A Fair Dinkum Round Up – Sept 2012

Time for another round up of new releases, reviews and news about Australian crime fiction from around the blogoshpere

Current/Recent Releases

Older titles getting attention

News

Both the Ned Kelly Awards (for the best crime writing by Australians) and the Davitt Awards (for the best crime writing by Australian women) were handed out in the last month. Congratulations to all the winners.

Ned Kelly Awards 2012 – The Shortlist

The shortlists for three categories of the Ned Kelly Awards were announced earlier today and are repeated below. As you’ll see we’ve only reviewed one of these here at Fair Dinkum HQ so I suppose we have some catching up to do (though of the three novels in the best fiction category one is a YA title and the other is, according to the three people I polled who have read it, not something that would ordinarily be considered crime fiction so I don’t feel too bad that they didn’t make it to my radar). The winners will be announced at the end of this month (I think)

TRUE CRIME

    Liz Porter, Cold Case File, Pan Macmillan

    Michael Duffy, Call Me Cruel, Allen & Unwin

    Eamonn Duff, Sins of the Father, Allen &Unwin

BEST FIRST FICTION

    Kim Westwood, The Courier’s New Bicycle, Harper Collins

    Peter Twohig, The Cartographer, Harper Collins

    Claire Corbett, When We Have Wings, Allen & Unwin

BEST FICTION

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!

Criminal Sisters: the 2011 Davitt Awards

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.

As a member of Sisters in Crime (which anyone can be for a very reasonable annual fee) I am eligible to vote in the Reader’s Choice category which has caused me to go *eeeek*. The problem is that all books from any of the other three categories are eligible in the Reader’s Choice category. Does that mean I need to have read them all before casting my vote? I have until 1 August to vote but still it’s A LOT of books. Even if I concentrate on the adult category it’s still 25 books, of which I’ve read 7 so far (in red in the list below). Although I would have enough trouble picking which of those to vote for so do I want to make it harder by reading more of the books?

Anyway, for your interest here is the full list of books eligible in all categories. Do let me know if you have a must read of the books I haven’t yet read and I’ll see if I can get to it before the voting deadline.

ADULT NOVELS

  • 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)
CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT NOVELS

  • Randa Abdel-Fattah, Noah’s Law: Crime, Punishment and Paper Jams (PanMacmillan Australia)
  • Georgia Blain, Darkwater (Random House Australia)
  • Nette Hilton, The Innocents (Random House Australia)
  • Rebecca James, Beautiful Malice (Allen & Unwin)
  • Catherine Jinks, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group (Allen & Unwin)
  • Rebecca Lim, Mercy (Harper Collins)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – February (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – March (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – April (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – May (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – June (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – July (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – August (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – September (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – October (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – November (Scholastic Australia)
  • Gabrielle Lord, Conspiracy 365 – -December (Scholastic Australia)
  • Shirley Marr, Fury (Black Dog Books)
  • Sophie Masson, The Phar Lap Mystery (Scholastic Australia)
  • Penny Matthews, A Girl Like Me (Penguin Books Australia
  • Isabelle Merlin, Bright Angel (Random House Australia)
  • Chrissie Michaels, Lonnie’s Shadow (Ford Street Publishing)
  • Lara Morgan, Genesis (Walker Books)

TRUE CRIME

  • Lindy Cameron & Ruth Wykes, Women Who Kill: Chilling Portraits of Australia’s Worst Female Murderers (The Five Mile Press)
  • Colleen Egan, Murderer No More (Allen & Unwin)
  • Geesche Jacobsen, Abandoned: The Sad Death of Dianne Brimble (Allen & Unwin)
  • Wendy Lewis, Gone: 25 of the world’s most chilling and bizarre kidnappings (The Five Mile Press)
  • Lindsay Simpson and Jennifer Cooke, Honeymoon Dive (PanMacmillan Australia)

Wrapping up Aussie Authors Month 2011

Given that Fair Dinkum Crime is a blog devoted to the celebration of crime fiction by Aussie authors then it could be argued that Aussie Authors month didn’t look any different to any other month for us. But we wanted to feel part of the action so we did do a few extra things to celebrate.

Getting inside the minds of authors

We launched our version of the author interview, which we’ve called the Fair Dinkum Baker’s Dozen. We provide the author with 13 beginnings and ask them to finish off with sentences, paragraphs or entire essays should they feel so inclined. During the month we posted two of these each week and while we’ll be continuing on with this feature it will scale back to a monthly feature. The authors we featured during April were

We’ve had a great response to this feature, it seems people like to know which of their crime fiction authors has had their hands up a chicken’s watoozie :). It’s been fun for us too, hearing from such an interesting range of new and established authors. Thanks once again to everyone for sharing their thoughts and their time.

Do let us know if there’s an Aussie crime fiction author you’d like to hear from and we’ll have a go at tracking them down.

Getting you involved

We also ran a quiz relating to (naturally) Aussie crime fiction. If you missed it click here to have a go at the questions yourself (even though the quiz is now closed but it’s good to test yourself occasionally) or if you’re feeling lazy go straight to the answers. We’ll be running more of these in the future (and yes they probably will still be this difficult, two people got all 13 questions right so it was not an impossibility).

Keeping up with the Reading

We posted some brand new reviews of Aussie crime fiction too:

Elsewhere on the web

There were many other people celebrating Aussie Authors month too and one of the best ways I found to keep up to date with what was going on around the web was by following the #ausbooks hashtag on twitter. Among the gems I found that might interest other Aussie crime fiction fans were

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?