The best new crime reads in May

This month, Julia Jackson is stepping in as our crime specialist to share 10 great crime reads to look out for this month.


CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH


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Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

This stunning debut is one of the best books I’ve read this year (so far). Melbourne-based author Jacqueline Bublitz has crafted a haunting story about grief, limbo, transition and friendship that’s by far the most literary of this month’s crime picks. Echoing Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, this finely crafted novel traces the stories of Alice and expat Melburnian Ruby Jones, as told by the spectral Alice, whose tragic death kicks off this book.

After a period of stagnation in which Ruby realises the futility of her own position as ‘the other woman’ in an illicit affair, she escapes to New York to give herself physical and emotional distance, only to find herself even more alone. A newcomer to the city, she is shocked to encounter a body in a nearby waterway while out jogging. Seeking to make sense of this distressing discovery, Ruby is drawn to learn more about this unknown young woman, and a new tribe of friends offer support and strength in her efforts to provide this Jane Doe with some dignity and respect in death. As Ruby’s sense of autonomy and self begins to flourish, brief encounters with a sharply-dressed, smooth-talking man threaten to destabilise her newfound security, provoking conflicting feelings about her distant lover and new, local love interest.

This book is imbued with sadness, mostly tied to Alice’s unfortunate end and her status as an unknown Jane Doe in the morgue. For all that occurred during Alice’s short and troubled life, in death she leaves an indelible mark. Both Alice and Ruby have had their lives ruined physically and emotionally by dreadful men, but Bublitz’s narrative also offers a sense of optimism and redemption. Like Louise Doughty’s Platform Seven, this literary crime novel reads as a moving meditation on the loss of women to male violence, as well as the resolve it takes (manifested by Ruby’s actions) to bring about justice.


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Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Sutano

Winning the award for ‘Most Fun Crime Novel So Far’ is this gem from debut author Jesse Sutanto. Meddy Chan, a wedding photographer in her family’s business, is unhappy in love and ready to shake up her life. But things go drastically downhill when a blind date dies. What ensues is a hilarious caper involving her mother and aunties, as the group rush to dispose of the body at the resort wedding of a billionaire couple. Amid the chaos bigger problems emerge, including her former flame, and it falls to Meddy to put things right. There are lots of laughs to be had here, and this book makes for a delightful antidote to some of the grimmer topics on offer this month.


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The Girl Remains by Katherine Firkin

Katherine Firkin’s debut Sticks and Stones ended up as one of our ‘Lockdown Favourites’ in 2020. This highly anticipated follow-up presents another grim cold case for Detective Emmett Corban and co. The discovery of skeletal remains on the blustery ‘back beach’ near Blairgowrie awakens long-held suspicions and conflicts in the local community. Could these be the remains of missing teenager Cecilia May, who disappeared some 20 years earlier? In this layered mystery, secrets lurk among a cast of intriguing and broken characters, ensuring that the truth stays hidden until the end. Perfect for fans of Christian White’s coastal noir The Wife and the Widow, this book is an excellent read for the wintry nights ahead.


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Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke

In a weird parallel version of 2020 unaffected by the coronavirus, Elle Castillo is hard at work researching and presenting her cold case podcast sensation ‘Justice Delayed’. Doggedly determined to solve the serial killings of The Countdown Killer (TCK), Castillo unwittingly unleashes a new spate of kidnappings, eerily similar to the original modus operandi, resulting in the revelation of her own dark connection to the case.

But will time run out for Castillo and law enforcement? If you listen to true crime podcasts, this white-knuckle page-turner is for you.


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Vanished by James Delargy

Detective Emmaline Taylor is assigned to investigate the Christmas disappearance of the Maguire family from abandoned mining town Kallayee, somewhere on the gibber plains east of Kalgoorlie. Why they were there in the first place is one question, but there are other suspicious factors to consider, and the investigation soon expands into a much darker plot involving a shady trio up to even shadier activities.

The eerie and harsh conditions of Kallayee are a great setting for this new outback noir offering.


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The Khan by Saima Mir

Prodigal daughter Jia Khan returns to lead her family’s Yorkshire- based organised crime network following the murder of her father. It’s a new era for this Pakistani network borne out of a deep distrust of the British legal system and embedded racism at all levels of society. Think The Wire, transplanted from Baltimore, with a woman who’s a mashup of Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale at the top.

When a rival vies to overtake the network, Jia must realise her full capabilities, even as she attempts to reveal very little to her once-estranged family. This is an edgy thriller with a strong lead character and a shocking revelation at its conclusion!


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The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

Extreme poverty, abuse and neglect are constants in eight-year- old Chrissie’s life amid the row houses and throng of children in the village. Twenty years later, and with a new identity as Julia, she struggles with feelings of inadequacy as a single parent and an overhanging fear of social services’ intervention.

The twin narratives of a young Chrissie and her older self gradually reveal the terrible events of that first day of spring when toddler Steven was found dead. This debut, from psychologist-novelist Nancy Tucker, is bleak and tense, with a distant light shaft of redemption.


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Nighthawking by Russ Thomas

A grisly find at the Sheffield botanic gardens has Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler and co investigating a missing persons cold case. Roman coins on the body soon lead the team to explore the links between the victim, a local group of metal-detectorists (or ‘Nighthawkers’) and a plant smuggling racket. A satisfying conclusion brings this murky plot to an end, in spite of the consequences to Adam’s relationship with firefighter Paul. This is a solid follow-up to the first instalment in Russ Thomas’s DS Adam Tyler series, Firewatching. I advise readers start with that book first to fully appreciate the characters in this procedural thriller.


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We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption in an American City by Justin Fenton

This month’s major crime nonfiction release is from Baltimore Sun journalist Justin Fenton. We Own This City charts the formation of Baltimore Police’s Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), a squad of plainclothes ‘knockers’ tasked with the targeted removal of guns from the streets, against the backdrop of 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody in 2015. The GTTF soon transformed into a criminal enterprise, a racket where drugs and money once confiscated were pocketed by task force officers. It was a source of huge embarrassment and shame for a city where huge efforts were made to improve policing and community engagement. A fascinating read for anyone still experiencing The Wire withdrawal symptoms!


Other thrillers to look out for include: a new Davenport-Flowers novel, Ocean Prey, from John Sandford, marking the 31st in the Prey series; a newly-translated standalone novel from Icelandic crime master Ragnar Jónasson, The Girl Who Died; Left You Dead , which marks sweet 17 for Peter James’s Roy Grace procedurals (also newly adapted for TV starring John Simm); and the return of Quebec’s favourite forensic anthropologist in Kathy Reichs’s The Bone Code, in which new bodies and cold cases combine, while the threat of a flesh-eating bacterial plague (why not?) hangs over the novel.

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Before You Knew My Name

Before You Knew My Name

Jacqueline Bublitz

$29.99Buy now

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