The best new crime reads of the month

CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH


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Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

Ranger Darren Mathews is finally on something of a good thing after a hell of a bad time. He’s on a team investigating the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, his previously failing marriage is tentatively back together, his drinking is mostly under control, and if you don’t count the fact that she has been blackmailing him, his time with his mother is now an occasionally comforting experience after a lifetime of misery with her. However, the secret that she’s holding on to for Darren is heavy enough to be a constant worry for him, even when he’s given a case involving the disappearance of a Brotherhood captain’s nine-year-old boy, who has gone missing after going out on his own on the swampy, overwhelming Caddo Lake.

Darren’s superiors hope that he can get something on the Brotherhood, and that his presence, as a black man, will shake people up, or that he will be able to get answers from people who don’t trust white people (with good reason). Meanwhile, Darren hopes he can use these bona fide awful human beings as a way to fix his own problem. But who – if anyone – cares enough for the boy to believe he’s still alive in this godforsaken place?

Jefferson, Texas, is a town with bloodshed in its history; a history of slavery and conflict with its First Peoples. It’s a place of ghosts and haunted tours and tensions so thick you’d need an armoury to get through them – which is something nobody is lacking ’round these parts, where people aren’t afraid to converse with weapons on their laps and bare hatred on their faces.

Attica Locke, an award-winning author and television writer, embraces that gorgeous southern American writing style where everything and everyone is reduced to its worst parts, but there is still beauty to be found. Darren is a man whose moral compass swings wildly, who has trouble seeing past his own history to what’s happening in the present. His determination may be the saviour of the missing boy, or it could be the ruination of an old, fading town with centuries-old prejudices. Or it might just lead to his own downfall.


NEW CRIME FICTION


butterflygirl

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld

After the events of The Child Finder, Naomi Cottle is in Portland looking for the sister she can only recall through scraps of memory: a strawberry field, dirty feet, and running away from the person who had captured them. The years before that event are a blank, and so she has nothing to help her explain who her sister is – no name, no picture. But she’s got determination, and a skill set borne from her work as an investigator who finds missing children. She knows where to start looking – in the most dangerous parts of town – but the people there are simmering with fear of the unknown person who is taking young women off the street and leaving them discarded in the canal. When Celia, a twelve-year-old girl with a bitter past and an awful present, crosses Naomi’s path, the two make a connection. But can it stop something like murder, solve the past and fix what’s wrong? This is a grim look into the realities of street life, and a poetic realisation of hope, by an author on the frontline.


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Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard

Pause: the manager of the tiny Irish village of Shanamore’s holiday cottages falls asleep in front of the hidden camera video footage he’s taking in a woman’s bedroom as she sleeps. Fastforward: the woman is not alone in the room – somebody else is there, all in black, balaclava askew, a knife at their side. Rewind: online influencer Natalie escapes a relationship breakdown, entertainment reporter Audrey finds a case that might give her the promotion she’s desperate for, a woman named Jennifer considers the forbidden relationship she’s drawn to, and slowly, the history leading to this act becomes clear. Fastforward: after the murder, the killer walks to the camera and destroys it. The manager wakes and doesn’t know what to do. Rewind: The reader goes to buy Catherine Ryan Howard’s blistering new book to find out what the hell’s going on.


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The Wife and the Widow by Christian White

Christian White has followed up the incredible success of his first book, The Nowhere Child, with this unnerving and brilliant thriller: the story of two women, one dead body, and a whole lot of secrets. It’s the middle of winter on the deserted Belport Island, a place that teems with life in summer but spends the colder months populated only by the locals who are waiting for upcoming money and sunshine. Abby is an amateur taxidermist, part-and-not-enough-time supermarket assistant, and runner, who stumbles on a horde of police by the old ferry terminal. She soon finds her husband Ray implicated in an awful crime. Kate is a wealthy suburban stay-at-home mother and a wife to a hardworking husband whose flight home from an overseas work trip lands without him. When it becomes apparent that John never made that plane – or went anywhere in the first place – Kate’s world stops making sense. The secrets these men kept, on a freezing, flooding island off the Victorian coast, will only be laid bare if the wife and the widow can find each other. This is a flat-out excellent second book, riveting from the start, twisted and clever. I honestly can’t wait to see what White writes next.


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Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna

Whitney is getting married in a luxury spa resort, and even though it’s been a while since all of her college friends have been together, a wedding seems like a divine time to remember the friendships of their youth, and maybe have a fun vacation while they’re at it. Alas, because this is ‘Dead Write’, not ‘Wed Right’ (petition to start Readings’ romance column with this name?) somebody winds up dead at the rehearsal dinner – but, unexpectedly, four separate women claim they alone are behind the death. So what would drive four people to confess to a murder that they didn’t commit – and who did kill? This is a smart, funny read perfect for beach holidays.


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Silver by Chris Hammer

Chris Hammer’s debut, Scrublands, was the type of bestseller where you would hear customers whispering to each other: ‘Have you read this? I’ve heard amazing things!’ Well, keep whispering, because Martin Scarsden is back, following his partner Mandy from the events of Scrublands – which Scarsden turned into a book – to the town of Port Silver, where Mandy has inherited a property and they can restart their lives as a family. It’s also the town where Scarsden grew up, surrounded by misery and desperate to leave. Still, he’s hopeful he can rediscover the town’s beauty – until his arrival coincides with the brutal death of his old friend Jasper in Mandy’s rented townhouse. Suddenly, he’s trying to clear her name, figure out what happened to his best friend, and work out what is happening to his idyllic, horrific childhood town – and what happened all those years ago that he can’t let go of. This is a taut and relentless thriller – just jump into the rapids and hold on.


laetitiarodd

Laetitia Rodd and the Case of the Wandering Scholar by Kate Saunders

One morning in 1851, as Mrs Laetitia Rodd was sitting down with her friend and landlady in their peaceful garden, her barrister brother Fred comes knocking: he has a case that his sister might be interested in. A sometime-investigator and widow of an archdeacon, known for her discretion, Mrs Rodd is indeed intrigued by the case. The wealthy Mr Jacob Welland is dying of consumption, but before he departs this fine earth, wishes to make amends with his brother after a decade of estrangement. However, this brother will prove difficult to find, having abandoned the trappings of everyday life at Oxford to live in the woods like a wild animal. Animal or man, Mrs Rodd is resolutely the woman to find whomever she is searching for. With divine historical touches, embarrassing bad manners which readers will find themselves very guilty of repeating, and a hearty dose of intrigue, this second Laetitia Rodd mystery is one to avail yourself of forthwith.


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The Burning Land by George Alagiah

Lesedi Motlantshe has years of power behind him – that of his father, a politician turned billionaire, and his own, from a publicly adored wide-eyed post-Apartheid youth to now, trying to fight for the ideals his father has forgotten. So when Lesedi is killed, the world takes notice – and the political ramifications could shake South Africa to its core. Kagiso and Lindi, friends from long ago and now a continent apart, know that land ownership in the country is a dangerous topic, and there are forces at play that nobody understands. Will South Africa survive this, or will this deadly spark set everything aflame?


theredhand

The Red Hand by Peter Temple

Peter Temple isn’t really somebody who needs an introduction. He’s the one that people mention when they come up to me and ask for a recommendation: ‘Something like Peter Temple,’ they’ll say. Or, ‘I loved The Broken Shore.’ Of course they did, along with Truth, the first crime book to win the prestigious Miles Franklin. You can get a hint of the Miles win in Text publisher Michael Heyward’s piece, which opens The Red Hand, supplying a brief and delicious snippet of Temple as a person: as Heyward says, it’s a shame they didn’t publish Temple’s emails, but at least some of them make their way into the book, happily for readers. The Red Hand is the kind of satisfyingly dense book you’d want from an author you love, with a variety of formats within its pages for whatever mood you’re in. In each piece – hell, numerous times on each page – there is Temple’s callsign: rough lives, beauty found in strange places, caustic wit, a one-liner you might note down to look at again later. There will never be another Peter Temple, but for now, there’s a whole lot more to love in this book.


ALSO OUT THIS MONTH


As springtime gets hold of Australia, feel for all of those cooling northern hemispherians with Mads Peder Nordbo (translated by Charlotte Barslund), Cold Fear, David Koepp’s Cold Storage, and Peter James’ The Secret of Cold Hill – maybe they can keep themselves warm with Michael Connelly’s Ballard and Bosch thriller The Night Fire.

Also out: John Grisham’s The Guardians, Amy Stewart’s Kopp Sisters on the March, Nicci French’s The Lying Room, Peter Robinson’s Many Rivers to Cross, Elly Griffiths’ Now You See Them, C.J. Box’s The Bitterroots, Jessica Fellowes’s The Mitford Scandal, Tess Gerritsen’s The Shape of Night … 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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The Wife and the Widow

The Wife and the Widow

Christian White

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