The best new crime reads in July
Our crime specialist shares eight great crime reads to look out for this month.
CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH
The Safe Place by Anna Downes
Emily is a receptionist and an aspiring actress in London when her life falls abruptly apart. Fired from her job, dropped by her agent and kicked out of her disgusting flat all at once, she’s at her very lowest point when her old boss Scott comes to her with a proposition: live in his French country home to help his wife renovate their guest house.
It sounds like a dream, and when Emily arrives, it truly is: a glorious, expansive estate with two houses, picturesque gardens, animals, and the beach right nearby. It’s also isolated, without any mobile reception, and there’s something in the main house that feels wrong. But Scott’s wife Nina is luminous, and their daughter Aurelia, while struggling with illness, is responsive to Emily. Life finally seems to be heading in a positive direction – as long as she follows the rules. And doesn’t look too closely behind the crumbling façade of either the property or Scott’s damaged family itself.
British crime has begun to feel very samey recently, but Anna Downes – who now lives in Australia – has brightened up the English psychological thriller and has written a captivating book that kept me intrigued. Emily, despite the flaws that make you despair for her, is an honest and palpably real companion to follow, as is Scott, who gets his own chapters that make you lean into the pages, trying to figure out what’s going on. With enough beautiful vistas to crack your heart right open, and a wide-eyed child to make it bleed, this is a satisfying and devastating debut.
NEW CRIME FICTON
The Bluffs by Kyle Perry
In this unsettling, otherworldly Australian debut, a group of schoolgirls vanish on an excursion in the bluffs of Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers. This isn’t without precedent – thirty years earlier, five girls disappeared nearby – and there’s a legend that people speak of: The Hungry Man. When a body is found, nothing becomes any clearer. On the case is Detective Con Badenhorst, who knows that humans can be as monstrous as anything an imagination can come up with – but with the town’s prime suspect also the father of one of the missing girls and hunting for his own answers, the breathtaking and haunting landscape is holding on tight to the truth.
A Double Life by Charlotte Philby
As her two children get ready for school one morning and her husband chides her about her day, Gabriela – a senior counter-terrorism negotiator – is forced to act like today is a day like any other. She’s back from seven months in Russia that have changed her so much that she is barely the person she used to be, on any level. Elsewhere, Isobel, a journalist for a local paper, walks home from a squat party and sees a terrible attack – and someone knows she saw it. Isobel’s investigation finds much more horror than she realised, and the two women find their paths are about to dangerously intersect.
Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie
While we’re still not allowed to travel, it’s a good time to quench those voyager yearnings with a romantic thriller that paints Hobart and the nearby wilderness as beautiful – and deadly. Tess Atherton is a tour guide whose confidence in herself has been damaged by an accident on Federation Peak. However, she still knows when it’s better to set off with a new tour group and leave Hobart behind, even in winter. In the meantime, Detective Senior Sergeant Jared Denham is investigating a string of crimes that leads to death, and Jai is struggling to see a way out of financial hardship. All along, danger is tracking them all, in this masterly mystery
The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish
Jamie enjoys the smug feeling of commuting to work in the mornings via riverboat instead of the Tube, but the Friday after Christmas his usual companion, Kit, isn’t there at the stop with him. Worse, when he arrives at his usual destination, two people are waiting there for him: police officers, wanting to interview him. Kit’s gone missing, and Jamie was the last person to see him, on the same boat they stand before, on Monday night. The night Kit and Jamie had a fight, and got off the boat together. It looks pretty bad for Jamie, all up, but he didn’t do it, of course. Though he is hiding some secrets, and the evidence is building against him, but surely Jamie didn’t kill his friend. Right?
Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
There are so many great psychological thrillers, police procedurals, and Scandinavian noirs out there, but if you need a break from them, why not try a caper? Beauregard Montage, better known as Bug, is a one-time getaway driver, now a mechanic and a family man. But living in a town racked with racial intolerance sees Bug strapped for cash, and he has to take up a job stealing diamonds – just one last time. We’ve all heard that before, of course, and when things go pear-shaped, Bug faces some hard choices. With enough torque for fans of fast cars and more than enough in the way of characters for those who aren’t, this is a strap-yourself-in, trust- nobody, double-crossing, out-of-control ride from the start.
Never Forget by Michel Bussi
A man is running along the tallest cliff in Europe when he sees first a red scarf hanging from a fence, then the woman standing on the cliff’s edge, staring at him. Then: the woman is dead, on the pebbles below, and the scarf is around her neck. Now everybody thinks he pushed her, but of course, he didn’t. And you believe him, don’t you? This hyper-personal plea of a book, shrouded in sea mist and with the twist ending Bussi is becoming known for, will keep you enthralled and have you asking: is this a coincidence, or a larger plan?
Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry
Cait Monaghan and Rebecca McRae are on a road trip from Texas to New Mexico. At least, that’s what it looks like on the surface, but the two women are strangers – and they are both on the run. So, can a car be fast enough to escape what they’re running from? With a narrative that leaps from Rebecca to Cait, from before to now, from characters that frame the whole car trip and back around again, this is a suspenseful, highway- speed thriller for readers to puzzle their way through.
Also out this month…
With police under the microscope at the moment, check out the true crime by Keith Banks with Ben Smith, Drugs, Guns & Lies, which talks about Banks’s past as an undercover cop in corrupt 1980s Queensland; Gilly Macmillan’s To Tell You the Truth, the story of a famous crime author full of secrets whose husband goes missing; Karen Hamilton’s The Last Wife, in which a woman’s dying wish for her best friend to help her family sees her take over the life she’d always coveted; Karin Slaughter’s tenth Will Trent book, The Silent Wife, finally hits the shelves; G.R. Halliday’s second Monica Kennedy book Dark Waters sees the DI tracking a serial killer with a seriously creepy MO … and more!