The best new crime reads in November


Night School by Lee Child

I often try to put local and small-press authors as my books of the month, mainly because they’re great, but also because Readings has an extensive history of author support that I’m very proud to be part of. This month’s book-of-the-month author isn’t in particularly dire need of our support – the new Reacher is gracing movie screens as I type – but, you know, I often overlook big-name authors for the smaller scale ones, and I’d never read a Lee Child book in full before. Now, in the final throes of the US election, seems as good a time as any to read a book about American power, an exploration of that righteous desire for might and glory through the lens of a semi-anonymous (if you don’t count the millions of readers who follow him) American soldier, in his twenty-first book. And sometimes there’s nothing quite like the comfort of picking up a Lee Child, knowing what to expect, and getting hooked immediately.

It’s 1996, and Jack Reacher has just been awarded a Legion of Merit – his second – and expects a promotion, maybe, or flowers, or something nice. Instead, he’s sent to his office where a file awaits and will send him back to school – to learn, it seems, about inter-agency cooperation. And there will be some of that, but school is a loose term for what is really happening. (Though there is squabbling, and stomping off, and excited gossip, and Reacher making eyes at a colleague, so it’s not that far off ‘school’ after all.) What this classroom facility hides is the need for Reacher and his new compatriots to find who, in Hamburg, Germany, just passed on the message: ‘The American wants a hundred million dollars.’ (Not really what I was passing on in my sneaky school messages, then.) What does the American have? Who is the other person, and what do they want? Are they after drugs, weapons, information, or maybe computer tech? With the FBI, the CIA, and Jack Reacher on the case, they will search, question and punch their way to the truth – before the mess the world is already in gets worse. Like Reacher himself, Child is economical with words, and his books contain an undeniable energy and crisp style that’s hard to beat.


Beyond the Truth by Anne Holt (translated by Anne Bruce)

With the Christmas holiday and its precious free time so close she can feel it, Hanne Wilhelmsen is braced for a break. But as we know, dear reader, no detective ever truly gets a break – and a week before Christmas, Norway is shocked by a quadruple homicide that includes three members of a wealthy shipping family and a fourth, unknown, body. The Stahlbergs were known for their family drama even before the return of a prodigal son, and when it comes to finding a motive, Hanne and her partner Billy T. are awash with suspects. But Hanne is determined to find out what kind of meeting would compel such a typically cheap family to break out the expensive champagne – but the investigation might mean the end of more than just a planned vacation.

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

Not the first author to make the leap from children’s books to crime, here we have Stephenie Meyer, author of the obscenely bestselling Twilight series and sci-fi book The Host, taking her addictive, electric writing style to the crime genre. An ex-government agent, who worked for a department so secretive it has no name, has tried to lie low since her former employers realised she knew too much. Alone in the world since they killed the only person she could trust, she discovers a way back to a normal life – but it’s going to take One Last Case to get there. The first in a series, this will be a thrilling spy caper with a dash of surely-a-bad-idea romance, starring an agent that has a very particular set of talents.

The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi

Since Iceland has become one of the most popular new holiday destinations for Australian tourists, here’s the crime book you should pack in your bag for those endless days and below-freezing nights. Four Icelandic friends, desperate to escape what the financial crisis has dealt them, take a camping holiday in the heart of the country’s volcanic region, but heavy fog causes them to collide with something unexpected – an isolated farmhouse. As isolated as it is, the couple who live there still feel the need to barricade themselves inside every night – but who are they frightened of? While the fractious atmosphere deepens, so does the brutal weather, which stops their escape at every turn. A chilling psychological thriller – and maybe a better read for those not actually travelling there, then.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch is back – but not entirely, since he’s retired from the LAPD, but has found himself working part-time as a reserve officer for the San Fernando Police Department, and getting some extra cash as a PI on the down-low. When he’s hired to investigate the distant history of a dying billionaire – a past involving a pregnancy that could lead to an heir to a fortune – Bosch is on the case. But even if he can find an heir before the mogul’s death, it’s not so cut and dried, especially when said fortune may, unsurprisingly, hold the interest of other people. And in his day job, he’s tracking a serial sex offender called the Screen Cutter – but danger, as always, strikes too close to home. Michael Connelly is a wonderful writer, always hooking you in with characters you want to spend time with and storylines to follow as late as the night allows.

Rather be the Devil by Ian Rankin

Retired John Rebus is out for a nice spot of dinner at the Caledonian Hotel when he recalls a murder some forty years earlier in one of the rooms. After that, he goes home, has a nice bath and never thinks of it again. Of course, I’m pulling your leg – you can take Rebus out of work but you can never take the work out of Rebus. Once DI Siobhan Clarke finds the file, he’s back finding out what the solution was all those years earlier, when he wasn’t able to properly partake in the investigation. In the meantime, he’s trying to fight the body that is causing him far too much trouble, and causing trouble for those he interviews. DI Malcolm Fox is around as well, trying to figure out the connections that made up-and-coming crime boss Darryl Christie the victim of a serious assault – and whether Big Ger Cafferty is in the middle of it. Santa should expect this on many a Christmas list.

Signal Loss by Garry Disher

It’s the start of bushfire season in Victoria, and on the Mornington Peninsula – scenic holiday destination or firestorm waiting to happen – the grass is one flicked cigarette away from lighting. And when that cigarette is thrown from the window of a stolen car, dead body on board – that’s when things get interesting, or terrible, depending on whether you’re the reader or the victim. The fire’s also licked at the edges of an abandoned ice lab, and Inspector Hal Challis has been doing all he can to look into the local ice epidemic that’s threatening his neck of the woods. Ice and fire isn’t all that’s dangerous around the peninsula though – Ellen Destry, head of sex crimes, is chasing a serial sex offender who leaves no clues. Between these cases, this summer’s going to burn. Disher dishes out yet another excellent procedural, atmospheric and dusty, thrilling and addictive.

Old Scores by David Whish-Wilson

West Australian crime writer David Whish-Wilson returns with his third breakneck Frank Swann novel, set in a 1980s heavy with corruption. Ex-detective Swann is working for himself now that he’s not working for the fuzz, and is offered a job working in the Premier’s security team – which leads to the realisation that someone’s listening in on the Premier’s discussions. But in such a heady time, the search for answers is a dangerous path from bankers to bikers and politicians to police – and Swann may not survive to delight us a fourth time. Whish-Wilson’s sense of both place and pace make this an excellent and alarming journey into Australia’s crooked not-past-enough past.

Cut by Marc Raabe

Nearly three decades ago, eleven-year-old Gabriel Naumann saw a crime so horrific it changed his life. After spending most of the intervening time working in security to escape both reality and his dreams, Gabriel finds solace in another person, journalist Liz Anders, and his life seems close to normal. But sadly for him, he’s in a crime novel, which means everything is about to go horribly, gruesomely wrong. Someone from his past has set off an security alarm and set up something – or someone – for him to find. And if he can’t figure out what the connection between the past and the present is, he will lose Liz, or his freedom, or possibly both. A bloody German thriller with kickass characters – if you can figure out who to trust.

The Tao Deception by John M. Green

Ex-spy and now dealmaker of sorts Dr Tori Swyft is the kind of hero that makes you want to follow her into the pages almost instantly: whip-smart, funny, strong as hell, Australian and unafraid of anything. John M. Green’s thriller sees Swyft catapulted into securing a corporate merger worth billions, one that she’s sure won’t go through – but one her career depends on, not to mention the delicate relations between Washington and China. And it should be a smooth process – except Tori is more than a person who just wants to get some signatures and move along, a skill that has led her into trouble in the past and could finish her for good this time. A gripping and startling look into where the future of technology is heading, and something you probably want to read breathlessly by candlelight in a nice and secure bomb shelter.

Fiona Hardy