytellers are able to grasp the full picture, creating an intimate reading style that makes the book an addictive experience. Hurley’s expertise in the medical field shows, turning monoclonals and mAbs into easily comprehended ideas, and not hiding unknowable secrets within medical terms your Friendly Neighbourhood Bookseller could never parse. This simmering blockbuster will keep you guessing, pull the rug out from under you, make you gasp – and it won’t let up until the very end.



Fled by Meg Keneally (available 15 April)

After co-writing the excellent Monsarrat series with Tom Keneally, Meg Keneally’s first solo outing is a beautiful piece of writing, atmosphere and research. Fled – based on the true story of convict Mary Bryant – follows young, sea-loving Jenny Trelawney, who needs to support her fatherless family and chooses the path of a highwaywoman to make money. When that line of work sees her sentenced ‘beyond the seas’ to Australia, life does not get any easier, but Jenny, strong and true and never one to let the law get in the way, is willing to take charge, come – almost literally – hell or high water.


River of Salt by Dave Warner

In the northern NSW town of Coral Shoals, ex-hitman Blake Saunders has run as far from Philadelphia and his old name as he could. Nothing good could be found back in the States, where his success was measured by Mob bullets and he had been faced with a choice between his brother’s life and his own. In Australia, his success is measured by the patrons of the bar he owns, and his choices are a catalogue of ways to enjoy Australia in the early sixties: surfing, or surf guitar. When a dead body is found in a nearby motel and foreigner Blake is on the constabulary’s radar, the only way to get off it is to resurrect some of those old skills and find the killer himself. Told in Dave Warner’s award-winning laconic style, this will have you on the side of a murderer in about three pages and reaching for Dick Dale albums to read to.


The Woman in Darkness by Charlie Donlea

Rory Moore is a forensic reconstructionist with a sideline in reconstruction of a different, more palatable type. It’s the latter that sees her come out of a self-imposed hiatus to the policing world again, as a bereaved father asks her to mend his daughter’s broken childhood doll – and find her killer in the process. Rory, reluctant to interact with any humans if she can help it, takes it on, but when her father dies of a heart attack, leaving her to peruse his unfinished cases, the world she has tried to shrink expands far beyond her comfort levels. Rory, a genius at everything but social interaction, finds herself investigating the forty-year-old case of a woman who helped find one of Chicago’s worst serial killers and then vanished – and whose story will bring some brutal truths into Rory’s world.


The Silver Road by Stina Jackson, translated by Susan Beard

The Silver Road in Sweden is long, and Lelle knows every part of it now, almost. He has driven it every day since his daughter disappeared there three years ago, dropped off at a bus stop in the morning but not there when the bus arrived fifteen minutes later. There has never been any trace of her, but Lelle is sure he can find her where the police cannot. And then there is Meja, newly arrived by the Silver Road with her mother, avoiding reality by moving in with a man she barely knows in the middle of the forest. Meja is trying to make a new life, while Lelle tries to save one – and, inevitably, their paths converge. You’ll want the endless daylight of this book to read from, all night long.


Metropolis by Philip Kerr (available 9 April)

I feel like I’ve written a lot of paragraphs about Philip Kerr in my time at the helm of Dead Write, and I’m heartbroken that this will be the last one. Kerr passed away in March 2018, leaving Metropolis as his final book about Bernie Gunther, a man in the middle of everything interesting over many decades, countries and novels. Here, we are back in 1928, as Bernie is offered the reins of the murder squad and has the case of the Silesian Station killings dumped squarely in his lap. Four sex workers have been murdered and scalped, and no one seems any closer to finding the killer – until a fifth woman dies, and her father is willing to tear down the world to find out what happened. As the twenties fade away and the horrors of Nazism bleed into the Berlin that Bernie loves so much, the murderer must be found, and Bernie is the man. With his dry asides, generally sarcastic good humour and grim determination, Gunther was a joy to read – and he’ll be sorely missed.


My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

After Gone Girl came out, every second crime book that was published had some version of this on the cover: ‘The next Gone Girl!’ or ‘Better than Gone Girl!’ Half of the books, while good, had barely any similarities. This is the first book with a Gone Girl reference on the cover that I not only understand, but endorse. Here, we have a couple with secrets. There is a dead body of a woman that has been found in a hotel room. That there is a body is not the surprise – but the details of the woman’s death are more shocking to a husband who thinks that he understands his wife. The woman he has loved for years, who helped him build a family. Who knew more about the body than she let on. But the husband is hiding something as well. In fact, almost everyone in the family is – and watching them through these pages is a sickening, riveting, pacy, explosive delight.


Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Hen and Lloyd have just moved into their cosy new house when they make friends with their neighbours, Mira and Matthew. Everything seems very normal and collegial until Hen sees something in Matthew’s study that knocks her flat – and Matthew sees her reaction. There is something deadly in their shared past, but with some of Hen’s recollections skittery at best and non-existent at worst, she needs to know more before she takes it further. Maybe, though, things are not quite as they seem. Swanson – always keeping readers on their toes – returns with another psychological thriller.


Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

If you read enough crime, you become quite uneasy about normal things: moving house, anyone digging a hole, friends going on holidays together … and marriage. In Ward’s Beautiful Bad, ex-soldier Ian and travel writer Maddie meet while overseas, and nearly two decades later, have built themselves a life: house, kid, outward happiness. A 911 call puts paid to all that: now, this house is filled with blood – but whose? And what really happened ten weeks ago when Maddie was injured on a camping trip? Or decades earlier when Maddie fell out with the best friend that introduced them? Back and forth in both time and loyalties, Beautiful Bad will make you wonder who in these pages is truly a killer.


crime0419guiltyparty Four friends witness a crime – but do nothing to help – in Mel McGrath’s The Guilty Party (HQ Fiction, PB, $29.99); moving back home unearths long-buried secrets in Erin Kelly’s Stone Mothers (H&S, PB, $29.99); a missing daughter reappears in Central Park, then runs, and her father would do anything to follow her in Harlan Coben’s Run Away (Century, PB, $32.99); a psychologist’s new client is a teenage girl who can see exactly how people will die in M.J. Arlidge’s A Gift for Dying (Michael Joseph, PB, $32.99); four friends go to an island, but only three return in Icelandic-Agatha-Christie Ragnar Jónasson’s second Hidden Iceland book, The Island (Michael Joseph, PB, $32.99); a woman escaping her past lands a job at an desolate island hotel, where one of the guests may be out for blood, in C.L. Taylor’s Sleep (Avon, PB, $29.99) … and more!

Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about children’s books at Fiona The Hardy.

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Eight Lives

Eight Lives

Susan Hurley

$32.99Buy now

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