The best new crime reads in March
Our crime specialist shares 11 great crime reads to look out for this month.
CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH
Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper
In a picture-perfect house in 1959, model housewife Joyce Haney goes to the mall for some shopping, returns home, and then vanishes, leaving behind nothing except a bloodstain on the kitchen floor, a screaming baby, and a terrified young daughter.
Detective Mick Blanke is new to the region, missing his old hood of Brooklyn and generally unimpressed with how the investigation is going – not least the fact that Ruby Wright, Joyce’s African-American housemaid and the first witness on the scene, was immediately arrested by police. Mick’s investigation keeps running into dead ends: everyone in Joyce’s life is so determined to uphold the pristine image of the perfect nuclear family and white picket fences, they’re unwilling to discuss anything improper – like the reasons somebody might go missing. Ruby doesn’t want to get involved with police – she’s already dealing with the personal fallout of her mother’s death and the simmering anger of her community as they are continually let down by everyone in power. But she wants to know the truth of what happened to Joyce. She also knows more than anyone else what happens behind closed doors in this neighbourhood. Between her and Mick, they just might be able to figure out what happened to an immaculate young White wife in this town where everybody’s hiding misery they’ll paint freshly over every year just for show.
This book is suffused with the heat of a Californian summer and the oppressive nature of the fifties – the misogyny, racism, upheaval and violence of it all – and it rings true to the time and place with every single enthralling page.
NEW CRIME FICTION
The Serpent’s Skin by Erina Reddan
It’s 1968, J.J. is 10 years old, and her mum’s just disappeared from their farm. There, in that bitter house, are four kids, their dad, and a whole nest of secrets. Why hasn’t their mother written or called if she’s just gone for a while? Why did she leave so suddenly? And what’s up with Aunt Peg and her constantly changing stories? Nothing is clear, and 14 years later, when J.J.’s family is brought back together with fresh grief, she can finally unravel the mysteries of her childhood. But what will it cost her? This highly acclaimed, authentic novel is an immersive and devastating read.
Fog by Kaja Malanowska (translated by Bill Johnston)
Detective Ada Rochniewicz is back on the streets of Warsaw after two years at a desk job, but her new colleague Marcin Sawicki is vocally unhappy about having a woman in a job he considers solely a man’s business. Ada, however, has insight that the beleaguered Marcin could never understand. An alliance forms when they investigate the murder of a woman in her apartment and their superiors tell them to blame it on a robbery and get the hell on with closing the case. As the people in the victim’s life open up, it becomes clear there’s more to the case than a theft gone wrong. Translated from Polish, Fog is a compulsive, evocative procedural.
Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald
For one brief moment, everything seems under control. There’s no warning siren, so the bushfires must be far enough away. When Fran checks though, the fire front is roaring towards her – and suddenly she’s running, trying to save someone, anyone. In the aftermath of the fire, the town of Ash Mountain will ignite anew – its buried history a small, long-burning seam of coal that has been waiting for its moment. From the author of The Cry, which was made into a blisteringly popular Netflix show, this is a visceral, grimly funny scorcher.
The Fine Art of Invisible Detection by Robert Goddard
After the murder of her husband, Umiko Wada is trying to stay mostly undetected in her job as secretary to a private detective. But when a woman comes into her boss’ office with a request – she needs somebody to fly to London and pretend to be her – Wada, who can speak English, is the perfect choice. Over in London, Nick Miller is on a quest to find the truth about his father, a man he’s only just realised he never knew. Both Umiko and Nick are about to meet somebody who can, hopefully, help them in their respective missions – but nothing, of course, is ever so simple, and excellent, fun sleuthing abounds.
Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka (translated by Sam Malissa)
At Tokyo Station, in a frenzy of nerves, Kimura boards a shinkansen bullet train with one goal in mind: get revenge on the teenager who put Kimura’s son into a coma. Kimura has a gun in a paper bag, and he knows the kid is sitting in the fifth row. He’s prepared – but he’s not the only person on the train who is a threat. Featuring a train full of assassins and a suitcase of money that everybody wants, Bullet Train is a suspenseful, high-speed thriller that will leave you wondering who will make it to the end of the line. A film adaptation is already in production so read it before it comes out!
Win by Harlan Coben
Windsor Horne Lockwood III – or Win, as he prefers – lives a delicious, luxurious life. He attends premier events, rubs elbows with A-listers, travels via private jet … and has a discreet side gig in violent justice. You would think that when the FBI come knocking, it would be due to that. Instead, it’s because a suitcase bearing his initials has turned up in the apartment of a murdered hermit, along with a family painting that was stolen years earlier. This all links to a decades-old unsolved case with personal connections: the abduction of Win’s cousin, Patricia. Now Win needs to figure out what the hell is happening, and if anybody can, it’s a man with his brand of determination, ridiculously deep pockets, and the knowledge of how to make those who deserve it pay.
Other People’s Houses by Kelli Hawkins
Open homes are always lovely – places of hope and dreams, and a sneaky little peek into other people’s lives. For Kate Webb, they are something she can’t stop attending, going from house to house, hungover, every weekend. When she tours the Harding home, it’s immaculate and perfect – until she finds the photograph of the family. A decade earlier, Kate’s five-year-old son died, and she’s unable to move past it. Now, she sees the boy in the picture and thinks it’s her Sascha. Probing deeper into the family’s lives, she finds that perfection is an illusion – but is the real problem the Harding family, or Kate herself?
Transient Desires by Donna Leon
In Donna Leon’s 30th (30th! Does she never sleep?) Commissario Brunetti novel, Brunetti finds himself involved in the case of two young American women left badly injured outside a city hospital by two young Italian men who vanish after dumping them. When the two men are found, they claim it was a boating accident. But if it’s an accident like it seems, why did they run? When one of them has a family connection to a heinous crime, things start to become clearer, but Brunetti must enlist some new help to figure this one out. As always, this is Leon at the top of her game – here’s to 30 more books!
Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake
For decades now, the wildly popular TV show Falcon Bay has been filmed on the picturesque St Augustine’s island. Fans are desperate to know what’s going on, but what really happens behind the doors of the set is much more thrilling than what happens onscreen. With a poisonous new network director intent on bringing the show back to its former heights, three women on the set – a director constantly pushed aside for men, an actress ageing out of everybody’s comfort zone, and a producer on the verge of betrayal – are forced to do anything they can to survive this cutthroat television world. With successful entertainment agent Melanie Blake at the helm, Ruthless Women rings with gossipy, delicious truth.