The best new crime reads in November
Our crime specialist shares 10 great crime reads to look out for this month.
CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH
Canticle Creek Adrian Hyland
Leading Senior Constable Jesse Redpath thinks she has the lie of the land about right in the Northern Territory town of Kulara by now. After replacing the useless-to-actively harmful last cop in town, she’s more open to what’s important so when local larrikin Adam Lawson commits something a bit more illegal than usual, she tries to offer him a way out: helping her artist father and working in the local roadhouse. When Adam makes a run for it after a week on the job, Jesse puts out a warrant and thinks no more of it. Three months later, he’s found dead in the mountain ranges north-east of Melbourne, in a car wreck, after killing his girlfriend. But Jesse and everyone else in Kulara have their doubts. Adam was a rascal, sure, but a murderer?
Full of questions, Jesse travels to the area of the crash, just to make sure what local police say happened is what really went down – and that she didn’t just let a murderer run free to Victoria. What she finds in Canticle Creek are a whole lot more questions, along with breathtaking surrounds, talented artists, nosy teenagers on horses, drug dealers, roadside assaults, blazing fires – well, you get it. It’s everything you need for a rural police thriller, and a hell of a lot more, too.
Jesse is a character to watch: tough as hell and unafraid to make some questionable decisions to see where they’ll take her. You’ll rarely disagree with her choices, though. She kicks the bad guys where it hurts, fights for what’s right, and has some rare qualities for a literary detective: general goodwill towards the world, a lack of cynicism and no addiction issues. Thanks to the knowledge of those who came before her, she knows when and where to listen. It still doesn’t stop multiple people from trying to kill her as she finds out what could have led to Adam’s death – and the others that follow – but what’s a crime book without some danger? Canticle Creek is a truly entertaining and distracting read as Melbourne heads into the (metaphorical) fire of an uncertain, lockdown-less future.
NEW CRIME FICTION
Better off Dead by Lee Child & Andrew Child
Lee Child, he of the perpetually satisfying Jack Reacher thrillers, is in retirement. His entire life plan is to sit around and read books from now on, and really, good on him. But Jack isn’t done yet, and Lee’s younger brother Andrew has taken up the mantle of telling his stories. In Better off Dead, Reacher’s 26th chance to beat up a lot of people while readers cheer him on, he winds up in the Arizona desert, stopping when he comes across a car that’s crashed into a tree and ending up entangled in something complicated – and deadly. Reacher is a great hero: smart, on the right side of justice, and always there to help when he stumbles across a bad guy. All these crimes sure ruin Reacher’s life plans, but where would readers be without his knack for finding trouble?
Wild Place by Christian White
At the start of summer 1989, 17-year-old Tracie Ross goes missing in the Mornington Peninsula suburb of Camp Hill. The police think she’s run away, her parents think she never would, and the town is already drifting back to indifference. But things are different in the late eighties: everybody shops at What’s New, houses are adorned with soft-focus glamour photos, and Satanic panic is on the rise. When local dad and teacher Tom connects Tracie’s disappearance to pentagram-tattooed, heavy-metal loner Sean, there seems to be a clear line to the devil – but finding out who is truly evil in this world is never clear cut. Christian White must have sold his soul to get this good at writing suburban thrillers with endings you’ll never predict, but frankly, the trade was definitely worth it for us crime fiction readers.
Crocodile Tears by Alan Carter
In Alan Carter’s latest – and last – Detective Cato Kwong book, Kwong finds himself investigating the brutal murder of a retired cop which leads him, unexpectedly, to Timor- Leste. There, he meets up with political (and sometimes literal) troubleshooter Rory Driscoll, a Gunditjmara man who’s about done with his line of work – but has one final job to finish first. Carter’s exploration of the bloodthirsty workings of Asia-Pacific politics, and Australia’s grim part in it all, makes for a sobering yet thrilling read, full of skirmishes and enthralling characters. I’m saddened to hear this is the last Cato Kwong book, but here’s hoping there’s still more Carter on the way.
The Hush by Sara Foster
Sometimes you read a book so real that it integrates seamlessly into the world around you; this month, it was Sara Foster’s The Hush, seeping unnervingly into my reality. Years after Covid-19, England has a new crisis: babies are being born without taking a breath, and the world is falling into terrified chaos. As the percentage of babies affected climbs to half, rights are stripped from pregnant women, and the midwives who help bring these children into the world are under immense pressure. One of those women is Emma, daughter of galvanising feminist Geraldine Fox and mother of Lainey, a teenager who is part of a group protesting the disappearances of pregnant teenagers. When Lainey finds, to her horror, that she has accidentally fallen pregnant, she and her mother know they have to act fast. As they plan Lainey’s escape from the country, the true extent of what is happening – and who is trying to stop them – becomes terrifyingly clear. The kind of book to leave you breathless – and wake you wide up.
The Family by Naomi Krupitsky
Set in Brooklyn 1920, The Family is a gamechanger of gangster fiction – something like The Godfather meets Elena Ferrante. This book tells the story of Antonia and Sofia, best friends beyond all else, whose fathers are a part of the Family. Sofia’s father is the head of the Family and nothing can completely sever the bond between the girls, not even when Antonia’s father imagines a life beyond crime and is swiftly disappeared from existence. As they grow into the 1940s and adulthood, the two friends hope for something more yet fall into the trappings of lowercase-f family life. The Family still controls their fates, and it always will, unless they are willing to do something about it. Beautifully written, taut with secrets and danger, this is a truly magnetic read.
The Russian Wife by Barry Maitland
To the delight of many Dead Write readers, Barry Maitland has returned with another Brock and Kolla novel – his 14th in the series. Detective Chief Inspector Kathy Kolla is facing corruption charges and will do everything in her power to fight them; in the meantime, Detective Chief Inspector David Brock has a case far outside his usual areas of expertise when the death of a Russian woman married to an art collector leads him from London’s West End across Europe all the way to the United States. Maitland is known for his intricate storylines and excellent characters, and here, as always, he won’t disappoint.
Judas 62 by Charles Cumming
BOX 88 – the titular intelligence agency from Charles Cumming’s bestselling first book in this series – has some work that needs to be done. Almost 30 years ago, student Lachlan Kite was sent to Russia to get his hands on a brilliant scientist before the wrong people did first. When the mission failed, he was completely alone, but for the KGB agent tracking him down. Decades later, in the present day, Kite is director of BOX 88, but he’s still not safe – and he’s now on a list of Russian enemies to be killed. There’s one way to stop the man Kite is convinced is behind the assassinations: track him down himself. An espionage thriller that moves from past to present, from youth to maturity, and through years of spycraft changes. I can’t guess at what a third book in the series will be numbered if the first one is 88 and the second is 62, but mysteries like this are why I’m not a spy – just someone who likes to read about them.
Silent Parade by Keigo Higashino
Detective Galileo – of The Devotion of Suspect X fame – returns, with another baffling murder mystery for readers to unpick. Three years after the disappearance of a young woman on the verge of success, her bones are found in a burned- out house, and everyone knows who did it: the same man that Galileo’s friend, Chief Inspector Kusanagi, had arrested and released decades earlier for a similar crime. Trouble is, as with the prior case, nobody can prove anything. When the suspect conveniently dies in the middle of a street parade – and, even more conveniently, all those who wanted him dead have solid alibis – Galileo is called in to figure out what on earth is going on. A complex, thoroughly entertaining Sherlock-esque read, with less foggy moors and more Japanese streets.
The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher
Victorian cop Charlie Deravin has a smooth morning routine. Swim in the ocean, say hello to the old couple who walk by every morning, eat breakfast in his front yard, get a paper, do the crossword, greet his daughter when she wakes up. Not quite so laidback is what’s going on behind the scenes: the reason he’s got so much spare time is because he’s on involuntary leave from his job after a screw- up, and the reason his wife isn’t there is because their marriage is done. But then, Charlie’s life has never followed the easy route – his father, also a cop, was accused of being behind the disappearance of Charlie’s mother nearly 20 years ago. Charlie’s never let go of the past or stopped trying to figure out what happened to her, and now, when the dig for a new build leads to finding the bones of two bodies, the past is about to become a lot murkier. Disher, one of Mornington Peninsula’s crime laureates, knows how to tell a story, so take this to the beach when you can – and don’t leave it unattended.