The best new crime reads in November & December

CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH


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True West by David Whish-Wilson (available 5 November)

If you want to get truly knocked about by a book, True West is what you want in front of you. Set in Western Australia in 1988, this is the visceral tale of Lee Southern, a young man driving south, away from a bad life he’s literally set aflame, feeling hopeful that he’s going towards something better. With a freshly set-up tow rig and, frankly, minimal expertise in the field, he’s hoping to sit on Perth’s freeways and help stranded cars, get a little cash together, see if he can make good now that his father is dead and he has to use his brutally won survivalist skills all on his own.

Not even twenty-four hours after he arrives, he seems to get on the wrong side of the wrong people and soon he’s fighting for his life, his truck, and his future. The dirty past of everybody he knows has followed him hundreds of kilometres and there’s no end to the bad people around that want a part of him: those that want revenge for Lee’s dramatic exit up north, those that think somebody with Lee’s skills might be useful for their ‘patriotic’ plans for WA, and everyone driving the murky line in-between.

Whish-Wilson’s Western Australia is alive, its heart beating, its outback a swirl of dust and history, roads like scars, the scent of its plants as strong as the ocean’s salty brine. Lee is a hell of a character: young, determined, practical, tough and with a heart underneath all that calloused skin. When he’s manipulated into being part of the Australian Patriotic Movement – aka the APM, aka a violent white nationalist party with its sights set on parliament – it makes for almost unbearably tense reading. But Whish-Wilson does action like the fists are leaping out of the page and breaking your nose and pulling you right back in. This is compelling, thrilling, and still feels like it could be played out today in the white nationalist fringes of Australian politics. Hook yourself up to this one.


NEW CRIME FICTION


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The Great Divide by L.J.M. Owen (available 5 November)

The disappearance of a young boy on a frosty Tasmanian morning seems like it could end badly, and it does – not for the boy, but for the body he discovers in a vineyard. Detective Jake Hunter is new in the small town of Dunton and barely acquainted with even his colleagues when he is confronted with a murder that clearly has its long roots in the town. The dead woman was the former headmistress of a home for ‘bad girls’, girls who have now grown up into women with damaged pasts – or girls who aren’t anywhere to be found at all. Australian rural crime may be shifting to the south, especially considering Terror Australis, the Huon Valley’s crime-based literary festival from 31 October to 5 November, is spearheaded by L.J.M. Owen herself.


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You Don’t Know Me by Sara Foster

Twelve years ago, Lizzie Burdett went missing after a fight with her boyfriend, Tom Carruso – and was never found. Now, with the inquest into her death looming, Tom’s brother Noah staves off the community backlash by heading to Thailand. There, he meets Alice Pryce, who for a moment reminds him of the long-lost Lizzie, before becoming someone that he wants to know, in this wrong place at the wrong time. For Alice, whose own family history is complex and weighed with tragedy, every time feels like the wrong time. This is a brilliant, taut, and compelling thriller full of love and violence, where everyone’s secrets are about to be shaken loose and all the reader can do is catch them before they fall.


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Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee (available 19 November)

Calcutta police detective Captain Sam Wyndham is still on the train platform – he has not even made it into the ashram towards which he’s travelled many painful hours in order to kick his opium habit – when he sees the kind of familiar face that makes an addiction feel like a better life plan than confrontation. On the platform is the man who was wrapped up in Wyndham’s life seventeen years before in 1905, in London, where he was a young constable determined to figure out who assaulted his old girlfriend, and found nothing but pain for his troubles. Wyndham had thought the man dead – and hoped so, as the man had come horribly close to killing him – but now, here he is, at the same place Wyndham has travelled to save his own career. Which means it’s time to call on his colleague Sergeant Banerjee to come and help out. Set during fraught times, Mukherjee’s energetic tale blooms with British pomp and Indian wit, and very good literary times.


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Dead Man Switch by Tara Moss

Twenty years into a stellar literary career that has lately taken her down a non-fiction route, Tara Moss has returned – and with a new character to chase after. Private Inquiry Agent Billie Walker has taken over her late father’s business. While business is not particularly booming, there is a steady enough stream of unfaithful husbands and the like to keep her afloat in this strange post-war time. The women capable of holding all kinds of jobs have been replaced by returned servicemen, and everybody is trying to find their places again after years of trauma and heartbreak. None so much as the mother of a missing young man who hesitantly employs the services of Billie, and her capable secretary, to track down her son. Moss has the chops for hardboiled detective stories set in Sydney’s seedy past: full of gangsters, killers, the worst kind of people and some of the best. True to its era down to the very fabric around Billie’s shoulders, this is a smartmouthed shot straight to the chest.


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Westwind by Ian Rankin (available 12 November)

Originally published in 1990 but out of print for years – do feel free to search online for some epic ’90s book-cover action – this espionage thriller is one of Ian Rankin’s earliest works, and features a new introduction by the author. In Westwind, the world is splitting apart, with the US closing ranks and Britain attempting to keep the peace with both Europe and America, when a space shuttle crashes into American soil. The crash kills everyone on board except a single Englishman, who does not find friends on this part of Earth. After contact is lost with Europe’s most advanced satellite, an English ground technician realises that something is not right – especially when a colleague fails to return after voicing his own suspicions. Going all the way up the investigative chain, with the help of the astronaut and a journalist from his past, this is a suspenseful, formerly lost, delight.


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Blue Moon: Jack Reacher 24 by Lee Child

Ah, Jack Reacher. Need I say more? [Editor’s note: yes.] Our ex-military hero is adrift yet again in the great big country known as the USA. Riding a Greyhound bus, he sees an older man with a pocketful of money and another passenger with his eye on the prize. When Reacher steps in at the old man’s stop to put a decisive halt to the inevitable mugging, he discovers that the money is destined for a loan shark after some high-interest payments for a high-needs loan. Deciding to assist, because that’s what he does, he ends up in the middle of a turf war – because of course he does – and makes more-than-friends with a gun-savvy bartender – because why wouldn’t he? A touch more bloodthirsty than some of the other Reachers but, as always, as satisfying to get your teeth into as a delicious, oversized steak dinner in an entertainingly wild pub.


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Peace by Garry Disher (available 5 November)

Semi-newcomer Constable Paul Hirschhausen – ‘Hirsch’ to his slowly increasing number of friends – is looking down the barrel at Christmas in his rural posting of Tiverton, and everything’s mostly calm. School’s finishing. Crimes are minor. An unnoticed car theft that ends quickly. A usual suspect drives into the side of the pub. Everybody’s highest expectations of Hirsch involve him dressing up as Santa Claus and judging everyone’s Christmas lights. But nothing is ever truly calm in this part of South Australia, and when there’s a fire linked to copper theft and a sticky trail of blood that leads to a sickening discovery, Hirsch begins to think that Christmas might not be so cheerful – and that not everyone will be alive to greet the season. Peace is marvellous, and Garry Disher, as always, is in award-winning form, creating a town so vivid and hot you could swelter just reading it – and you’d look askance at everybody you pass on the street


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Darkness for Light by Emma Viskic (available 3 December)

Now, I know we’re all pumped for the new Caleb Zelic, but this book isn’t available until December, so it’s another few weeks before you can run out and grab a copy. When you do, you’ll find that Caleb has had enough of the bad times that almost ruined his life and definitely ruined a lot of other people’s. He has some fresh rules, summarised by his new motto: ‘Make Good Decisions’. Meeting a potential client at a children’s farm doesn’t seem like too bad a decision until Caleb meets a dead body instead of a customer – and from there, things just get worse. The past hasn’t left him alone after all, and Frankie – ‘the ex-partner who betrayed him and also saved his life’ – is suddenly somebody he needs to find, and find now, if he’s going to avoid some bitter truths coming to light and possibly sending him to prison for an extended visit. With his home life going tentatively well, he’s got too much to lose to get involved, but when Frankie’s niece is kidnapped, what choice does he really have? Emma Viskic has written another powerful, absorbing thriller: sharp as a knife, full of character and out to fray readers’ nerves in the very best kind of way.


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The Siberian Dilemma by Martin Cruz Smith

“Bears, snow and bad guys are in abundance in this latest offering by Martin Cruz Smith. Since rocketing onto the literary scene investigating mutilated corpses in Gorky Park, Arkady Renko now faces the best Putin has to offer: missing journalists, police corruption, and brutish oligarchs whose shady dealings extend to beauty pageants. Renko, with all-rounder sidekick Bolot (seriously, there is nothing this guy can’t do), return to the icy wilderness of Siberia to track down Renko’s erstwhile lover, where they encounter all manner of obstacles to the truth.”

Julia Jackson, Readings Carlton Assistant Manager


ALSO OUT THIS MONTH


John Sandford’s twelfth Virgil Flowers book, Bloody Genius; David Baldacci’s A Minute to Midnight ; James Sallis’s Sarah Jane ; Janet Evanovich is back with another excellently named title with Twisted Twenty-Six (available 12 November); the excellent Alan Furst’s Under Occupation (available 12 November) … and more!


Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about children’s books at Fiona The Hardy.

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True West

True West

David Whish-Wilson

$29.99Buy now

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