The best new crime reads in April
Daughters of Eve by Nina D. Campbell
In Sydney one bright clear day, a high-profile barrister is publicly gunned down on the courthouse steps. Not long after, another bloke in Melbourne suffers the same fate, and then another in Sydney. Before long, the violence escalates across Australia and more blokes are dead. Yeah, that’s right, the victims are all men. Empathetic yet steely detective Emilia Hart, a seasoned investigator of family and gendered violence, witnesses the first death, and is quick to find the link between all the victims: all are perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence. The culprits dishing out this natural justice (or feminist revenge) is the elusive group Daughters of Eve, but with so many victims, panic ensues, and the police commissioners are quick to turn to the army for help. The irony is not lost on our intelligent protagonist: the army isn’t brought in to combat domestic violence despite there being substantially more victims.
Even though all the corpses in this book are men, there are also many female victims: all the women Hart encounters in the course of her investigation – herself included – were raped and/or assaulted by someone they know. The devastating end to this rollercoaster investigation proves to be a ride that even Hart wasn’t prepared for.
Jacqueline Bublitz, author of one of my favourite books of 2021 (Before You Knew My Name), thought this was ‘unputdownable’. I have to agree. Not only is this a sensational thriller with a riveting plot, it’s also a highly intelligent, thought- provoking read. I commend Nina D. Campbell for responding to this huge issue in our society, in a different way from other crime writers such as Bublitz and Louise Doughty. Meaningful change shouldn’t demand the sacrifice of women’s lives or the kind of revenge dished out here, however fun it is to read!
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
Like Peter Swanson’s Nine Lives, which is also published this month, Benjamin Stevenson’s latest offering recalls the Golden Age of the crime canon. Think of writers such as Christie, Stout, Sayers and Chesterton, whose books carry guiding principles for the perfect murder, and who set the bar exceedingly high for today’s crime fiction exponents. The extended Cunningham family are reuniting at a Jindabyne snow resort to celebrate Michael Cunningham’s release from jail. When a blizzard sets in, trapping the family, the shenanigans really begin and it’s left to our guide, Ernest, to make sense of the chaos for all our sakes. A rollicking, blackly comic read, with a really juicy ending!
We Know You Remember by Tove Alsterdal & Alice Menzies (trans.)
Contempt for Olof Hagström is pervasive in his hometown when he returns. For the community, his return recalls the dreadful time when local teenager Lina vanished, presumed murdered, to which Olof, then also a youth finding himself in the spotlight, provided a confession. As with the earlier case, when Olof’s father is murdered in the present day, the lack of evidence seems to hamper any developments. Capable detective Eira Sjödin goes delving into the past for answers, yielding some incredible results that prove to be both revelatory and redemptive, highlighting abject failures of the investigative process. With a detailed plot exploring culpability and loss, and a twisty resolution, this will surely appeal to fans of the Scandi police-procedural.
Into the Dark by Fiona Cummins
Piper Holden and Julianne Hillier have been best friends for years, but on one blustery morning, when Julianne arrives at her friend’s house for a run, she discovers the Holden family home devoid of its occupants. Unsettlingly, blood droplets coat the tinkling chandelier glass and phones sit idle on a benchtop, recalling that famous ship, the Marie Celeste, drifting listlessly on the open ocean, not a shipmate in sight. As this story unfolds, tiny conflicting details begin to compound one by one, snowballing to reveal a layered conspiracy, more deception, and some slightly shady coppers too. Just as Shakespeare’s conniving Lady Macbeth mused that she didn’t think the old man MacDuff to have so much blood in him, I didn’t think it was possible to fit so much plot in one book!
Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew
That fabulous saying about revenge being a dish best served cold doesn’t so much refer to how cold-hearted you have to be to ‘off’ someone, but rather how you should take your time with it, like literature’s great avenger Edmond Dantes in Dumas’ tour de force The Count of Monte Cristo. Haven’t read it? I’ll forgive you just this once. While Little Nothings might be a much shorter read, it certainly burns slowly and languidly, drunk on poolside cocktails like protagonist Liv and her besties. Three weeks’ away in Corfu as a group with their blokes and kiddos in tow promises to be reinvigorating for Liv following a period of intense upheaval and stress. However, when a series of niggling things (little nothings) start to bug her, Liv is forced to reckon with her friends both new and old. A moody psychological thriller that doesn’t follow your traditional crime structure.
The Cove by Alice Clark-Platts
Tropical islands, luxury holiday resorts and monsoonal climes are staple ingredients in crime novels, and Alice Clark-Platts has confidently utilised all three with great effect in this new release, The Cove. A weekend away at Turtle Cove Resort, beneath a dormant volcano, seems like the perfect escape for the Fisher and Carter families from the pressures of work and domestic life. For Louise Carter, with her newborn daughter, the resort has the opposite effect, and being away only exacerbates her feelings of isolation and resentment towards her self-absorbed novelist-husband Adam. Heady evenings fuelled by alcohol keep the conflict bubbling away, while a mysterious conspiracy within the local fishing economy threatens to ruin not just their holiday, but also their lives.
The Devil’s Bargain by Stella Rimington
In this new book, Stella Rimington weaves a tragic and dark plot concerning ex-Soviet ‘deep-cover illegals’ (think The Americans TV series). Into this mix she throws police constable Harry Bristow and new protagonist Manon Tyler, an astute CIA intelligence analyst uprooted from HQ in Langley to grey London. After spotting his nemesis, who is now highly placed in the British establishment, Harry becomes determined to right some past wrongs that continue to haunt, leading him to enter a Faustian bargain to better position himself within his target’s circle. But who is the mouse in this cat-and-mouse relationship? And while Harry struggles to atone for complicity and bribery, Manon’s investigative nous proves her making. A solid tale from this grand dame of spy fiction.
Three Assassins by Kotaro Isaka & Sam Malissa (trans.)
There’s something wonderfully cinematic about Kotaro Isaka’s books. In this new offering, Three Assassins, you get the sense of the characters hurtling around Japan’s capital in cars with growling engines, their movements in and out of the shadows, their actions, unnoticed by the general public. In this environment lurk assassins Whale, whose victims are compelled to suicide; Cicada, who’s full of swagger; and the mysterious Pusher. The widowed Suzuki is a new recruit to the underworld network Fräulein, and when he witnesses a hit on Tenahara Junior, the son of Fräulein’s leader, he becomes embroiled in a tangled series of events that can only end badly for the rival assassins. An absolutely thrilling atmospheric read.