Katherine Howell, former paramedic turned award-winning creator of Ella Marconi. Photo: Marco Del GrandeSunscreen, fly repellent and a good crime novel are all essential requirements for a holiday at the coast or for just lazing around the backyard. Every summer there is a flood of light, criminal fiction and this year is no different with plenty of action, suspense and mystery on offer. This summer it is particularly pleasing to see a strong contingent of Australian crime novels.
Leading the way is Peter Corris’ 39th novel about Sydney private eye Cliff Hardy, Silent Kill (Allen & Unwin, $29.99). Hardy is hired to bodyguard a charismatic populist, Rory O’Hara, on a tour of regional Australia, but things quickly fall apart following a kidnapping and murder. Hired to investigate the murder, Hardy finds that there are powerful political and commercial forces that want O’Hara kept quiet for good. This is a professional and entertaining story that quickly gathers interest as Corris takes the reader on an enjoyable journey through the backstreets of Sydney and on a road trip to Wollongong and Darwin and eventually to Canberra, which gets a quick serve from Hardy: ”I wouldn’t say Canberra’s an advertisement for creativity and productivity.” The pacing is brisk and Corris smoothly mixes astute political observations with genuine thrills. The story is engaging and the book builds to a taut, exciting climax. One of the best in this long-running series.
The pacing is more subdued in Stephen Orr’s dark, literary crime novel One Boy Missing (Text, $29.99). Set in a small rural town it is an eloquently written story about a missing child, dark crimes and the chance of redemption. Powerful and thought-provoking.
Lighter reading fare is provided by Kathryn Ledson’s Monkey Business (Penguin, $29.99). This is the second in Ledson’s series about part-time Melbourne vigilante Erica Jewell and once more features a fast moving plot, engaging characters and a large dollop of romantic suspense. Easy reading for the beach or pool.
Later in the summer, readers can also look forward to the latest book by Katherine Howell in her series about Sydney Detective Ella Marconi, Deserving Death (Macmillan, $29.99), and Tony Cavanagh’s third novel, The Train Rider (Hachette, $29.99), about ex-homicide detective Darian Richards, who is once more chasing serial killers in Queensland.
Serial killers also dominate the summer reading from overseas. Patricia Cornwell provides yet another blood-soaked tale featuring Kay Scarpetta, Dust (Little Brown, $39.99), in which the chief medical adviser hunts a brutal killer against the backdrop of designer drugs and high level corruption.
Newcomer James Carol makes a solid entry into the serial killer stakes with his first novel, Broken Dolls (Faber, $19.99). The son of an infamous serial killer, former FBI profiler Jefferson Winter now works as a consultant to police forces around the world. Hired by Scotland Yard, he finds himself in London chasing a psychopath who likes abducting and lobotomising young women. A grisly read.
Brian McGilloway also takes the reader down some dark paths with Hurt (Corsair, $29.99). Set in the darkly realised Irish town of Derry, it follows the police investigation into the murder of a teenage girl and a possible paedophile ring. Packed with convincing characters and grittily described locations, it is a tense and suspenseful chiller that confirms McGilloway’s status as one of the best new British crime writers.
Admirers of good British crime fiction can look forward to the imminent release of Peter May’s Entry Island, (Quercus, $29.99). Following the success of his recent trilogy set on the Scottish Isle of Lewis, May moves the action in his latest book to the small and remote Entry Island in the Gulf of St Lawrence in Canada. A murder seems to have its origins in the dark history of the island and the forced clearances of the Scottish Outer Hebrides 200 years ago. Well written with vivid descriptions and a strong sense of history, this is superior crime fiction.
For those who prefer dark, suburban thrillers with unreliable narrators and old secrets, there are good examples from both sides of the Atlantic. During the past seven years, or so, Lisa Unger has steadily established herself as a rising star of the American thriller scene and In The Blood, (Simon & Schuster, $29.99) is probably her best novel to date. Lana Granger is trying to escape her past in a quiet college town in upstate New York. When a fellow student goes missing, Lana finds her past and her relationship with a troubled young boy under close examination as her careful web of lies unravels. This is a clever and tricky thriller that reveals its many surprises with clockwork precision. The story moves at a good pace and the suspense steadily but quickly mounts. Some matters are predictable, but the final twists will catch you out. Highly recommended.
Also quite good is Lucie Whitehouse’s Before We Met, (Bloomsbury, $27.99), due out this month. This domestic gothic thriller traverses similar territory to recent releases by Sophie Hannah and Sabine Durrant. After a whirlwind romance Hannah Reilly is settled in London with her wealthy new husband Mark. It seems perfect until Mark does not return from a business trip to America. Hannah makes a few simple inquiries and … he’s been lying. The more she digs the greater the deception appears and soon Hannah begins to fear for her life.
Whitehouse is good at gradually building the suspense and adding twist upon twist. The pace meanders at times, but overall this a solid psychological thriller with an engaging, if unstable, narrator.
There is also the customary selection of bulky thrillers about tough secret agents, grand conspiracies and international skulduggery.
Robert Ludlum contributes his usual fast-paced feast of action from beyond the grave, The Bourne Retribution (Orion, $32.99), with Eric Van Lustbader completing another entry in the Jason Bourne series for the long-deceased Ludlum.
Dean Crawford provides wild action with a science fiction tinge in The Eternity Project, (Simon & Schuster, $24.99), but the pick of the thrillers is John Lawton’s Then We Take Berlin, (Grove Press, $29.99). Moving seamlessly back and forth between 1963 and the 1940s, the story focuses on former MI6 agent and black market ring leader in occupied Berlin, John Holderness. Retired from the service and his thieving days, Holderness is enticed back into work by an old colleague who wants him to do one last scam and smuggle someone across the Berlin Wall on the eve of President Kennedy’s visit to the city.
This meticulously researched and richly detailed historical thriller is a gripping story of espionage and war and people caught up in the unfolding of dramatic events. As with his series about Inspector Troy, Lawton marvellously captures the atmosphere of the post-World War II period and the story rattles along at a good pace keeping the reader entertained from beginning to end.
Finally, for those who enjoy quirky crime novels there is Shane Kuhn’s appealingly titled Kill Your Boss, (Sphere, $29.99). John Lago works for Human Resources, Inc, a company which specialises in providing assassins disguised as interns. These rogue interns are infiltrated into companies where they get close to the selected target and kill them. As Lago notes early on: ”Interns are invisible. Ultimately, your target will trust you with his life and that is when you will take it.” At 25, Lago is becoming too old to be an intern and is about to perform his last job for the company, but he suspects that he will not be allowed to retire peacefully and sets out to ensure his survival.
Kill Your Boss is a highly entertaining thriller that mixes graphic violence and action with amusing asides and some very dark humour. The plot frequently veers out of control, and the cartoon nature of the violence could have been usefully toned down, but overall it is a memorable and thrilling tale. In all, enough good reading to last through the summer holidays.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.