The best new crime reads in October



The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood

There are few in the crime world quite as capable at both solving mysteries and baking an excellent sourdough as Corinna Chapman: baker extraordinaire, sometime detective, and general lady-about-town. Kerry Greenwood – of Phryne Fisher fame – returns to the present with another tale of Corinna’s industrious adventures, this time involving the quest for a missing dog, violently stolen from a recently returned Scottish soldier desperate to be reunited with the canine that helped keep him alive in Afghanistan. Of course, nothing is quite as simple as that: there are also historical tomes to be translated, breakings-and-enterings to stop-and-kick-back-out, suburban gang wars to avoid, cyber warfare to defeat, and a lot of impatient cats to be reassured. And when you live in a multi-level block of apartments like Corinna’s beloved Insula, there are always the domestic issues of having so many interesting neighbours to contend with as well. Honestly, the 4am wake-up every weekday is the least of Corinna’s problems.

Greenwood has created another vibrant character with Corinna – here on her seventh outing – a woman who rises off the page as if the font was printed with yeast. Resolute in her ways, she talks as passionately of wine and tea and felines as she does of crime and violence. She boldly holds forth opinions on just about everyone and everything happening around her and the diverse variety of people (and animals) who populate this earth. If a problem arises, Corinna knows the person who can solve it, from her private detective lover Daniel to her ferociously loyal friends and neighbours – and sometimes you need a little help to get the bad guys to talk … or do a little breaking-and-entering of your own. Best enjoyed in a warm lavender bath with a glass of something suitably fancy – but don’t keep your Kevlar vest too far out of reach.



Perfect Ten by Jacqueline Ward

Dr Caroline Atkinson is living a ruined life: cloaked in misery, she’s surrounded by boxes of goods bought during drunken shopping-channel sprees, with a kitchen full of dishes and a secret hoard of stolen goods. Her husband, Jack, left her and he took the kids so she can never see them, and now she has nothing, until one day Jack’s luggage accidentally turns up at her door and, within it are all the secrets Jack has been keeping. Armed now with a journal naming – and rating – all the women Jack assured her he’d never slept with, Caro can take the high road – or she can get revenge as public as she’d ever wished for. This is a deliciously vengeful tale of someone driven to despair and of the world that didn’t believe her.


Bright Young Dead by Jessica Fellowes (available 9 October)

If you enjoy a taste of the early twentieth century upper-classes – just a taste, mind you, don’t get above your station here – then you would do quite well to indulge in Jessica Fellowes’ second Mitford Murders book, part of her series where Fellowes follows (sorry) Louisa Cannon, nursery maid to the vast number of Mitford siblings, who becomes entangled in all sorts of mischief while not particularly trying to. The second Mitford sister, Pamela, is planning her coming-out party when it is taken over by London’s fashionable set, who plan one of the treasure hunts for which they have become so famed. When the hunt turns to violence and one of London’s Brightest Young Things ends up dead, it is quite the headline. All the while, keeping out of the papers and prison, The Forty, a real-life gang of thieves headed by Alice Diamond, are making demands of one Louisa Cannon.


The Forbidden Place by Susanne Jansson

Nathalie is a biologist working on her dissertation when she travels to Sweden’s north to investigate the wetlands – a job that she jumped at when it came up, and not just because Mossmarken’s peat bogs were so directly in her field of interest. As she drives the town’s streets and inhales the smell of the damp, rich atmosphere, she remembers her childhood there – one that swallowed up everything she used to be and led her to the inward life she lives now, in the city. In this dark, cold and unsettling location, where people once used to leave sacrifices and offerings to the gods, Nathalie starts to find things – and people – in the swampy depths. Something dangerous lies in this wetland, and Nathalie’s past will come bubbling to the surface before the truth will.


In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

It’s hard to know what to write in an Ian Rankin review. He’s been the master of Scottish crime and the police procedural in general for so long that it seems redundant to write about it at all. Of course it’s instantly readable, of course the characters jump off the page, of course it’s excellent and of course you’d all be reading it even if this entire review was just a bunch of arrows pointing at the title. (Note to self: try that next time?) Still, here’s the gist: after a group of squabbling boys find a car hidden in a gully – and a skeleton in the boot – DI Siobhan Clarke is on the team summoned to find out what’s been hiding there all these years. When the body turns out to be a missing private investigator and the original case is reopened, Clarke realises that a lot went unnoticed in the original investigation – not least that the gully had been searched all those years ago – and that everyone involved needs to be asked some questions that may lead to a fresh hell for those involved. And one of those names is, of course, John Rebus.


The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Ambrose Parry is the pseudonym of the bestselling Christopher Brookmyre and the anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman. With a vast knowledge of excellent writing and medical history they have brought upon us this tale of Edinburgh in 1847. A city full of drink and debauchery and new ideas, it is also the home of Will Raven, the medical student and general troublemaker about to start an apprenticeship in the house of the famed Dr Simpson, the pioneer of anaesthetic techniques. Also in Simpson’s house is Sarah Fisher, a maid with no time to learn everything she is sharp enough to know, and whose interest in the spate of deaths plaguing Edinburgh coincides neatly with Will’s own. A grimy, well-researched (but never laborious) stab right into the heart of the past.


Tell Me You’re Mine by Elisabeth Norebäck

After a quiet few years, Scandinavian crime is slinking its way to the forefront again, not least with this disquieting tale of a long-dead child and the mother who never truly forgot about her. Stella was a teenager when her daughter Alice went missing, presumed drowned, and it’s taken everything she has to rebuild her life and gain what she has now: a husband, a son, a mostly successful career as a therapist. So when a young woman named Isabelle comes through her door, it’s a complete shock to Stella when she immediately recognises her as the now-adult Alice. But how could it be, when she died all those years ago? And how can she maintain the illusion that she doesn’t know who she is? And for Isabelle, consumed with rage at her ruined life and with only one place to direct it – at the seemingly put-together Stella – how can she survive her hatred? A dense, suspenseful psychological thriller.


Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

As this was sadly under a strict embargo until after the date this review was due and I’m yet to be close personal friends with Galbraith’s alter ego J.K. Rowling, I can only speculate that this will be another addictive Cormoran Strike masterpiece. In this, Strike’s fourth outing, he’s now much more well-known and unable to sneak about as he used to do, which is difficult when he is trying to track down a death that happened years earlier – if it happened at all. The young man who came to Strike with the story has vanished, but Strike isn’t willing to let the tale he heard go without investigating first. With now-partner Robin Ellacott on hand and their unclear relationship ready to bruise them both, they will traipse through the city, through parliament, and into the country – and hopefully come out alive for book five.


Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart

In Hackensack, New Jersey, Deputy Sheriff Constance Kopp has been part of the force for a while now but, alas, it is 1916 and folks still aren’t used to it. Constance is constantly (sorry) harangued and mocked for being a woman, but is far too good at her job to do anything but continue to successfully run the women’s jail and chase salami thieves through people’s backyards. But now that an election has come about and the role of sheriff itself is up for grabs, anything she does is ripe for a controversy that could see her job on the line. Despite this, Constance cannot help but do all she can when confronted with the removal of a seemingly sane woman to an asylum on her husband’s word alone, proper consultation with a doctor be damned. This is an excellent series; both the writing and Constance herself are full of fine entertainment and adventures based loosely on real events that could not have been anywhere near as glorious as the books themselves.



Wedderburn: A True Tale of Blood and Dust by Maryrose Cuskelly

One warm night in October 2014, Ian Jamieson killed three of his neighbours: first he stabbed Greg Holmes to death, then he went back inside his house, picked up two guns, and walked across the road to the home of Peter and Mary Lockhart, Greg’s mother and stepfather. There, he shot both of them. Then he went back home to make some calls: to his friends to ask them to look after his wife, and to the police to let them know that he had just committed murder. What could cause a man like Ian – non-violent, loved by his friends and considered a hard worker – to take the lives of others? Could it really be down to Ian’s neighbours constantly using the dirt track behind his house, stirring up a bit of dust that ruined Ian’s water tank and washing on the line? Or was it something more – was it really, as someone had said, that Ian had done everyone a favour? Tackling interviews with those left behind, and following the court case itself, Maryrose Cuskelly has taken a crime that the papers made out to be trivial and unearthed its depths in this absorbing true-crime story.



The most deeply unnerving title award goes to Mads Peder Nordbo’s The Girl Without Skin; finally the title tables have turned with Stephen Giles’s The Boy at the Keyhole (though, of course, it’s an actual child involved); Adele Parks’s I Invited Her In; Andrew Gross’ The Last Brother; Lou Berney’s November Road rocking up a month early for its name; Lisa Gabriele, The Winters rocking up a month late for its season … and more!

We’re also delighted to have an interview with author Paul F. Verhoeven up on the Readings Podcast. Verhoeven’s Loose Units is part father–son story and part true-crime race through the underbelly of 1980s policing in Sydney. You can listen to the interview on Soundcloud here, as well as find it on iTunes.

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