The best new crime reads in October

Our crime specialist shares 9 great crime reads to look out for this month.


CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH


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The Shadow House by Anna Downes

When Alex drives up to her new house with her teenage son Ollie and new baby Cara in tow, she feels a surge of relief – and panic. She’s running away from Sydney, from what she’s left behind, and the eco-village of Pine Ridge is the perfect place to start anew: a caring community, a serene environment, people looking out for each other. Best of all, nobody knows where she is. So really, the dead bird in a box laid out for her arrival is not the welcome gift she was expecting.

As Alex manages her new life, negotiating her brittle temper with a wailing baby and screen-addicted teenager, she can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong, that she’s not welcome. Then there’s that neighbourhood story. The one about a witch. A witch who takes children. A witch who heralds her plan by leaving something dead for you. Years ago, a teenage boy went missing at the farmhouse that now sits abandoned in the valley – his disappearance beginning in eerily similar circumstances. The question of whether Alex has found her place to settle – or if she ever will – has never been so urgent.

Anna Downes grips readers right from the beginning in this truly unsettling domestic horror tale. Her words are as haunting as the pine forests and rundown houses, and she hypnotises you with the beauty of the surrounds – a lush dam, a wide-open sky and caring neighbours. Alex is no perfect mother (I mean, nobody truly is) but you will be as desperate as she is to unravel the truth behind what’s happening. This is the kind of thriller that will have you locking your doors and panicking about every little sound outside. And really, if that’s not what we want from our crime books, I don’t know what is.


NEW CRIME FICTION


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The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou

When Detective Sergeant George Manolis rolls into the outback town of Cobb in his beloved car, he’s already unhappy that his one day off has been taken from him. Now, he’s had to drive all the way from the city for a thankless task: find out who killed schoolteacher Molly Abbott, found bound to a tree and stoned to death. Local suspicion falls on the detainees in the new immigration detention centre, a place that’s already divided the town. Cobb is grim and miserable, at odds with Manolis’ childhood memories of growing up there, and now he’s trying to figure out who would be capable of such a horrific crime. With minimal help from the local police, the heat bearing down and danger biting at his heels, Manolis must look past the town’s racism and anger to the truth – no matter how far back it might take him. An excellent, gritty rural procedural for those desperate for cranky small towners and a dusty, visceral atmosphere.


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Fromage by Sally Scott

Freelance journalist Alex Grant is basking on the beaches of the Dalmatian Coast, revelling in good food and better company (i.e. her own) when she unexpectedly and unhappily bumps into her old school friend Marie and Marie’s tiresome brother Brian. Alex is mostly annoyed at the intrusion, until her journalism senses start tingling at their reason for being there: the funeral of their grandfather’s Croatian caretakers, who died in a murder-suicide that the police have wrapped up in suspiciously record time. Turns out, they’re also heirs to a massively successful creamery back in Western Australia, and Alex – who isn’t put off her food even when death is involved – thinks some investigation upon her return would be particularly good for her tastebuds. Once she’s down in Margaret River though, it’s clear that the danger is still very much present, and that things are about to go very pear-shaped (with extra paté on the side). A rollicking, delicious and chaotically disastrous mystery.


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Treasure and Dirt by Chris Hammer

Down a mine in Northern NSW lies the body of Jonas McGee, opal miner, crucified. Discovered by ratters – mining thieves – and called in anonymously, the case is handed to homicide detective Ivan Lucic, eager to be working on his own without his boss, Morris Montifore, who’s stayed in Sydney. With any luck, Ivan will be adding this to his successful cases, but luck isn’t popular in crime fiction, and everything’s a hell of a lot more complicated than he expects – not least because Morris is being held back due to internal investigations, and Ivan may be next. From the poverty-stricken inhabitants of Finnigans Gap, to the wealthy magnates flying in for the mines, to the decades’ worth of ‘accidents’ that have befallen the townsfolk, there’s enough drama and intensity to fill five hundred thrilling pages of another gleefully brick- sized Chris Hammer book.


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The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield

Once, a few years ago, I went out onto my front lawn and looked up into the starry dark, tracing the path of a bright light as it traversed the sky. In that light – the International Space Station – was astronaut Chris Hadfield, who I was following fervently on Twitter. Now, he’s released a crime book, and my favourite subjects of outer space and crime have finally joined up. Based loosely on the Apollo 18 mission, Hadfield’s crime debut follows once astronaut hopeful Kaz Zemeckis, whose dreams were shattered when a bird strike left him without one eye. Kaz has flown into Houston as a conduit between the CIA and NASA, and harbours some ultra- classified information on what Apollo 18’s mission is about to become. Filled with scientific knowledge only someone with firsthand experience would have, this is a Cold War action-thriller that will challenge all you thought you knew about our journeys into space – and make you speculate on what we were never told.


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Tank Water by Michael Burge

Years after journalist James Brandt left the country town of Kippen for good, he’s drawn back there, flying in to be with his family after the death of his cousin, Tony, found tangled in the reeds under the railway bridge. With the family farm now bequeathed to James – a city boy trying to figure out how to disclose his long-term boyfriend to a family unwilling to listen – there are complications everywhere, such as James’ growing realisation that Tony may not have thrown himself from the bridge like everybody says. Tony’s death isn’t the first time the Brandts have been racked with grief, and as the family’s history peels away, James wonders if the events of 20 years ago, when everyone was last together for Tony’s wedding, had more of an impact than anyone realises. An impressive, intricate outback mystery.


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The River Mouth by Karen Herbert

In a small coastal town in WA’s Pilbara region, 15-year-old Darren is found shot dead, his body left by the river. Ten years later, his mother Sandra – still with no answers about who killed her son – is told that her best friend, Barbara, has been found dead by her car. And that Darren’s case is being reopened, because Barbara’s DNA matches what was found underneath his fingernails all those years ago. As the story moves back and forth between Sandra today – sure that her best friend isn’t capable of what everybody says – and Darren’s final days a decade ago, a town’s unearthed secrets lay waste to the community in a way not everybody will survive.


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State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton & Louise Penny

If you want your political thrillers to be just about as high- ranking as you can get, try this on for size: former US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has now ventured into crime fiction. In collaboration with venerated author Louise Penny – she of the Quebecois Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series – Clinton spins a web around a Secretary of State, working for her political rival, trying to help put America back on top after years of the country’s decline in influence. When a spate of terrorist attacks puts everything in jeopardy, it’s up to the Secretary to get it under control. When somebody with this level of insider knowledge has a story to tell, you pull up the chair, say, ‘yes, ma’am’, and you listen.


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Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Graeme Macrae Burnet – shortlisted in 2016 for the Booker Prize for His Bloody Project – returns with a highly imaginative take on crime fiction in Case Study. When Veronica, a seemingly successful young woman, throws herself off a bridge, her sister thinks it’s due to one Dr Collins Braithwaite, Veronica’s psychotherapist. To prove it, she reinvents herself as ‘Rebecca’, and becomes one of Braithwaite’s clients. Set in London in the 1960s and presented as a series of notebooks handed to the author himself, with pages of Braithwaite’s own book interspersed throughout, this entirely original identity crisis of a story will destabilise the reader, just as it does to its characters.


Also out this month:

April in Spain by John Banville; The Judge’s List by John Grisham; Riccardino by Andrea Camilleri; The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo; The Unheard by Nicci French.


Fiona Hardy is a bookseller, author, and our monthly crime fiction columnist.

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The Shadow House

The Shadow House

Anna Downes

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