Deserving Death by Katherine Howell

On a springtime morning in Sydney, two paramedics get a call: to attend to a collapsed woman in Sydenham. The paramedics recognise the address, and when they arrive their worst fears are confirmed: their co-worker and friend, Alicia Bayliss, is found bloody and beaten to death. Just weeks earlier, another paramedic suffered the same grisly fate.

In Katherine Howell’s latest Detective Ella Marconi novel, there is as much emotional involvement as there is procedural detail. Marconi is unnerved, sensing unexpected tensions among the paramedics she interviews, while attempting to sustain her relationship with Dr Callum McLennan as the anniversary of his cousin’s death approaches. Marconi is the one who helped find the killer – the doctor’s own perverse father – and McLennan’s mother cannot forgive her for it. Meanwhile, paramedic Carly Martens is troubled, determined to find justice for her dead friend, while waiting to see if her girlfriend will be able to brave her family’s bigotry and disclose their relationship. The emergency services – both police and ambulance – require trust on the field, but in this case, suspicion spreads far and wide.

Deserving Death was a revealing and tense read, and the cause of a Very Late Night Staying Up Just To Finish One cough Twelve More Chapters. This is a book full of smart and powerful women, and the men who feel inadequate when confronted by them. Exactly the right kind of crime novel to throw us screaming into 2014.

Fiona Hardy blogs about Crime Fiction at and puts together the Dead Write column for the Readings Monthly newsletter.