The best new crime reads in May

Our crime specialist shares 11 great crime reads to look out for this month.



Wake by Shelley Burr

It has been nearly 20 years since Evelyn McCreery went missing. She went to sleep one night, in the bed next to her twin sister Mina’s; the next morning she was gone, her bed neatly made, no fingerprints on the windowsill, the only tyre tracks around their desolate farm property belonging to the farm cars. All these years later, Mina still lives there with her father, hoping Evelyn will be found, trying not to read all the online true crime gossip her sister’s disappearance still inspires to this day. When private investigator Lane Holland turns up, desperate for the reward money to keep his younger sister safe, Mina is dismissive – but Lane is determined, and Mina still wants answers, even while she’s tired of everything that’s come before. As Lane uncovers layers of what really went on in town and at Evelyn’s house that night, what was once hidden will be brought to light – and not only the McCreerys will feel the fallout.

Wake is the best kind of outback thriller – long distances between houses and safety, the quiet terror of rural Australia’s empty unknown spaces, small towns with suspicious characters. Mina and Lane are both walled off to outsiders by their own devastation, and readers’ hopes for a conclusion that never seems definite is a hook of the toughest steel. Like the book’s regional mystery stablemates Aoife Clifford or Benjamin Stevenson, Burr’s debut is there to show the world that Australian crime is really the superior of the genre. International crime fiction really should watch its back.



The Curfew by T. M. Logan

It’s hot outside, the night Connor breaks his curfew. Connor’s parents Andy and Laura have told him he can go out and celebrate finishing his exams, but on one condition: he’s home by midnight. Soon it becomes clear that something else happened that night – and that not all his friends made it back home alive. When Connor is accused of a terrible crime, Andy will do everything he can to protect his son – but what if he doesn’t know his child as well as he thought he did? The Curfew is a twisty, highly entertaining thriller that will defy you to put it down by midnight.


No Less the Devil by Stuart MacBride

A year and a half ago, the first victim of the Bloodsmith was murdered. Now, with five dead people to his name, the police aren’t any closer to finding the killer than they were back then – but Detective Sergeant Lucy McVeigh is tasked to trawl through all the details afresh. It seems futile, and she’s not well pleased to trawl the Scottish countryside revisiting crime scenes. When recently released murderer Benedict Strachan – who, 16 years earlier, at age 11, brutally killed a homeless man – comes asking for Lucy’s help, she wonders whether his ramblings about the past are about to show her a sinister path to the present. With MacBride’s trademark razor-sharp wit and a cigarette-fuelled exasperated energy, this is an excellent procedural.


Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothchild

Being accused of murdering your husband is something no innocent wife should ever have to go through. Trouble is, Ruby isn’t exactly innocent – after all, she has murdered a few people before – but she definitely did not kill her beloved husband. Unfortunately, now the Miami police have a good reason to look into her past, and, well, maybe what they find there won’t help her current predicament at all. Smart, fresh, and the kind of book that makes you root for a murderer, this dynamic read by television writer Rothchild is a breath of fresh – well, humid – Floridian air.


The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

When Hannah Rokeby asks the professor in charge of her new university’s Innocence Project for a volunteer spot in the program, she tells him it’s because she believes in true justice and exonerating innocent prisoners. Truth is, Hannah is somebody with a plan, and when it takes blackmail just to get an interview, she doesn’t blink. She needs to join the Project and needs to get on their biggest case – that of murderer Michael Dandridge. Because they want to see him freed, and that’s what Hannah will do everything in her power to stop. This is a change for McTiernan, a shift to America and into a psychological legal (psycholegal?) thriller. Frankly, so long as she keeps writing these character-driven, gloriously tense books, readers will damn well lap them up.


City on Fire by Don Winslow

In the first book of a new trilogy, bestselling Winslow’s eponymous ‘City on Fire’ is 1980s Providence, Rhode Island: home to both the Irish and the Italian mobs, living under something of a truce. This is a book told from many perspectives, but at its heart is anti-hero Danny Ryan, whose father once led the Irish faction; he’s married to the daughter of the current leader, and he’s on his way to success. Then a beautiful woman steps into a party both sides attend, and right into a modern Iliad: the conflict her presence starts is of Greek epic proportions, and the two sides can no longer live in peace. This is an authentic, gritty, period-accurate gangster novel you shouldn’t lend to your neighbour … just in case.


Outside by Ragnar Jónasson

When four old friends meet to go hunting for ptarmigan birds in the Icelandic highlands, it seems like a nice trip for a group of people who aren’t as close as they once were. But things are about to get a lot more intimate when they’re hit by a blizzard that leaves them with two choices: go inside or die outside. With survival the only option, they break into an isolated mountain hut and find something they did not expect – and which they cannot escape from. This is a haunting Scandi psychological thriller where the terror is not only external, and the greatest threat might just be the group themselves.


The Corpse Flower by Anne Mette Hancock & Tara Chace (trans.)

Heloise Kaldan, successful Danish journalist, is about to lose one of the adjectives from her name – the source on her biggest story has turned out to be a liar, and her reputation is through the floor. She’s on the outer and flailing when she finds a letter delivered to her – from murderer Anna Kiel, who vanished after slaughtering a young man. Untraceable for years, now she’s making contact, though Kaldan has no idea why she’s the one Kiel is trying to reach. When the reporter who first covered Kiel’s case turns up dead by thinly covered-up suicide, Kaldan, along with detective Erik Schäfer, realises the true danger she’s in – and that the worst part of her past might be where the truth lies. This is a riveting, bestselling Scandinavian noir with writing as slick as blood.


Bad Actors: Slough House Thriller 8 by Mick Herron

The Slow Horses are the has-beens and almost- rans of the British intelligence service – spies who aren’t up to scratch but aren’t terrible enough to be given the sack. Instead, at the rundown Slough House, they’re given busy work – and here, for Herron’s eighth instalment in the series, they find themselves caught up in something way above their pay grade. When an advisor to the government vanishes, the Slow Horses interfere the way they do best – terribly enough to make it enjoyable, but with enough real threats to keep it dangerous. This is spy fiction at its most entertainingly obnoxious.


The Fallout by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

In this sixth instalment of Sigurdardottir’s Children’s House series, child psychologist Freyja and detective Huldar are now working together – which means keeping their relationship firmly under wraps. When they’re assigned the same grim case – a woman’s body found without a head – it makes keeping their secret even more difficult. As the case traces back to a dead mother and her missing baby more than a decade ago, it will take all they have to seek justice and keep their happiness intact. This is a dark Icelandic thriller with Sigurdardottir’s signature twisting storylines and irresistible character dynamics.


An Uncommon Hangman: The Life and Deaths of Robert ‘Nosey Bob’ Howard by Rachel Franks

One of the worst jobs one could possibly have in 1880s Australia – not because of the money, but the reputational damage – was that of the hangman. To many, the hangman was a necessity; to others, a monster; but to Robert Howard, who was paid to execute 61 men and one woman, it was a job. This slice of late 19th-century Australia charts both New South Wales history and what is known of the life of Nosey Bob – named so after the loss of his nose in a horse-related accident – through the tales of the people he was paid to execute. This is an impressively researched, fascinating read for lovers of true crime.

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Shelley Burr

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