The best new crime reads in August



Lapse by Sarah Thornton

Deep in the middle of both winter and the AFL season, there are few things more readable than ex-corporate lawyer Sarah Thornton’s Lapse. When Clementine Jones leaves her old, untenable life in Sydney behind, she chooses the regional town of Katinga to hole up in, trying to reinvent herself – or to push the old Clementine away. No longer a lawyer, now the local footy coach, she’s the talk of the town as she brings the team’s decades-long losing streak to a close and spearheads their finals chances. So when her star player, Clancy, quits as the season draws to a close, everyone around wants answers – and so does Clem. But asking them in a town so averse to answering them might just see Clem having to answer some questions of her own – questions she’s already fled hundreds of kilometres to avoid. As her investigation into Clancy’s departure takes a turn for the dangerous, she must decide who she needs to take out of the firing line – and if she’s willing to take herself out of it too.

Clementine is a character so deeply damaged that she can’t help but inflict damage on others – by shutting out friendly locals who try and get close, or, when her carefully crafted simple life starts to show cracks, by helping out. She doesn’t want redemption for what she’s done in the past, she just wants to move on, despite not being able to see anything beyond the next day or three. But Clem’s still got a spark of her old self, the one with confidence and a clear future, and sometimes that fires up again – whether when coaching a team of has-beens into local legends, or fighting for what is right on a murky moral ground. Tackling Clem’s guilt and shame with sympathetic and honest clarity, Thornton’s debut is a small-town, high-stakes, mid-season tale that you don’t need to love footy to enjoy – but it’s always advisable to wear a beanie and scarf for your August reading anyway.



The Warehouse by Rob Hart (Available 13 August)

In the near-ish future, life isn’t so grand. The climate crisis has seen low-lying coastal areas flooded. Violence is part of the everyday narrative. Jobs are scarce now that other, cheaper ways have been found for doing just about everything. Enter, Cloud: a business that sells everything you need in life, and can deliver it almost immediately. It’s not just a business, but a way of life – literally, in fact, now that you can live in the same place you work. Paxton has just started his new job for Cloud, the company that ruined his previous life, and meets Zinnia, who’s also new at Cloud, but has a lot of secrets and one hell of a plan. As Gibson, the man who started Cloud, faces his own mortality, the company – definitely not based on any real-life business – faces the truth of what happens when freedom ain’t so free any more.


The Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby

One unassuming morning, magazine editor Anna goes away on a work trip to Greece and kisses her family goodbye as usual – however, what she is doing is anything but. The plan that Anna has for her future ties in with her past, from all those years ago when Anna and her university friends Meg and David were just starting to make their way in the world. It was then that they met Harry, a journalist with the capacity to turn everybody’s lives upside down. All these years later, Anna and David are married, Meg has disappeared without a trace, and Anna has been hiding something for a very long time. This is a twisting and intimate espionage thriller from the granddaughter of real-life British double-agent Kim Philby.


The Other Mrs Miller by Allison Dickson

Phoebe Miller is not doing wonderfully. From the outside, of course she is: she’s beautiful, rich, has a handsome husband, and spends all of her days drinking beside her pool. Inside, however, she’s miserable, lonely, and rudderless. Her successful father, recently exposed as a Weinstein-esque figure, looms over her life, even in death. But things are about to spark her life back into action. Unless, of course, her spark is extinguished. Dickson trickles suspense like blood dripping from a countertop, and the plot will flip you right over. A riveting slow-burn.


City of Windows by Robert Pobi (6 August)

It’s below freezing in New York, and a man has just been shot while he was driving down a Manhattan street, and a civilian was taken out with him. The mechanics of how that shot could land – through a car, in the wind and snow, from far away – are so complicated that the grizzled FBI agents investigating have only one person they can ask for help: Lucas Page, a man with something of a gift. Page can turn the physical world into numbers and measurements and find the path of a bullet in no time. Except now, years after leaving the FBI and becoming a professor and foster carer, he no longer has the time to help. But that doesn’t stop anyone from asking, and it turns out the victim is Page’s old partner. Besides, this death is just the first, and Page needs to make sure he doesn’t become the last. A gritty and snappy procedural.


Beyond Reasonable Doubt by Gary Bell (Available 5 August)

Gary Bell, QC, has written a legal thriller starring Elliot Rook, QC, with obvious but never tedious insider knowledge. Rook is a man whose past has been hidden for years with stories of an Eton education and a respectable upbringing. In reality, he was a homeless criminal when he decided to become a barrister, and despite those youthful years, he’s a more-than respected silk. Just as he finally meets a junior barrister whose smarts and background remind him of his younger self, he’s confronted by a case to which he can’t say no: violent white supremacist and long-term bastard Billy Barber is accused of murder and could reveal everything Rook has worked so hard to hide. Informative, addictive, and soon to be a BBC series.


See You at the Toxteth by Peter Corris (Available 5 August)

It was one of the hardest times in Australian crime fiction when Peter Corris passed away last year, and to honour him, editor (and wife of Corris) Jean Bedford has edited a gorgeous-looking compendium of Corris’s writing. Opening with Cliff Hardy’s youthful days and moving throughout the years as Cliff gets a little older and savvier, it also includes some of Corris’s much-read crime columns and his ‘ABC of Crime Writing’. Corris has a legacy spanning decades, and those who started reading more Australian crime thanks to his vastly entertaining books will find much in this, as will new readers and everybody in between.


The Day the Lies Began by Kylie Kaden (Available 19 August)

It’s not long after the Moon Festival when Hannah returns from her life in America to her beachside hometown – and things have changed in the intervening years. Molly, Hannah’s teenage sister, is doing Meals on Wheels as part of her community service, and looking after their ailing father. Abbi, her oldest friend, is a parent now, married to overly honest doctor Will. Blake, Abbi’s foster brother, is there to pick Hannah up at the airport, loyal to a fault. The years have changed them all, but now, there’s an undercurrent of something more. Something happened the day of the Moon Festival, and nobody wants to talk about it. Kaden’s Australian beach noir is a simmering pot of small-town mystery.


Where the Dead Go by Sarah Bailey (Available 5 August)

DS Gemma Woodstock has always gone her own way, independent of what those she loves or those in charge tell her to do. Now, she’s headed to Fairhaven, north of Byron Bay, to investigate the murder of a teenager and locate his missing girlfriend. All eyes are on her: Australia is fascinated by the case, and everyone in the small town is watching her too. Never one to undercomplicate things, Gemma has brought her son with her, and a whole heap of baggage; Ben’s father has just died, and the two of them are dealing with their own versions of grief. Gemma also can’t shake off the memory of an old case similar to this one that ended so badly she’s not at all sure of herself any more. Bailey always writes a killer thriller, and this is gritty and real.


The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (Available 20 August)

A woman currently residing at Her Majesty’s pleasure writes a letter to the lawyer she is convinced can save her, but how do you introduce yourself when one look at your name will reveal you as the most loathed person in the country? Rowan is no saint, but she insists she is not capable of murder. Which means that somebody else at Heatherbrae is – and it’s already a house with a reputation of being haunted. What Rowan discovered between those high-tech walls was more sinister than anybody – including the nannies that came before her – could ever have predicted. A proper creepy story of a properly modern haunted house.


Customer favourite Michael Robotham is back with Good Girl, Bad Girl (Hachette, PB, Was $32.99 SP $29.99); James Patterson teams up again with Australian crime superstar Candice Fox with The Inn (Century, PB, $32.99); Daniel Silva’s new spy thriller The New Girl (HarperCollins, PB, Was $32.99 SP $29.99); Gilly Macmillan’s domestic noir The Nanny (Century, PB, $32.99); Anne Holt’s A Grave for Two (Corvus, PB, $29.99); journalist Shiv Malik’s real-life story of an ex-jihadist in The Messenger (Guardian Books, PB, $29.99); the entertaining Vaseem Khan’s Bad Day at the Vulture Club (Mulholland, PB, $32.99); a Korean-American courtroom drama in Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek (H&S, PB, $29.99); J.P. Delaney’s The Perfect Wife has no memory of anything, including her husband, but everything’s probably fine, right? (Quercus, PB, $32.99); a shocking cult thriller with Alex Marwood’s The Poison Garden (Sphere, PB, $29.99); Lynda La Plante’s The Dirty Dozen (Zaffre, PB, $32.99); beloved French author Fred Vargas’s This Poison Will Remain (Harvill Secker, PB, $32.99); Jørn Lier Horst’s non-holiday-destination The Cabin (Michael Joseph, PB, $32.99); a glorious, quantum physics-sliding-doors-time-warp in Alyson Rudd’s The First Time Lauren Pailing Died (HQ Fiction, PB, $29.99); a community of suspicion in Shari Lapena’s Someone We Know (Bantam, PB, $32.99); Tim Ayliffe’s State of Fear (S&S, PB, $29.99); Laura Lippman’s historical Lady in the Lake (Faber, 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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Sarah Thornton

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