Planning your Aussie Crime Fiction Reading for 2012

If you’re signing up to one (or both) of the Australian themed reading challenges for next year you might be looking for some brand new crime fiction to read. Here are some titles that I’m particularly looking forward to

Gary Corby‘s second Athenian mystery set in Ancient Greece has already been released in the US but is only being released in Australia on 3 January 2012. The blurb begins…“ATHENS, 460 B.C. Life’s tough for Nicolaos, the only investigating agent in ancient Athens. His girlfriend’s left him and his boss wants to fire him. But when an Athenian official is murdered, the brilliant statesman Pericles has no choice but to put Nico on the job. The case takes Nico, in the company of a beautiful slave girl, to the land of Ionia within the Persian Empire. The Persians will execute him on the spot if they think he’s a spy. Beyond that, there are just a few minor problems. He’s being chased by brigands who are only waiting for the right price before they kill him. Somehow he has to placate his girlfriend, who is very angry about that slave girl. He must win over Themistocles, the military genius who saved Greece during the Persian Wars, and then defected to the hated enemy. And to solve the crime, Nico must uncover a secret that could not only destroy Athens, but will force him to choose between love, and ambition, and his own life.”  I have just started listening to the audio version of this one (inexplicably available to me to legally purchase whereas the paperback is not available for two more weeks).

Sulari Gentill’s third Rowland Sinclair novel, MILES OFF COURSE, is due out on 30 January 2012 and the publisher’s blurb tells us this…“Opening early in 1933 in the superlative luxury of the Blue Mountains’ Hydro Majestic hotel, Miles off Course finds Rowland Sinclair and his companions ensconced in croquet and pre-dinner cocktails, that is, until the Harry Simpson, vanishes. An Indigenous stockman, Simpson has a hold over the Sinclair brothers that is both mysterious and unusual. The Hydro Majestic is rapidly abandoned for the High Country of NSW where Rowland searches for Simpson and becomes embroiled in a much darker conspiracy” A copy of this one arrived on the doorstep of Fair Dinkum HQ yesterday and I must admit to doing a happy dance (luckily for all concerned there is no video of this hideous sight). I was also chuffed to learn that the fourth book in this series will also be released in 2012. More happy dancing to come.

Peter Corris‘ 39th (I think) Cliff Hardy novel is called COMEBACK and will be released on 30 January 2012. The blurb says “Cliff Hardy has his licence back—but does he still have what it takes to cut it as a PI on the streets of Sydney? Cliff reckons the skills are still there, if a little rusty, and actor Bobby Forrest’s murder case looks promising. His investigations take him deep into the city’s underbelly through inner Sydney, the city’s west, the central coast and the Wollondilly Plains. Along the way, he encounters a range of suspects and motives that put his powers to the test; prostitutes and cops, corporate movers and shakers, a would-be golf guru and a media magnate’s kick-boxing assistant. Only Hardy’s experience, resilience and persistence bring him to a shock understanding of what it’s really all about.” I am determined to read this book even though I have never read any of the predecessors…I do find such a long series a very daunting prospect but I’ll just jump in and see how I go

Katherine Howell‘s fifth Ella Marconi novel is called SILENT FEAR and is due out in Australia on 1 Feb 2012. Here’s the publisher’s blurb “On a searing summer’s day paramedic Holly Garland rushes to an emergency to find a man collapsed with a bullet wound in the back of his head, CPR being performed by two bystanders, and her long-estranged brother Seth watching it all unfold. Seth claims to be the dying man’s best friend, but Holly knows better than to believe anything he says and fears that his re-appearance will reveal the bleak secrets of her past – secrets which both her fiance Fraser and her colleagues have no idea exist, and which if exposed could cause her to lose everything. Detective Ella Marconi suspects Seth too, but she’s also sure the dead man’s wife is lying, and the deceased’s boss seems just too helpful. But then a shocking double homicide related to the case makes Ella realise that her investigations are getting closer to the killer, but also increasing the risk of an even higher body count.”

Are there any Aussie crime books you’re particularly looking forward to getting your hands on next year?

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The 2011 Davitt Award Winners Are…

The Davitt Awards are sponsored by Sisters in Crime Australia and are named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, FORCE AND FRAUD in 1865. Awards are given annually to crime writing by women in 4 categories:

  • the best adult novel
  • the best young fiction book
  • the best true crime
  • and the Reader’s Choice award, voted by members of Sisters in Crime.

This year’s winners were announced at the Sisters in Crime conference SheKilda on Saturday night, 8 October.

Best Adult Novel went to Katherine Howell for her novel COLD JUSTICE which tells the story of the investigation into the 19 year old murder of a teenage boy in a Sydney suburb. For more about the book you can check out my review and Kerrie‘s. We both rated this one very highly.

Best Young Fiction went to Penny Matthews for A GIRL LIKE ME. I’m afraid I don’t know much about this one as YA is not really my thing but if any of our readers have read it please do leave us some comments

Best True Crime went to Colleen Egan for her book MURDERER NO MORE about the acquittal of Andrew Mallard who had been convicted and jailed for murder on the basis of a forced confession and other dodgy evidence. Mallard spent 11 years in jail. I haven’t read the book but have watched a television documentary about this case and the work that Egan (a journalist) and others did on Mallard’s behalf and that was certainly a sobering look at what can go wrong with the justice system

The Reader’s Choice Award went to P. M. Newton for her debut novel THE OLD SCHOOL. You might remember I put a fair amount of thought into my vote (as a member of Sisters in Crime I was eligible to vote in this category) and while I didn’t select this book I am very happy that it won as it too is an excellent read. You can see my review here and take a look at Kerrie’s too. I just hope this doesn’t go to Pam’s head too much and take her focus away from the second book which some of us are waiting very impatiently for 🙂

Congratulations to all the winners. I haven’t read all the books in all the categories but from those I’ve read I can say that women’s crime writing in Australia is in fine shape and I look forward to another great year ahead.

If you’re looking for something to read here’s the full list of adult novels eligible for the Davitt award this year with links to reviews here at Fair Dinkum where available

  • Sydney Bauer, Matter of Trust (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • A A Bell, Diamond Eyes (HarperCollins)
  • Honey Brown, The Good Daughter (Penguin Books Australia)
  • Miranda Darling, Troika Dolls (Allen & Unwin)
  • Marianne Delacourt, Sharp Turn (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ilsa Evans, Sticks and Stones (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Kathryn Fox, Death Mask (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Sulari Gentill, A Few Right Thinking Men (Pantera Press)
  • Leah Giarrantano, Watch the World Burn (Random House Australia)
  • H M Goltz, Mastermind (Atlas Productions)
  • Kerry Greenwood, Dead Man’s Chest (Allen & Unwin)
  • Anna Haebich, Murdering Stepmothers: The Execution of Martha Rendell (University of Western Australia Press)
  • Katherine Howell, Cold Justice (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Katherine Howell, Violent Exposure (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Wendy James, Where Have You Been? (University of Western Australia Press)
  • Maggie Joel, The Second Last Woman in England (Murdoch Books)
  • Louisa Larkin, The Genesis Flaw (Murdoch Books)
  • P D Martin, Kiss of Death (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Colleen McCullough, Naked Cruelty (HarperCollins) (well I’m half way through it)
  • P M Newton, The Old School (Penguin Books Australia)
  • Malla Nunn, Let the Dead Lie (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Leigh Redhead, Thrill City (Allen & Unwin)
  • Angela Savage, The Half-Child (Text)
  • Felicity Young, Take Out (Fremantle Press)
  • Helene Young, Border Watch (Hachette Australia)

VIOLENT EXPOSURE, Katherine Howell

Format: Kindle Edition

  • File Size: 620 KB
  • Publisher: Macmillan Australia (December 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004EEOWHU
  • Source: I bought the e-book but was also supplied with a hard copy for review by Macmillan Australia.

Publisher’s Blurb

When Suzanne Crawford is found stabbed to death and her husband Connor is discovered to be missing, it looks like just another tragic case of domestic violence to Detective Ella Marconi. But as the investigation progresses, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Why is there no record of Connor Crawford beyond a few years ago? Why has a teenager who worked for the pair gone missing too? And above all, what was the secret Suzanne knew Connor was keeping at all costs – even from her?

As Ella begins to build a picture of the Crawfords’ fractured lives, things around her are deteriorating. Her relationship with a fellow officer is hanging by a thread and her parents seem to be keeping secrets of their own. But Ella only has time for the job she loves, and she knows she has to see her way through the tangled web of deceit and lies to get at the truth – before it’s too late.

My take

The structure of VIOLENT EXPOSURE is similar to earlier novels in this series (this is #4): parallel plots that advance in tandem, each generating their own sense of suspense. The link between the main  plots is Detective Ella Marconi. This time, in addition to Marconi providing links to plots of previous novels, there is a continuing thread linking VIOLENT EXPOSURE to the first novel FRANTIC in which the baby son of a police officer and a paramedic was kidnapped. The links reinforce the close nature of the paramedic community.

There is plenty in VIOLENT EXPOSURE to keep the reader engaged: believable characters and scenarios, as well as a building tension as the Marconi and her team race to find Connor Crawford.

Marconi has moved from Sydney’s Cold Case Unit, where she was taking this easy after a bullet wound, into the “real world” of severe crimes. Other strands of the novel involve the paramedics where a trainee does not seem to have the sense of commitment required, and the struggle one of the paramedics and his wife are having to bring a baby to full term.

There is a further crossover between the police and the ambos (paramedics) where one of the latter is running a drama class that is part of a “street kid” project. One of the drama class participants works for the victim in her garden centre. Again this sense of coincidence reinforces how small the worlds are that we move in.

The title also makes the reader contemplate the effects on both police officers and paramedics of constant exposure to violent crimes. Do they become inured to bloodshed, less sensitive emotionally, or undermined morally?

For me VIOLENT EXPOSURE was further affirmation that Katherine Howell’s novels are both unique and of world-class.

My rating: 4.8

Other titles reviewed:

Katherine Howell’s website

Other reviews to check:

A difficult reader’s choice

As I mentioned back in May I am a member of  Sisters in Crime Australia and am therefore eligible to vote in the Reader’s Choice category in this year’s Davitt Awards. Never one to take voting duties lightly I was a little overwhelmed by the number of eligible titles. At that time I had read only 6 and a half of the eligible adult fiction titles so how could I possibly make an informed vote? Given I had no chance of reading all the eligible titles in the time available I decided not to fret too much, though did resolve to get my hands on as many of the books in the adult fiction category as I could given the limitations of book-buying budgets and waking hours in which to read.

I have now read 12 of the 25 eligible adult fiction books and to be honest almost all of them would be deserving winners. I have chosen my favourite (by the merest of margins) but I really wouldn’t mind if any of the others that I’ve liked was to win instead. However, my vote has gone to

DEATH MASK by Kathryn Fox: Although I thought the start a bit slow this book has one of the most creative storylines I’ve encountered in ages, focusing on sexual assaults committed by sporting stars. As with all the very best crime fiction it is about much more than the crimes it depicts; examining the psychology of team sports from all angles in a thought-provoking way that is far-removed from how we normally the subject addressed in the media. I thought it topical, non-sensationalist and utterly compelling.

Here are the others I’ve read (in alphabetical order):
  • A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN by Sulari Gentill: A delightful historical mystery set against a fascinating backdrop of social and political turmoil in Australia in the 1930’s. A young man of a wealthy background gets help from his left-wing friends to investigate the murder of his uncle and the book has a great setting, warm-lively characters and the historical setting is interesting (my rating 3.5)
  • COLD JUSTICE by Katherine Howell: The re-opening of the investigation into the death of a teenager 19-years earlier explores the idea of people’s pasts and how they might feel differently about events they witnessed or took part in with the benefit of age and distance. It is brilliantly plotted and full of compelling characters and is the best (to date) of a terrific series (my rating 4.5)
  • DEAD MAN’S CHEST by Kerry Greenwood An intelligent cosy mystery set in 1920’s Australia this book sees private detective Phryne Fisher and her household head to the seaside for a rest. Of course they encounter some mysteries to solve including the bizarre bandit threatening the long-haired ladies of Queenscliff and the sudden disappearance of a servant couple. It’s terrific to see  the latest book in a long running series receive the attention to detail and quality story telling that the first novels received (my rating 3.5)
  • KISS OF DEATH by P.D. Martin The fifth book in this series sees ex-pat Australian FBI Profiler Sophie Anderson helping Los Angeles police with an investigation into a murder that appears to have ritualistic elements that could be associated with a religious cult. This evidence, plus one of the psychic visions that Sophie sometimes has, leads her to look into the world of self-proclaimed vampires. I liked the procedural and investigative aspects of this book but did find the supernatural elements a bit over the top (my rating 3)
  • LET THE DEAD LIE by Malla Nunn: The second book of Nunn’s set in 1950’s South Africa follows the story of Emmanuel Cooper who, under the country’s increasingly draconian apartheid laws has recently been classified non-white and so is unable to work officially for the police anymore. However while undertaking some unofficial surveillance work for his old boss he finds a young boy’s body and is compelled to investigate the case. What I enjoyed most about this book is its depiction of the impact of his changed situation on Emmanuel Cooper which felt very realistic in addition to being heart-breaking (my rating 4)
  • MATTER OF TRUST by Sydney Bauer: Boston-based lawyer David Cavanagh goes home to New Jersey to defend an old friend who is accused of murder. The novel is decently paced but has a bit too much of a tv-script sensibility for me to find 100% engaging. I’d have liked a little more depth to the characters and their motivations (my rating 2.5)
  • NAKED CRUELTY by Colleen McCullough: This is the only one that I’ve read that I would be disappointed to see win as I just don’t think it’s a great example of the crime writing craft. Set in the US in 1969 and involving the investigation of numerous crimes including a series of brutal rapes I found it historically anachronistic and pretentious (my rating 2)
  • THE HALF-CHILD by Angela Savage: (my rating 4): In the mid-90’s Jayne Keeney is an Aussie living in Thailand and working as a private detective. She is asked to investigate the apparent suicide of a young Australian volunteer some months earlier and uncovers several nasty villains in the process. It’s a terrific novel with a great sense of its setting and a very thoughtful and nuanced plot (my rating 4)
  • THE OLD SCHOOL by P.M. Newton: The first (of what I hope is many) book to feature Detective Constable Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly, the book is set in 1992 in western Sydney and involves an investigation into some bones found at a building site. Newton does many things well but, for me, it’s the time and place captured to perfection that I will long remember in this tale that tackles such big issues as the search for identity, the treatment of Australia’s indigenous people and the nature of police corruption. (my rating 4)
  • WATCH THE WORLD BURN by Leah Giarratano: A woman dies from apparent spontaneous combustion at an up scale Sydney restaurant and then other odd, possibly related, events start happening around the city. Detective Jill Jackson is meant to be studying for her Masters Degree but is drawn into the investigation for personal reasons. As always I loved the way Giarratano draws her characters in a very believable and thoughtful way and the story is one that takes several unexpected turns. (my rating 4)
  • VIOLENT EXPOSURE by Katherine Howell: Paramedics are called to a domestic disturbance at the suburban home of Suzanne and Connor Crawford one night only to have the couple explain the incident away as nothing more than a disagreement. The next evening Police and paramedics are again called to the address only this time Suzanne Crawford is dead and her husband is missing. This is a fast-paced book with credible, recognisable characters and a superbly complex plot. (my rating 4.5)
Davitt awards in the categories of best adult crime novel, best young fiction crime book and best true crime book by Australian women writers are chosen by a judging panel. The Reader’s Choice award, voted by members of Sisters in Crime, can go to any of the titles eligible for one of these three categories. All the award winners will be announced in October. For a full list of the eligible titles in all the categories you can see my earlier post on the awards.

As for which book will actually win the award I’ve no idea. I’m notoriously bad at predicting such things and am normally well out of step with the majority, whoever and wherever they may be. All I can say is good luck to all, including those I’ve not had a chance to read yet, and I feel very fortunate as a reader to have been presented with such a terrific range of crime writing by Australian women for my enjoyment and education in just one year!

Review: Violent Exposure by Katherine Howell

Paramedics are called to a domestic disturbance at the suburban home of Suzanne and Connor Crawford one night only to have the couple explain the incident away as nothing more than a disagreement and as there is only a very minor injury involved nothing further happens. The next evening Police and paramedics are again called to the address only this time Suzanne Crawford is dead and her husband is missing. Detective Ella Marconi, having recently finished up her work with the cold case squad, is assigned to the case and, with her partner, starts to focus on the missing husband as a suspect in his wife’s murder. They are hampered  by not being able to discover much about the husband’s past and then they start to learn about some bizarre behaviour that Suzanne was engaging in prior to her death. Although a very focussed policewoman, usually to the detriment of her personal relationships, Ella is troubled here by her father’s health problems and there’s also a minor but thought-provoking thread involving the paramedics who were called to the Crawford house on the night of the murder.

In my view Katherine Howell has risen to the upper echelons of crime writing story tellers, having now produced four very accomplished tales which just keep getting better. In Violent Exposure she manages the multiple plot threads expertly, keeping each one flowing nicely and never dropping any along the way.The tension occurs at different points in each story line so from the first page to the last there is always something for the reader to wonder ‘what’s going to happen there?’about even as we’re moving on to another aspect of the book. This is definitely not one of those books where you can skim read chunks of it due to repetitive or filler content.

My favourite thing about this book, and Howell’s writing in general, is the way it balances telling stories about ordinary people with the need to make those stories more interesting than the average ordinary person’s life. I often talk about looking for  realism in my reading and one way for writers to achieve this is for their characters to be ordinary people a bit like us (rather than the serial-killer-making-suits-from-human-skin characters that we all know don’t exist in the quantities that Hollywood would have us believe). But let’s face it most ordinary people’s lives are not filled with great drama and I think the fact that Howell has managed to create such credible suspense out of the lives of fairly average people shows real skill. This is in part achieved by putting her characters in situations where the morality of their actions isn’t clear cut. You might think for example that theft is always wrong but is there perhaps a situation where it might not be? What would you want the consequences to be for a person who does the wrong thing for a good reason? I enjoy these kinds of themes and think Howell plays with them brilliantly.

The characters in Violent Exposure are also drawn well and deeply, with Ella being the most complex and interesting, even if not always likeable. This description of Ella’s thought process early on in the case is a great indicator of the type of person she is

She was please to still feel the thrill in her blood, the exhilaration of being on a case that mattered. It wasn’t like she wanted people to die; it was just that as it was always going to happen, it was best it happened while she was on duty.

Here she is frustrated at the slow progress of the case and people’s unwillingness to help for what she considers unacceptable reason, worried about her father’s health and her own priorities. When Suzanne Crawford’s father starts calling her with messages from the ghost of his dead daughter it all looks like it might get a bit much for Ella but she’s not the only one experiencing problems. One of the paramedics who was at the Crawford house the night her body was found has an ongoing role in the story and his particularly sad personal problems cause him to do something he would normally consider wrong. Like Ella his decisions and actions are very credibly and sensitively portrayed.

In short then I really enjoyed this book. It’s fast-paced but thought-provoking too, has a cast of characters who are easy to believe and it’s even the right length. My only regret is that I’m now fully caught up with this series and it’s likely to be a while before Howell’s next book is published.


Earlier reviews of Katherine Howell’s books at Fair Dinkum Crime:

Cold Justice (reviewed by Kerrie), Cold Justice (reviewed by Bernadette)


my rating 4.5/5
Publisher Pan Macmillan [2010]
ISBN 9781405040051
Length 312 pages
Format trade paperback
Source I bought it

Talking to Aussie Crime Writers

As one does with the Internet I stumbled across the site of what I think is a local cable TV station (I don’t have cable TV so not 100% sure) that contained a number of short but interesting video interviews. Tara Moss, a crime writer herself, talks to a range of crime fiction authors, many of whom are Australian in the 15-minute interviews.

The most recent interview which I think only went live in the last couple of days is with Katherine Howell, author of four fast-paced crime novels featuring Sydney detective and a series of paramedics. The most recent of these is VIOLENT EXPOSURE which will be reviewed here at Fair Dinkum shortly.

Earlier interviews still available on the site (and appearing to have no geo-restrictions for viewing) are with

Review: COLD JUSTICE, Katherine Howell

Published by Pan Macmillan Australia in 2010
ISBN 978-1-4050-3927-7
329 pages
Source: my TBR

Publisher’s blurb

A teenage girl stumbles across the body of her classmate, Tim Pieters, hidden amongst the bushes. His family is devastated, the killer is never found.
Eighteen years later, political pressure sees the murder investigation reopened. Detective Ella Marconi tracks down Georgie Riley, the student who found the body, and who is now a paramedic. Georgie seems to be telling the truth, so then why does Ella receive an anonymous phone call insisting that Georgie knows more? And is it mere coincidence that her ambulance partner, Freya, also went to the same high school?

My take

Paramedic Georgie Riley and Detective Ella Marconi are travelling similar paths, returning to work after traumatic incidents that resulted in hospitalisation and being off work for some months. As a result both are under scrutiny. Georgie has been transferred from the country to the ambulance station at The Rocks in Sydney. She will undergo assessment to see if she can manage the job. She is staggered to see that her assessing partner is Freya, her best friend from high school. Georgie hopes she has left some of the problems she had at the country station behind her, and it seems she has, until she sees a familiar face in the crowd.

Ella Marconi is returning to work after a gunshot wound, and has been assigned to the Unsolved Cases unit. Technology has advanced since Tim Pieters was murdered in 1990 and items from his file have been sent off for DNA testing.  Ella too is hoping that some of the demons of her past don’t surface, but both her parents and her boyfriend Wayne are anxious that she may have returned to work too soo. Ella is determined to prove she has what it takes.

In COLD JUSTICE Australian author Katherine Howell has used a formula similar to the one she used successfully in both THE DARKEST HOUR, and her debut novel FRANTIC (see mini-review below): parallel plots that advance in tandem, each generating their own sense of suspense. The link between the two plots is Detective Ella Marconi. Again the paramedic characters are new, while Marconi provides the common thread from one novel to the next.

My rating: 4.8

I am very much looking forward to reading the next in the series: VIOLENT EXPOSURE – it is already on my TBR shelves.

There are two other reviews of COLD JUSTICE on this site by Sunnie Gill and Bernadette.

Mini-review of FRANTIC (rating 5.0)

FRANTIC is Katherine Howell’s debut in writing and well worth your attention. Set in Sydney. Sophie Phillips is a paramedic whose husband Chris is a police officer who was assaulted recently. Their son Lachlan is still a baby. Their lives are very busy because Sophie often works nights. Marriage-wise things have not been going so well lately and Chris and Sophie don’t seem to be talking much. And then Chris is shot in the head on the doorstep of their house and Lachlan is abducted. The action ramps up quickly and events spiral to a catharsis that I didn’t even see coming. I found myself holding my breath and thinking “she’s not really doing that!”.

Katherine Howell’s website

COLD JUSTICE, Katherine Howell

Tim Pieters’ body was found hidden in bushes not far from his home 19 years ago. His killer was never found. Now his cousin is a Member of Parliament and has enough clout to arrange for the case to be re-opened. Detective Ella Marconi is assigned to the cold case as her first job back at work after being shot. Among the many investigative avenues she takes is the need to track down Georgie Daniels who was Tim’s school classmate and was the one to stumble over his body. She is now a paramedic who has recently undergone some workplace troubles and is being assessed for fitness to work.

This is one of the most cleverly plotted novels I have ever read. I had some issues with plotting in this book’s predecessor but here Howell has excelled at creating a complex, taut drama that is also easy to follow. The story is told mainly in two alternating threads from Georgie and Ella’s points of view but when necessary to fill in details no one else could know there are also chapters from other key players’ perspectives, including Tim’s cousin Callum who is responsible for the case being re-opened. The way these threads are woven together is outstanding and the result is a totally gripping novel full of suspense. This is one of those books that genuinely deserves the ‘unputdownable’ label as I read it over the course of a single day/night and only stopped when circumstances positively demanded I do so.

A feature of this series is that although the Detective is consistent across the books there is always another lead character who is a different paramedic each time. Howell is a former paramedic herself so brings an authenticity to her depictions of this high-stress workplace which are always fascinating and provide lots of drama. Using a different character each time keeps the series genuinely fresh by having someone other than the Detective lead us through some of the important action. It also gets rid of the credibility problem that can sometimes happen in long running series where awful things keep happening to the same poor sod. Importantly though the characters are always well-drawn, whether they are long-running ones or only to appear in a single book. Ella, who we have come to know over three books, has a near-obsession with work which impacts her personal life in various ways. The characters new to this book, including Georgie and the family of the murdered boy who have all struggled in various ways to come to terms with his death and the lack of closure on the case, are all sensitively described and people whose stories I felt quickly drawn into.

I loved the way this book approached the idea of people’s pasts and how they might feel differently about events they witnessed or took part in with the benefit of age and distance. There are multiple characters, major and minor, who Howell uses to explore some variation of this idea and it really does give some insight into how real world cold cases might be solved years after the event even if there isn’t new evidence.

In short the book is brilliantly plotted, full of compelling characters and can be just as easily read by people new to the series as it can by existing fans. It’s Howell’s best book to date and is highly recommended to all.


COLD JUSTICE has been reviewed by Sunnie here at Fair Dinkum as well as at Aust Crime Fiction.

Katherine Howell’s earlier two novels are FRANTIC and THE DARKEST HOUR


My rating: 4.5/5
Publisher: Pan Macmillan [2010]
ISBN: 97814055039277
Length: 329 pages
Format: trade paperback

Recent Acquisitions #1

Since Kerrie and I decided to re-launch this blog as Fair Dinkum Crime with a focus only on Australian crime fiction I have been uncovering new books to read wherever I turn. So far this year I have acquired 12 new (to me) titles by a total of 8 different Australian writers and there’s a mixture of historical fiction, police procedurals, legal thrillers and a noir thrown in for good measure. Something for all my personalities 🙂

Andrew Croome’s DOCUMENT Z has already been reviewed here and is a combination historical fiction/political thriller based on the real defection of a Russian embassy worker/spy to Australia in 1954. I found it compelling.


Belinda D’Alessandro’s DISCOVERING WOUNDED JUSTICE: CRUEL MENACE was a book I discovered on the auction site of writers who were auctioning books to raise money for the Queensland flood appeal and I won the auction for this book. This is the publisher’s blurb for Queensland-born Belinda’s debut novel

Alyssa Giordano, a first generation American, never thought being a woman in this day and age would be a disadvantage… until she met her first boss. Her grandmothers, one Irish, the other Italian, fought so hard to be seen by other women as their husbands’ equals. But Alyssa’s grandfathers, and her father, knew who really ran things.

Barely a year into her career, the young lawyer couldn’t believe that Duncan Kennedy would accuse her of a double cross and sack her after she’d rebuffed his advances. Nor could she believe that his partner, Lydia Price, refused to support her. As she leaves behind her first job in the only career which she’d ever wanted, Alyssa, pride wounded, loses faith in the one thing she’d grown up believing in: justice.

After struggling to get her career (and her life) back in order, Giordano finally hits the big time and finds that roles are reversed. Kennedy is labeled a swindler and a leading journalist, a woman no less, holds his fate in her hands. But as he vanishes in a cloud of lies and creditors before he can be brought to justice, Giordano’s faith in it, justice, freefalls again.


David Whish-Wilson’s LINE OF SIGHT has been send to us for review and is based on a true story:

When a brothel madam is shot on a Perth golf course in 1975 it should be a routine murder enquiry. But it isn’t. In fact there’s barely an investigation at all, and Superintendent Swann thinks he knows why. Heroin is the new drug in town and the money is finding its way into some very respectable hands.

It’s the brave or the foolish who accuse their fellow cops of corruption, and sometimes not even Swann is sure which he is. Especially when those he’s pointing the finger at have mates in every stronghold of power in the state – big business, organised crime, the government. He might have won the first round by forcing a royal commission, but the judge is an ailing patsy and the outcome seems predetermined. If that’s not enough to contend with, Swann’s teenage daughter has disappeared, he doesn’t know whether she’s alive or not, and the word on the street is he’s a dead man walking.

Line of Sight is classic crime noir, a tale of dark corruption set in a city of sun and heat.


Gary Corby’s THE PERICLES COMMISSION has already been reviewed by Kerrie but I am looking forward to reading this historical fiction work myself. It’s awaiting me on my eReader. I had been hearing about the book for a while but though it was available elsewhere last year it only became available here in Australia this year (due to the annoying vagaries of territorial copyright restrictions).


Katherine Howell’s COLD JUSTICE is her third novel to feature Sydney Detective Ella Marconi and I only realised as I was buying her fourth one VIOLENT EXPOSURE, a couple of weeks ago that I had missed one in her series. We can’t have that can we? I finished reading COLD JUSTICE (about a cold case of a murdered boy) in the early hours of this morning so there will be a review within the next couple of days. VIOLENT EXPOSURE, which I’ve still to read will offer this

When Suzanne Crawford is found stabbed to death and her husband Connor is discovered to be missing, it looks like just another tragic case of domestic violence to Detective Ella Marconi. But as the investigation progresses, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Why is there no record of Connor Crawford beyond a few years ago? Why has a teenager who worked for the pair gone missing too? Is trainee paramedic Aidan Simpson telling the truth about his involvement?And above all, what was the secret Suzanne knew Connor was keeping at all costs – even from her?

As Ella begins to build a picture of the Crawfords’ fractured lives, things around her are deteriorating. Her relationship with a fellow officer is hanging by a thread and her parents seem to be keeping secrets of their own. But Ella only has time for the job she loves, and she knows she has to see her way through the tangled web of deceit and lies to get at the truth – before it’s too late.


Kerry Greenwood’s first three Phryne Fisher novels were on special at Borders’ eBook store (in a collection entitled INTRODUCING PHRYNE FISHER) so I couldn’t resist and now have COCAINE BLUES. FLYING TOO HIGH and MURDER ON A BALLARAT TRAIN also awaiting me on the eReader. The books are set in 1920’s Australia and I’ve only read one before so I shall look forward to these (I like Kerry’s modern-day series of amateur sleuth books very much).


Clan Destine Press provides this information about the book:

Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt is peaceful and prosperous under the dual rule of the Pharaohs Amenhotep III and IV, until the younger Pharaoh begins to dream new and terrifying dreams.

Ptah-hotep, a young peasant boy studying to be a scribe, wants to live a simple life in a Nile hut with his lover Kheperren and their dog Wolf. But Amenhotep IV appoints him as Great Royal Scribe. Surrounded by bitterly envious rivals and enemies, how long will Ptah-hotep survive?

The child-princess Mutnodjme sees her beautiful sister Nefertiti married off to the impotent young Amenhotep. But Nefertiti must bear royal children, so the ladies of the court devise a shocking plan.

Kheperren, meanwhile, serves as scribe to the daring teenage General Horemheb. But while the Pharaoh’s shrinking army guards the Land of the Nile from enemies on every border, a far greater menace impends.

For, not content with his own devotion to one god alone, the newly-renamed Akhnaten plans to suppress the worship of all other gods in the Black Land.

His horrified court soon realise that the Pharaoh is not merely deformed, but irretrievably mad; and that the biggest danger to the Empire is in the royal palace itself.


Lenny Bartulin’s BLACK RUSSIAN is the second Jack Susko mystery and was shortlisted for best novel in 2010’s Ned Kelly awards (eventually won by Garry Disher’s WYATT). It was one of several books by Aussie authors I ordered at the Australia Day sale held by Boomerang Books (it would have been un-Australian not to right?). Here’s what I have to look forward to:

After yet another slow week at the cash register, that fine purveyor of second-hand literature, Susko Books, is facing financial ruin. Jack Susko sets off to a gallery in Woollahra to scrape up some coin with the sale of an old art catalogue. With his usual panache and exquisite timing, he arrives just as De Groot Galleries is being done over by masked thieves. Along with a mysterious object from the safe, the robbers seize a valuable first edition from Jack’s bag, too.

When the owner of the gallery doesn’t want to call the cops, Jack is offered a sizeable sum to keep silent: but when de Groot arrives at the bookshop with his heavy to renege on the deal, all bets are off. With an ease that almost constitutes a gift, Jack Susko finds himself at the centre of a world full of duplicity, lies and art theft.


Michael Duffy’s THE TOWER made its way to my bookshelves this week after I saw mention of its successor’s imminent publication. One must start with the first book in a series whenever one can so…

Young detective Nicholas Troy is basically a good man, for whom working in homicide is the highest form of police work. But when a woman falls from the construction site for the world’s tallest skyscraper, the tortured course of the murder investigation that follows threatens his vocation.

Hampered by politicised managers and incompetent colleagues, Troy fights his way through worlds of wealth and poverty, people-smuggling and prostitution. He has always seen Sydney as a city of sharks, a place where predators lurk beneath the glittering surface. Now he uncovers networks of crime and corruption that pollute the city, reaching into the police force itself.

Finally, the shadowy predator Troy has been chasing turns and comes for him, putting his family at risk. Forced to defend himself with actions he would never have considered before, Troy confronts a moral abyss. He realises it’s a long way down.

Not a bad haul for the first six weeks of the year if I do say so myself. It’s just a pity I didn’t buy extra hours in my day to read them all but I’ll find the time eventually.

Have you acquired any interesting Australian crime fiction this year? 
Or is there something you’re very keen to get your hands on? 
Is there something else new (or new-ish) out that I should be keeping an eye out for?

Review: Cold Justice – Katherine Howell

When Georgie Riley was a teenager she stumbled upon the body of seventeen-year-old Tim Pieterson who had been murdered. Georgie is now a paramedic and finds herself teamed up with an old school friend. Freya was Georgie’s best friend who departed with her family without a word after Tim’s death. Why did Freya leave town so abruptly? What is she hiding?

Nineteen years later, the case is still open. Tim’s younger cousin, Callum is now a politician and has agitated to have the case reviewed. Detective Ella Marconi is returning to work after recovering from injuries. It is decided that the best way to ease her back into the job is to assign her to the Unsolved Cases Unit. In his welcoming speech her boss tells her “the past haunts the present” and in this case it proves to be true. Ella’s investigation opens up old wounds for the family and puts pressure on her relationship with Wayne who seems to want to dictate how and when Ella works. Wayne is also becoming way too cosy with Ella’s family for comfort.
“Write what you know” aspiring writers are often told. Katherine Howell has done that to good effect. She worked as a paramedic for many years and her detailed knowledge of both the job and the physical and emotional toll it takes are vividly portrayed.

COLD JUSTICE is Katherine’s third book (the previous two are Frantic and The Darkest Hour) and her writing seems to get better and better . COLD JUSTICE not only has the fast pace of a thriller, it also has multiple threads which are gradually pulled together. Katherine is also a dab hand at knowing exactly when to change threads in the plot to leave the reader in suspense.

I was lucky to receive a copy of the book in advance of its publication. COLD JUSTICE is due in book shops on 1st February 2010. I recommend you be in line on that date to get a copy. You won’t regret it.