More awards news in Aussie crime writing

InTheMorningIllBeGoneMcKintyAdrian McKinty’s IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE was announced last night as the winner of this year’s Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime novel. It is a brilliant novel about which I have previously banged on at some length so all I will say at this point is congratulations to Adrian. While I am sure it is enjoyable to win any award, I imagine it is all the sweeter when you know you have triumphed in a seriously strong field.

Head over to the Australian Crime Writers Association site to read the judges’ comments and see who won in the other categories last night, then read Adrian’s thoughts about his win. After you’ve done that make your way to your favourite purveyor of literature and snag copies of IN THE MORNING and all the other shortlisted titles to your shopping basket. It’s an excellent collection of contemporary Australian crime writing.

  • Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD (a whistleblower cop’s punishment is duty in rural South Australia where corruption looks like allowing the murderer(s) of a young girl to walk free)
  • Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT (a local forensic procedural that outshines many of its international competition)
  • PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING (if The Wire were a book and set in Australia it would be this one; a more harrowing depiction of modern policing you are unlikely to read)
  • Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING (a missing child in small-town South Australia fails to generate the usual media frenzy but does attract the attention of one jaded but doggedly determined cop)
  • Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (as above…a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

Awards news in Aussie crime writing

While I was busy being knocked flat by a killer virus (OK it didn’t actually kill me, I just wished it would for a while) in the past few weeks both our major awards for crime writing announced their shortlists and one of them has even announced its winner. So, a belated congratulations to all the nominees.

Davitt Award for best crime novel by an Australian woman

◾Honey Brown, DARK HORSE (a compelling suspense novel with a genuinely surprise ending)
◾Ilsa Evans, NEFARIOUS DOINGS (a funny light-hearted tale about the mysteries beneath the surface of small-town Australia)
◾Annie Hauxwell, A BITTER TASTE (a dark tale of desperation set amidst modern London’s underclass)
◾Katherine Howell, WEB OF DECEIT (a classic procedural which keeps a frenetic pace while managing to depict the real impact of crime on all who are touched by it)
◾Hannah Kent, BURIAL RITES (a haunting work which the author calls speculative historical biography about the last woman hanged in Iceland)
◾Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

DarkHorseBrownHoney21306_fThough I’m not quite convinced Burial Rights really belongs in the crime genre, this is an exceptionally strong field showing the depth and diversity of Aussie women’s crime writing. The winner of this award (announced last weekend) was Honey Brown’s DARK HORSE and it is a superb novel so congratulations to Ms Brown but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you rush out and procure all six novels. For pictures of the awards night and information about winners in the other categories head over to the Sisters in Crime website.

Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel by an Australian writer

The winners of the 2014 awards will be announced this coming Saturday as part of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. The shortlisted books in the best novel category are

  • Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD (a whistleblower cop’s punishment is duty in rural South Australia where corruption looks like allowing the murderer(s) of a young girl to walk free)
  • Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT (a local forensic procedural that outshines many of its international competition)
  • Adrian McKinty, IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE (a darkly funny locked-room mystery set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland’s troubles)
  • PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING (if The Wire were a book and set in Australia it would be this one; a more harrowing depiction of modern policing you are unlikely to read)
  • Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING (a missing child in small-town South Australia fails to generate the usual media frenzy but does attract the attention of one jaded but doggedly determined cop)
  • Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (as above…a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

I didn’t manage to write reviews of all this list either (note to self: must try harder) but again this is a terrific lot of books and I have no hesitation in recommending them all. For judges comments about the shortlist and information on the nominees in the other Ned Kelly Awards categories head over to the Australian Crime Writers Association website

For once I have read all the books on both the ‘best novel’ shortlists for the country’s major crime writing awards and find myself able to sincerely recommend each and every book. Yay for Aussie crime writers.

Review: FATAL IMPACT by Kathryn Fox

dc7f2-fatalimpact1I’ve been known to lament the degradation in quality of long running series as authors (and editors and publishers and all the rest) become complacent in the knowledge that people will buy a book with a well-known name on the cover regardless of the quality of the content. So it is only fair I am equally vocal when a series gets better as it goes along as is the case with Kathryn Fox’s series featuring forensic pathologist Anya Crichton. FATAL IMPACT is the seventh book of the series and any kinks from the earlier books are well and truly ironed out, while all the elements I’ve liked before have been kicked up a notch.

Fox deliberately uses the tropes of the genre to explore different topical socio-political issues in her novels having previously dealt with such thorny topics as the culture and attitude towards sexual assault and violence in sporting teams and the difficulties the legal system has in achieving anything like justice for some victims of crime (or victims of particular crimes). Here she takes Anya to Tasmania (where we learn Anya grew up) which is the perfect setting to take a look at the issue of food. Can we grow enough to feed us all? Is genetic modification the answer? What restrictions should we place on foreign countries owning our arable land and exporting any produce?

But I don’t for a moment mean to suggest the book reads like an environmentalist’s lecture. It is from the outset a romp of a tale that fits somewhere between procedural and thriller on the genre scale and it would only be the most jaded of readers who would remain un-hooked. As the book opens Anya is asked by a concerned woman to investigate a troubling situation. One of the woman’s grandchildren has died previously and her daughter and remaining grandchildren are now living ‘off the grid’ in some kind of community with which communication is difficult. When Anya visits the home with other authorities she finds one child dead and her mother and other daughter missing. It is soon determined that the child died from food poisoning and there are other cases breaking out elsewhere in the state. As Anya waits to find out the source of the contamination she visits her mother whom she finds in an unnaturally, though possibly warranted, paranoid state. After all she’s surrounded by corrupt politicians, organic farmers fighting Monsanto-like corporations and local communities so desperate for jobs and economic prosperity they turn a blind eye to things that might otherwise alarm them.

It takes real skill to produce a ripper of a yarn that is at the same time thought-provoking. To additionally depict more than one view of a complex issue is even more rare and I applaud Fox for pulling it off. She does so mainly through depicting her central protagonist as not being completely informed about food politics at the outset of the book and allowing her to meet various experts and opinion-holders on both sides of the fence. As the novel progresses she draws her own conclusions based on the facts and information she collects (a radical concept in this age of shock-jock spouted mumbo-jumbo masquerading as knowledge).

To round out this highly satisfying reading experience there are an interesting cast of characters including Anya’s eccentric mother, with whom she has obviously had a strained relationship that gets tested almost to breaking point here, and an intelligent internal affairs policeman who is called upon to investigate the local coppers.

As should be obvious at this point I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it highly. It is full of surprises, never lets up its frenetic pace, provides much food for thought (pun intended) and is entirely able to be read without any prior knowledge of the series. What are you waiting for?


awwbadge_2014This is the 9th book I’ve read and the 8th I’ve reviewed for this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge. Check out my challenge progress and/or sign up yourself

I’ve read four of Kathryn Fox’s earlier novels since I started blogging: SKIN AND BONEBLOOD BORNDEATH MASKCOLD GRAVE


Publisher: Pan Macmillan [2014]
ISBN/ASIN: 9781742612324
Length: 389 pages
Format: paperback
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: COLD GRAVE by Kathryn Fox

  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Published 2012 Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-7426-1034-4
  • 337 pages
  • #6 in the Dr Anya Crichton series
  • Source: ARC supplied by publisher

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Forensic physician Dr Anya Crichton needs a break. Cocooned from the world aboard a luxury cruise ship, nothing can interrupt time with her
precious six year old son.

Peace is shattered when the body of a teenage girl is discovered shoved in a cupboard, dripping wet. With no obvious cause of death and
the nearest port days away, Anya volunteers her forensic expertise.

She quickly uncovers a sordid pattern of sexual assaults, unchecked drug use and mysterious disappearances. With crew too afraid to talk, she is drawn into the underbelly of the cruise line, its dangerous secrets and the murky waters of legal accountability.

Shadowed by a head of security with questionable loyalties, Anya can trust no one. Her family’s lives depend on what she does next.

One thing is certain. There is a killer on board.

My Take

What I like in particular about Kathryn Fox’s approach to her Anya Crichton series is her willingness to embed community concerns. In the previous novel in this series DEATH MASK the central themes were violence, sexual abuse, and drug abuse, in high profile sportsmen. There were plenty of media examples for her to draw on.

The inclusion of much-discussed community issues gives Fox the opportunity for extensive research 

In COLD GRAVE there are at least two themes both springing from the increased availability and popularity of luxury cruises as attractive holidays. The Dianne Brimble case (2002) highlighted the way cruises can attract particular groups of people out for a good time and how individuals can easily become the victims of these groups. I felt the case of Lilly Chan drew heavily from that case.

The second issue related to cruise liners is their potential for marine contamination, particularly with the building of ships that are the size of a small city, with the attendant outputs in garbage and sewage. These ships are frequently in close proximity to shorelines – no one wants to just stare at an unchanging sea do they? – and there are sometimes accidental or deliberate discharge of contaminants. Attempts to control this behaviour by legislation often becomes snarled in jurisdictional disputes, particularly as stricter controls make running the cruises more expensive for the companies who own and register the ships.

So in COLD GRAVE Anna and ex-husband Martin become involved in the investigations of the death of 15 year old Lilly Chan and the kneecapping of a crew member. The presence of Martin and their son Ben provides a connecting thread to earlier novels in the series, without being overbearing.

My rating: an Australian author well worth looking for. It is one of my top reads so far this year.

Dr Anya Crichton (Fantastic Fiction)

  1. Malicious Intent (2005)
  2. Without Consent (2007)
  3. Skin and Bone (2008)
  4. Blood Born (2009)
  5. Death Mask (2011)
  6. Cold Grave (2012)

I’ve also reviewed

My mini-review for MALICIOUS INTENT
Dr. Anya Crichton has recently struck out to work on her own as a freelance forensic pathologist. Work is a bit hard to find but she is gaining a reputation as a credible courtroom authority. She is not without friends in the police, the New South Wales State Forensic Institute, and among the criminal barristers. Something about the apparent suicide of Clare Matthews doesn’t sit quite right: the fact that, a nun, she disappeared shortly before she was due to take her vows, that she suicided by jumping off the Gap, that she was 6 weeks pregnant, and that she had strange fibres in her lungs. And now another case with similarities crops up: Fatima Deab overdoses on heroine after being missing for some days and her lungs contain the same fibres. Debut publication by Australian author. It is obvious to the reader that Kathryn Fox has a lot to say, lots of issues that she wants to make us aware of, and sometimes this novel takes on a bit of a didactic tone.
But the plotting is so good, the tension so well built that by the end I could forgive her anything!

Review: COLD GRAVE by Kathryn Fox

Anya Crichton is a forensic physician who, after the harrowing events depicted in the previous novel of the series, is treated to a cruise with her young son and ex-husband Martin. But when the body of a teenage girl is found on deck one morning Anya can’t help but become involved in discovering what happened. It soon becomes clear that the cruise line allows a culture of rampant drug and alcohol use and sexual assault to thrive. And if that weren’t bad enough Anya doesn’t know who to trust amongst the ship’s crew; at least some of whom appear to be willing to go to any lengths to cover up the problems being experienced on board.

Of late all the books I’m reading seem to be exposing uncomfortable truths to some aspect of modern life and COLD GRAVE is no exception. In a broad context it provides squirm-inducing food for thought regarding the impact that the cruising industry has on the environment, the local economies in places the ships visit and the conditions of people employed to work in the floating cities. For the most part these insights are woven into the plot with skill, so that the reader doesn’t notice at first that there is a lesson or two to be learned until said reader is feeling guilty at her own ignorance of the impact she had during the one cruise she ever took.

The meatier part of the story doesn’t shy away from telling some home truths either. It would be nice to imagine that the case of a young girl’s senseless and preventable death as described in COLD GRAVE is purely the product of Fox’s imagination. But I’m fairly sure at least some inspiration must have been drawn from the high profile cases  of cruise ship assaults and death that have hit the news headlines here in recent years which makes the blasé attitude some characters show for other people’s safety (and ultimately their death) quite confronting.

Although perhaps drawing on real inspiration Fox has used her creative skills to provide a multi-threaded, thoroughly entertaining and engaging story that doesn’t have a single slow spot in its 340 pages. From the way that Anya, and Martin who is a former Emergency Department nurse, become involved in the case of the girl’s death at the very beginning of the novel the entire thing has a ring of authenticity which helped make it genuinely unputdownable for me. For once Anya’s personal and professional lives don’t clash too much and there is a nice mixture of the two to round out this thought-provoking and entertaining novel.


I’ve reviewed three previous novels in this series here at Fair Dinkum MALICIOUS INTENT, BLOOD BORN and DEATH MASK (which I nominated as one of my top 5 Aussie novels of last year)


My rating: 4/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Publisher: Pan Macmillan [2012]
ISBN: 9781742610344
Length: 337 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: I bought it
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: DEATH MASK, Kathryn Fox

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 577 KB
  • Publisher: Pan Australia (October 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0045EPNM2
  • source: I bought it

Synopsis (from author’s website)

Forensic physician Dr Anya Crichton is presented with a patient who has returned from her honeymoon with multiple sexually transmitted infections.

Her husband has none of them. She tearfully denies having had any other partners and Anya believes her. Is this a medical phenomenon or has something more sinister taken place?

Anya’s investigations into the case leads to a ground breaking study that attracts international attention. Her expertise leads to an invitation to New York to address over three hundred football players in the USA Professional League.

The enigmatic private investigator Ethan Rye is assigned to assist Anya during the summit. When an alleged rape involving five football players takes place, Anya is commissioned to investigate.

She is immediately thrust into a subculture of violence, sexual assault and drug abuse. No one is what he or she seems.

Anya soon discovers a devastating truth about the players that threatens to shut down the eight billion dollar football industry.

Now lives, including her own, are in danger…..

Click here to start reading Death Mask now.

My take

DEATH MASK takes forensic physician Dr Anya Crichton to New York to work with American footballers on a subject dear to her heart: violence, sexual abuse, and drug abuse, in high profile sportsmen. The content of the novel makes it obvious that it is a subject dear to the author’s heart as well. I think inspiration for the novel probably came from the headline grabbing cases of sex scandals in Australian rugby (see the link below), but such cases are never far from the limelight in high profile football codes world over. Promoters of sports like American football and Australian Rugby, Australian Rules, and soccer, want to promote the sports as wholesome and for family consumption, their players as role models, but the Australian codes as well as the American ones have had to take preventative action to protect their images and to ensure their players understand the implications of their actions.

I think Fox was fearful that her readers would not understand the widespread nature or seriousness of the problem, nor would they have the technical knowledge of what the problem involved. The result has been some rather extensive didactic passages in the novel. It was almost as if she couldn’t allow her knowledge or her research go to waste: on rape in sport, drugs in sport, on the rules of American football, on the effects of violent impacts on the brain, even on sights to see in New York.

I think Fox fleshes out more on Anya Crichton than I remember from earlier novels, particularly the disappearance of her younger sister Miriam at an Aussie Rules football match (based I think on the Kirsty Gordon/Joanne Ratcliffe case, and before that the disappearance of the Beaumont children).

In New York Anya Crichton teams up with investigator Ethan Rye (nicknamed “Catcher”)  to investigate a gang rape carried by some high profile footballers, and they make a very good team. DEATH MASK leaves the path open for another novel where Anya will work with Ethan.

In a sense COLD GRAVE due to be published in August 2012 is a sequel to DEATH MASK.

My rating of DEATH MASK: 4.6

I’ve also reviewed BLOOD BORN

About Kathryn Fox – her website.

Australian Rugby – sex scandal

The most impressive Australian crime fiction in 2011

It’s list making time of year so here at Fair Dinkum HQ we’ve each made a list of the five Australian crime fiction titles that impressed us most this year. Not all are 2011 publications and some have yet to be released beyond our shores but this mixture of new titles by favourite authors and outstanding debuts is a cracker of a collection if I do say so myself.

Kerrie speaking here…

I’ve only read 16 Australian titles this year, and am already formulating New Years Eve resolutions that I will do better in 2012. Nevertheless the problem in picking my top reads is that so many of them were so good and it was difficult to draw a cut off line. Not all of the titles were 2011 publications either.

So here are my top 5.

My top pick was THE WRECKAGE by Michael
Robotham, published in 2011, in which our old friend Vincent Ruiz teams up with a new character, investigative journalist Luca Terracini. THE WRECKAGE is a contemporary thriller set against the background of both the world financial crisis and the attempts to build Iraq in the face of both greed and terrorism. It reflects both Robotham’s meticulous research, and his ability to create great fictional characters. He describes the main characters in a way that makes you really care about what happens to them.

I really can’t choose between the other four, so the order in which they appear is not preferential.

In Katherine Howell‘s COLD JUSTICE, published in 2010, 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.  Katherine Howell has used a formula similar to the one she used successfully in both THE DARKEST HOUR, and her debut novel FRANTIC: 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.

WHISPERING DEATH, published in 2011, affirms that Garry Disher is a master storyteller, a tight and consummate plotter, a writer who could sit on any international podium along with richer and more famous crime fiction writers. This is #6 in Disher’s Hal Challis series, firmly bedded in the 21st century, and reflecting on the problems of maintaining a strong police force, chasing rapists, armed robbers, and home invaders, in the face of diminishing funding and stretched resources.

Set in post-war Australia, this time post World War Two, with a policeman returning to work in a world that will never be the same, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL by Geoffrey McGeachin, published in 2011, reminded me a lot of the Charles Todd series. Like Ian Rutledge in that series Charlie Berlin was in the police force before the war. Although the police force was an exempt trade he volunteered for service and was posted to the RAF in Britain. He took off on 30 missions over Germany, but, in his words, landed only 29 of them and ended up in a P.O.W. camp. For me, Geoff McGeachin has hit on a winner with this new series and I hope we see more of Charlie Berlin. It appealed to me on several fronts – historical, crime fiction, Australia.

My final choice is FINAL CUT by debut West Australian author Alan Carter, also published in 2011.  What makes this novel remarkable is the way the author ambitiously forwards two plot strands in tandem. It took a bit of getting used to at first. There is little to tell the reader that you’ve changed from one plot to another, just a change of characters. Often, but not always, the plots are basically at the same point, like the interviewing of a suspect.

But there’s much more than that to keep the reader involved. There are prior links between some of the characters which are gradually teased out for us. There are genuine murder mysteries with lots of attendant red herrings. There’s a good feel for the climate in Western Australia, both physical and economic. And there is some excellent characterisation.

And now it’s Bernadette’s turn

So far I’ve managed to read 35 books by Australian crime writers this year. I’m about half way through another one which is enjoyable but I already know it’s not quite good enough to nudge any of these off the list so I don’t feel too concerned about finalising the list a few days before the end of the year.

Y.A. Erskine’s debut novel THE BROTHERHOOD absolutely blew me away. Partly this is because I had no expectations when I opened the front cover (I knew nothing about the book other than it was written by an Aussie woman) but mostly it’s because it’s bloody brilliant. A Tasmanian policeman is shot while on duty and the events of the day are recounted from different points of view – his rookie partner, the Police Commissioner, his estranged wife, the culprit etc – who each get a single chapter from which a whole picture of the leadup to and ramifications of the shooting emerges. I loved everything about this book – the structure, the flawed but believable people, the way the story kept surprising me, the themes that Erskine explored. This book is vying with one other title for the very top spot on my favourite books of the year (Aussie or otherwise) and my only complaint is that is hasn’t gotten the wide attention it so richly deserves.

Like Kerrie I’m not going to list the rest in order of preference, they’re all worth your attention.

Kathryn Fox‘s DEATH MASK was one of the first books I read this year and it ended up being the book I voted for in the reader’s choice category of this year’s Davitt Awards. It starts out simply enough with a young woman testing positive for a sexually transmitted disease that she cannot understand how she contracted given her sexual history and so she assumes there has been some mistake at the clinic. The story’s dark turn reveals the betrayal that led to her contracting the disease which in turn prompts the protagonist of the series, Dr Anya Crichton, to study the psychology of male sporting teams. It’s a topical storyline but tackled intelligently and without the moralising, quick-fix answers that mainstream media devotes to the subject and it reminded me that the best crime fiction always examines some aspect of our society or collective behaviour in addition to telling a jolly good yarn.

Australian-born, Scotland-living Helen Fitzgerald‘s THE DONOR tackles the simple but hideous premise of what a single father is to do when his twin daughters both develop a genetically inherited kidney disease. Perhaps a life of crime wouldn’t be everyone’s choice but hapless Will Marion seems somewhat short of options to save the daughters he loves. The book is both darkly funny and almost unbearably sad but not remotely maudlin which is, I think, a remarkable achievement. The father in this story is a wonderful creation: the type of person you want to slap for being so inept one minute but the next moment you want to wrap him in a giant bear hug for trying so hard.

Sulari Gentill‘s A DECLINE IN PROPHETS is the second novel set in 1930’s Australia to feature world-wandering dilettante Rowland ‘Rowly’ Sinclair and I adored it. Rowly and his friends start the book on board a cruise liner where a grim murder occurs and by the time all the players are in Australia things look very rocky for poor Rowly who unwilling caught up in an odd spiritual movement and may end up being considered an unsuitable role model for the young members of his conservative family. Whenever I talk about this book or its predecessor (something I do as often as I can) I break out in a wide grin as there is something quite joyous about the amusing, life-embracing characters that inhabit Gentill’s world, which is full of sumptuous details of the period. But there is sadness in Rowly’s life too and it’s this juxtaposition with his fun-loving ways that provides the spark of something special to the book. I am lucky enough to have an advanced copy of the third book in the series awaiting my perusal in early January and I am already grinning at the prospect. This book also wins my award for best cover of the year.

LINE OF SIGHT by David Whish-Wilson is another superb debut, this time set in Perth in Western Australia. It is a fictionalised account of the real life murder of a local brothel owner in the 1970’s and focuses on the struggle by one good cop to uncover the truth about the crime which appears to have been perpetrated by his fellow officers. What impressed me most about this book was its perfect capturing of the time and place (it really does feel like another country which is not surprising as the state has flirted with secession more than once). The characters stand out too, especially the man who was charged with heading up a Royal Commission into the case and who slowly came to realise that he’d been set up to find nothing at all. It was a somewhat brutal but entirely credible characterisation and I have thought about Justice Partridge many times since finishing the book.

Did you read any Aussie crime fiction that impressed you in 2011? Do share.

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!

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

MALICIOUS INTENT, Kathryn Fox

Written by Bill Selnes, this review originally appeared on Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan on 6 March 2011.
We thank Bill for his kind permission to re-print it here.

Dr. Anya Crichton is a forensic doctor in Sydney, Australia who, after leaving government service, is attempting to establish a private consulting career.

After a successful appearance for the defence in a prominent criminal case she receives numerous new calls. In her personal life she struggles with the frustration of her ex-husband having custody of her 3 year old son, Ben, and is haunted by the disappearance of her younger sister in Launceston when she was a child.  

Gradually she is drawn into investigating a series of deaths of troubled women. The circumstances vary but there are intriguing forensic clues. Most prominent are asbestos like hourglass shaped fibres in the lungs of several of the women. Local police are uninterested in the clues which they perceive as inconclusive of wrongdoing. Anya persists in seeking out more connections between the women.  

The ending is chilling and fascinating. Unfortunately, it was too easy to pick out the villain. There are touches of Australia in the thriller. I hope her next book is a more directly Australian thriller.

Paperback.