2022 looms and don’t we deserve some reading pleasure? We’ve been through so many lockdowns and some of us may have had COVID. Sisters in Crime convenors, Lindy Cameron and Moraig Kisler, think they brought COVID on the world as early last year they’d booked an Easter holiday on Flinders Island where they were going to map out their crime novel: a murderer at loose while the island went under lockdown, following a world-wide COVID pandemic …
Over the festive season, we can all explore the power of women’s crime writing through our annual best holiday reads list. Sisters in Crime asked convenors, author members, Davitt Award judges, and winners to nominate their best holiday reads by women crime authors. We hope you enjoy the books they’ve nominated. Most are fairly recent but some are golden oldies. Their sleuths (if there is one) are variously police, psychologists, bar-maids, snow-boarders, scientists, biologists, journalists, art dealers, or heiresses … The scenes of the crime range from Australia, New Zealand. Papua New Guinea, India, UK, Ireland, USA, and Mexico. What they all have in common, we believe, is superlative story-telling, pace, and characterisation, combined with the pursuit of justice and the odd thrill or two.
Two novels – Debra Oswald’s, The Family Doctor, and Emily Maquire’s, An Isolated incident, received two recommendations.
JENNY BLACKFORD (AUTHOR)
Patricia Highsmith (originally bylined as Claire Morgan), The Price of Salt (1952, available as an ebook via various platforms): The Price of Salt, later made into a movie and renamed Carol, is more lesbian romance than crime, but has a definite noir vibe to it. Two women – one older, rich, mother of a beloved child and on the brink of divorce, one young, poor, and thoroughly discontented with the young man who adores her without understanding her – dance around one another in a complicated pattern. Neither seems to really see the other. Lesbianism may or may not have been strictly illegal in the US in the 1950s, but it was a huge strike during divorce proceedings, and private detectives follow the women across the country. Riveting.
ASHLEY KALAGIAN BLUNT (AUTHOR)
Rachel Howzell Hall, They All Fall Down (Forge): Rachel Howzell Hall has voice! And a surprise on nearly every page. They All Fall Down opens with complicated protagonist Miriam Macy on her way to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico for what she thinks is a reality TV show filming. Except once there, she discovers that she and the six accompanying strangers have been brought to the island under false pretenses. An American crime author of colour, Howzell Hall is one of my hot new favourites.
ANNE BUIST (AUTHOR)
Jacqueline Bublitz, Before You Knew My Name (Allen & Unwin)
This was the year stand out for me; it was touted as being ‘victim-focused’ which I was dismissive of … until I read it. An unusual ‘first-person knows all perspective’ following two women (one Australian) who never meet yet through the death of one their narratives become intertwined. Set in New York, it highlights violence against women and the ripple effects of those that it affects, this is a book that is gripping, poignant and for me at least, unforgettable; the victim is indeed upfront and like we need to consider in real murderers, he is utterly insignificant and it is she that stays with me.
B.M. CARROLL (AUTHOR)
Debra Oswald, The Family Doctor (Allen & Unwin): The Family Doctor is a thoughtful, realistic, and terrifying portrayal of domestic violence. Paula is a dedicated and ultimately traumatised GP who is pushed to the limits of her professional standards and moral boundaries. How can she sit back and watch another woman die at the hands of her partner? How far is she prepared to go to remove the woman, and her child, from danger? The family doctor is above suspicion … right? This book was one of my favourite reads of 2021. It has everything: a cracking premise, exquisitely drawn characters, and strong women who risk everything for each other.
TANIA CHANDLER (AUTHOR)
Laura Elizabeth Woollett, The Newcomer (Scribe): Compelling, brutal, and, above all, truthful, The Newcomer was one of the most memorable books I read this year — in any genre. It’s an important novel, which examines sexual violence, victim-blaming, and misogyny, as well as mother-daughter relationships, love, loss, and grief. Some reviewers called the protagonist ‘unlikeable’, but I hate that description; whether you like her or not, Paulina is a fascinating character, and I empathised with both her and her mother. I measure great writing in tears, and The Newcomer was one of the few books that made me cry.
SHERRYL CLARK (AUTHOR)
Tana French, The Searcher (Penguin): Tana French is one of my favourite authors, and this new novel didn’t disappoint, even though it’s not set in Dublin like most of her others. This time, it’s a small village in southern Ireland where the loose thread of a local kid whose brother is missing slowly unravels into something much bigger and more complicated. I’d call this one a slow burn – it has the classic outsider, the villagers who are hiding lots of bad things, and, most importantly, a main character who, despite his better judgement, just can’t let things go. Secrets, revelations and fabulous minor characters abound!
AOIFE CLIFFORD (AUTHOR)
Sarah Bailey, The Housemate (Allen & Unwin): Sarah Bailey’s first stand-alone and it is a corker. Ten years ago, the ‘Housemate Homicide’ puzzled the nation and journo Olive Groves worked on the story but it was never solved. Nine years later the missing housemate turns up dead and Olive starts investigating the story again, this time with millennial podcaster, Cooper Ng. Perfect holiday reading for when you have the time to just lose yourself in it! Highly recommended.
NATALIE CONYER (AUTHOR)
Dorothy L. Sayer, Gaudy Night (Hodder & Stoughton): In this 1935 novel, Harriet Vane attends a reunion at Oxford University, where academics and students have been receiving poison-pen letters. Things escalate and Harriet is forced to ask Lord Peter Wimsey for help. The plot is underscored by the romance between Harriet and Lord Peter. Yes, the novel is elitist. Yes, some of Sayers’ ideas about Peter Wimsey verge on the obsessive. But this feminist novel, which explores issues of class and education, is compulsive reading. It’s a classic and one of the crime novels that turned me on to the genre in the first place.
BRID CUMMINGS (AUTHOR)
S. J. Morgan, Hide (New South Books): If you’re looking for something dark and menacing to get you through the season of good cheer, then S. J. Morgan’s fabulous thriller, Hide, may just fit the bill. Switching between the vast Australian outback and the gritty streets of Thatcher’s Britain, the story follows protagonist Alec Johnston as he becomes reluctantly drawn into the shady world of crime, exploitation, and violent bikie gangs. With its twisty plot, flawed and complex characters, and an ever-present sense of dread, you’ll find no sleigh bells on this ride – only alarm bells, screaming inside your head as the tension escalates towards the novel’s thrilling climax. I highly recommend it!
MARYROSE CUSKELLY (AUTHOR)
Emily Maguire, An Isolated Incident (Picador, 2016):
Published five years ago, An Isolated Incident is not so much about the crime itself — the murder of a young woman, Bella Michaels, in a country town — but its aftermath. It throws into stark relief the anguish and destabilisation of Bella’s older sister Chris, the media’s obsession with dead girls and the reality of the everyday violence against women. It expands the notion of what is generally thought of as crime fiction, all while establishing an excellent sense of place and a profound portrait of a sister’s grief and outrage.
SARAH EVANS (AUTHOR)
Jennifer Crusie, Welcome to Temptation (St. Martin’s Press): I was lent this novel years ago by a writer friend who’d found it awful. I’d dutifully dipped into it with trepidation and had the best of surprises; this book rocked! It had murder, mystery, and eye candy. It had humour, quirkiness, and eye candy. It had great characters, hot sex, and … eye candy. What wasn’t there to like – and did I mention the eye candy?
LIZ FILLEUL (AUTHOR)
Allie Reynolds, Shiver (Hachette): There’s nothing like soaking up the sun on the beach while reading an atmospheric thriller set in chillier climes! Shiver takes place in the world of competitive snowboarding, and given the ages of the protagonists, has a YA feel, though it’s not a YA novel. Allie Reynolds used to be a professional snowboarder, so this book is full of interesting insights that will enable you to become an armchair expert at the 2022 Winter Olympics. I really enjoy mysteries set in the sports world, and look forward to Reynolds’ next book.
SUZANNE FRANKHAM (AUTHOR)
Margaret Hickey, Cutters End (Penguin): Being in lockdown most of the year, it was an experience to travel vicariously and find oneself landing in an outback murder mystery. Am I ever going to stay in a roadhouse again? Or travel the Stuart Highway? The thought makes me shudder. Loads of red earth, grubby characters, and a decades-old murder, spun together into a gripping tale.
SULARI GENTILL (AUTHOR)
Malla Nunn, When The Ground is Hard (Allen & Unwin): This won the LA Book Prize a couple of years ago and deservedly so. The book is Young Adult but is ageless in its charm. A story of friendship and coming-of-age set in a South African boarding school, When the Ground is Hard contains all the insight, elegance, and colour we have come to expect from the pen of Malla Nunn.
LESLEY GILLIS (CONVENOR)
Donna Andrews, Murder With Peacocks: A Meg Lanslow Mystery (St. Martin’s Paperbacks): This is a fab fave. It won an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. I purchased it in Canberra at the time. It’s available on Kindle and Audible and second-hand in Abebooks and e-Bay. Told in the first person, Meg’s summer is not going swimmingly. Maid of honour at three weddings, dotty relatives, a string of accidents (some fatal), and a murder to solve. Meg’s to-do list extends from flowers, and organising peacocks to catching a killer. This is a lovely and very entertaining cosy mystery.
SUSAN GREEN (AUTHOR)
Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs (Macmillan): Based in London in the 1920s and ’30s, the Maisie Dobbs series is my top pick for a satisfying holiday read because it’s entertaining, compelling and superbly researched, focusing on the profound changes to British society following WWI. The unusual sleuth is an ‘investigator and psychologist’ with an intriguing backstory that’s seen her rise from housemaid to gifted university student to battlefield nurse. This first outing has a mystery centred on the experiences of grieving families and the damaged men and women who returned, but really it’s our introduction to a complex and admirable heroine and there are lots more books to be going on with while sipping G&Ts.
NARRELLE M HARRIS (AUTHOR)
Livia Day, Dyed and Buried (Fashionably Late #1) (Tansy Rayner Roberts)
Livia Day never disappoints! The whole book is full of creative flair and made me wish I was creative with fabric because I think I want to upcycle outfits now. It’s witty, charming, funny, full of distinctive characters, and makes the most of the Huon Valley setting. It also has a terrific cosy mystery, the requisite cosy body count and – like all of Day’s work (and that of her alter ego, Tansy Rayner Roberts) –underneath all the banter, froth, and fashion, there’s grit and heart, with enough emotional depth to make the story and its conclusion really satisfying.
PAMELA HART (AUTHOR)
Kellie McCourt, Heiress on Fire (HQ Fiction AU): If you’d like some fun and laughter with your holiday crime, this is the book for you. I enjoyed it so much that I pre-ordered the second one the minute I finished it. This is Kellie McCourt’s first novel; it features Indigo-Daisy-Violet-Amber Hasluck-Royce-Jones-Bombberg, heiress to squillions, whose husband has recently died in a huge apartment fire. But, of course, it wasn’t an accident … Indigo’s superpower is being very very rich, and it’s so much fun to live in her world and see her come to terms with it suddenly being less than perfect. Light, clever and funny, with enough plot to keep you intrigued. The scenes in the upmarket brothel alone are worth the price of admission!
SARA HOOD (CONVENOR)
Janice Hallett, The Appeal (Allen & Unwin):
What a fresh and different book! It’s such fun. I binged it curled up on the sofa whilst my partner was watching the cricket. What makes it so much fun is that it’s not a ‘normal’ book. It’s emails and WhatsApp messages and police transcripts and reports. The central premise is that there may have been a miscarriage of justice and the wrong person has been jailed for the murder. Two articled clerks are asked to take fresh eyes to the evidence (and not told anything about it before they start) and you are on the journey with them. There’s quirky humour and excellent character depiction. Oh, and half the fun is that you don’t know until quite late in the book who has died and who has been convicted.
PHILOMENA HORSLEY (AUTHOR & DAVITT JUDGES CO-ORDINATOR)
Charlotte McConaghy, Once There Were Wolves (Penguin Australia): Looking for a riveting and affecting read? Want a break from domestic noir, bush noir, and police procedurals? Then pick up McConaghy’s latest book. Feisty wolf biologist, Inti Flynn, flies from Alaska to Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, and 14 grey wolves. These apex predators are to be released into the highlands, against the wishes of locals, in an attempt to save the dying forest. Inti also hopes to restore the health of her sister who is traumatised by a shocking event back in Anchorage. When a farmer is killed, the locals blame the wolves, while Inti suspects a man she’s drawn to. A beautifully written whodunit that explores empathy, healing, and the damage humans wreak on each other and on nature. With her brilliant previous novel, Migrations, McConaghy is surely the queen of ‘enviro noir’.
JACQUI HORWOOD (AUTHOR)
Meshel Laurie, CSI told you lies (Penguin Books Australia, 2021): I have just bought this book and am looking forward to reading it over the holidays. Most of you would know Meshel Laurie as one of the voices behind the Australian True Crime podcast. With this book, she has worked with the experts at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine to dig deeper into what crime scene investigation really involves. By looking at high-profile cases such 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and the murder of Eurydice Dixon, Meshel paints us a picture of all the people involved in a search for the truth including the victims and their families.
SUSAN HURLEY (AUTHOR)
Curtis Sittenfeld, Rodham: A Novel (Doubleday): I’m not usually drawn to historical fiction where history is reversed, but I’m glad I made an exception for Curtis Sittenfeld’s reimagining of Hillary Rodham’s life if (only) she hadn’t married Bill. In Rodham, Hillary dumps Bill when the evidence of his philandering can’t be ignored. I’m putting Rodham in the crime genre because of the sexual harassment, but also because it seems almost criminal that Hillary didn’t get to apply her intellect and energy in real life the way she gets to in Sittenfeld’s fiction.
TONI JORDAN (AUTHOR)
Katherine Kovacic, The Shifting Landscape (Echo): Normally I’m delighted to stay at home forever but this year, unsurprisingly, has me longing for wide-open spaces. Katherine Kovacic’s The Shifting Landscape is a couple of years old but I reread it this year for the joy of imagining myself as art sleuth Alex Clayton, striding around Victoria’s windswept Western District solving murders with her trusty wolfhound Hogarth by her side.
KARINA KILMORE (AUTHOR)
Loraine Peck, The Second Son (Text): One of Australia’s hottest 2021 debut crime novels and winner of the Ned Kelly Award for best debut fiction, The Second Son introduces us to a fascinating new Australian crime family through the unique alternating points of view of the male crime leader and his wife. It’s a brilliant structure that makes a tight action-packed plot even tenser.
MORAIG KISLER (CONVENOR)
Sujata Massey, The Bombay Prince (Allen & Unwin): Sujata Massey’s novel transported me to India in the 1920s. Perveen Mistry, a Parsi and India’s first female lawyer fights tradition and British colonialism to bring a murderer to justice. Tight plotting, engaging writing, and fascinating characters had me hooked from first page to last. Perveen Mistry is a beautiful, intelligent, and determined sleuth — a young Miss Marple in a sari.
KATHERINE KOVACIC (AUTHOR)
T.J. Newman, Falling (Simon and Schuster, 2021): T.J. Newman is a flight attendant with decades of experience, so this aeroplane thriller (apparently written mainly on red-eye flights while her passengers were sleeping) was always going to be a cracker. A flight from LA to New York with 143 passengers on board is nothing unusual for pilot Bill Hoffman, that is until he receives a text from his wife. It’s a photo of her and their son, heads covered by black hoods. And she’s wearing an explosive vest. The only way for his family to survive is for Bill to crash the plane. A fabulously taut thriller, nicely balanced by the relationships between the various characters, from flight attendants to family. Read this book before air travel really gets back to normal!
SUZANNE LEAL (AUTHOR)
Melina Marchetta, Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil (Viking): This is a gripping tale of intrigue, secrets, and fractured families. Set primarily in London, the book opens with a bomb attack on a busload of British students travelling in France. Although Chief Inspector Bish Ortley has been suspended from the police force, he finds himself compelled to investigate the link between the bombing and one of his old cases. He is shocked by what he discovers. Melina Marchetta is a terrific writer and Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil is a compelling exploration of grief, loyalty, and betrayal.
DR JANET LEE (AUTHOR)
Sarah J. Harris, The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder (HarperCollins Publishers Australia): This is a cracker Christmas holiday read (see what I did there) – funny and clever. It was the well-written character voice that captured me in The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder, some bits were laugh-out-loudy. A boy with Synaesthesia paints his world in colour and keeps detailed notebooks. He watches the neighbourhood and is sure something has happened, he just needs to work out what. Everything is a bit muddled, but he can remember the screams and a knife.
JANE E. LEE (AUTHOR)
Cheryl Critchley and Dr Helen McGrath, Why Did They Do It? (MacMillan): Some real-life crimes are so horrifying that we must try to get inside the head of those responsible. Examples for me include the 2011 murder of Lisa Harnum by her fiancé Simon Gittany (caught on camera dragging her back into their apartment before tossing her off the balcony like trash), and the killings, that same year, of 11 vulnerable nursing home residents who died when nurse Roger Dean deliberately set fire to their home while they slept. Here, psychologist Helen McGrath and journalist Cheryl Critchley look at ten notorious crimes, giving us a detailed insight into the mind of each criminal and the personality disorders which contributed to their actions. A satisfying, authoritative explanation of the seemingly inexplicable.
SIOBHAN MULLANY (CONVENOR)
Lyn Yeowart, The Silent Listener (Viking 2021): This book is a slow burner. In the beginning, I thought, interesting but something wasn’t right. Joy goes back to the isolated farming community to look after her dying father. Their relationship had not been good so that raised interesting dilemmas. Joy was an unreliable narrator and so I reserved judgment. As the story developed, I was wondering where it would go. Did her father kill the child who disappeared when she was young? Then, the end left me breathless. I was dying to discuss it with everyone I know.
KRISTIN MURDOCK (AUTHOR)
Charlotte Jay, Beat not the Bones (1952): Originally published almost 70 years ago, this suspense novel won the inaugural Edgar Allen Poe Award for best novel in 1954. Read it and you will see why – this tale of suspense and murder in the backdrop of lush Papua New Guinea is a classic. Young wife, Stella Warwick is determined to prove her husband did not commit suicide. She challenges the attitudes and patronising concern of officials and heads off into the jungle to find the truth. I loved this novel so much, I named my daughter after the author!
PETRONELLA MCGOVERN (AUTHOR)
Catherine Jinks, Shelter (Text Publishing, 2021): Shelter is a gripping, twisty story that had me reading late into the night. Meg’s isolated home on a ridge in the Blue Mountains is the perfect place to provide shelter for Nerine and her kids. This young family is dropped off at night through an underground network helping women flee their violent partners. But despite the isolation, Nerine is jumpy and her paranoia infects the older Meg who has also escaped an abusive ex-husband. As strange things start happening around the farmhouse, Meg prepares to confront whoever has tracked them down. Told from Meg’s point of view, we feel the claustrophobia of the family in the house and the fear which pervades every action. Shelter will keep you thinking long after you’ve finished the last page.
RUTH MCIVER (AUTHOR)
Tania Chandler, All That I Remember about Dean Cola (Scribe): Tania Chandler’s novel is exquisitely written, sensitive and restrained – poetically building tension and mystery in the world of the novel amidst the narrator’s psychic unravelling, the revelation of buried secrets, and her ultimate redemption.
L.J.M. OWEN (AUTHOR)
Mary Helena Fortune, Bridget’s Locket and Other Mysteries, (Corella Press, 2019): Did you know that Australian women were creating criminally good page-turners over 150 years ago? The three stories in this lovely reproduction were originally serialised between 1866 and 1887. On first reading, I was surprised by how familiar this island continent triptych felt. Mary Helena Fortune, writing as Waif Wander, set her stories in the same landscapes as Jane Harper, albeit with more bushrangers. These works also have the same underlying examination of social mores and strictures as examined in crime fiction written by 21st-century Australian women. The more things change …
JOSEPHINE PENNICOTT (AUTHOR)
Laura McHugh, What’s Done in Darkness ( Random House, 2021): Seventeen-year-old Sarabeth is abducted near a cornfield by a masked man, taken to an unidentified spot, blindfolded, chained to a wall, and held captive. When she is returned and dumped by the road a week later in a bloody nightgown, her religious zealot family and the police refuse to believe her story. The second timeline is Sara (Sarabeth) five years later, now working in an animal shelter near St Louis, trying to escape her past. Investigator Nick Farrow contacts her as girls are missing in cases similar to her own and he wants Sara to return with him to the scene where she escaped not only her masked abductor but her controlling family.
FELICITY PULMAN (AUTHOR)
Gabrielle Lord, Sisters (Wilkinson Publishing): A missing sister is at the heart of this mystery from Queen of Crime, Gabrielle Lord. Greta jeopardises her marriage to fly to Crete to find her troubled young sister. There she encounters a tangled web of lies and deceit as, using her sister’s damaged journal and paintings as a guide, she traces Xanthe’s movements from the ancient house they inherited to the beautiful Etz Hayyim synagogue in Chania, and her sister’s secret lover. This is a page-turning mystery, but also a deeply thoughtful meditation on relationships and the numinous, and what it means to be human.
ANGELA SAVAGE (AUTHOR)
Debra Oswald, The Family Doctor (Allen & Unwin, 2021): A novel for our times, The Family Doctor poses moral dilemmas that will resonate for anyone who despairs and/or rages at the inadequacy of the legal system when it comes to protecting women from violence. The story centres on Paula, a dedicated GP, who is traumatised by the murder of her friend, Stacey, and her children at the hand of their estranged husband and father. Meanwhile, Paula and Stacey’s mutual friend, Anita, who is working on a book about domestic violence, attends a murder trial where it seems increasingly likely that the man accused of murdering his young girlfriend will walk free. Despite the devastating subject matter, this is a gripping and engaging read, a book that honours female friendship while also prompting readers to consider how far they would go in similar circumstances.
JANICE SIMPSON (AUTHOR)
Denise Mina, The End of the Wasp Season (Back Bay Books): I was totally gripped from the first page when there’s a creak on the stairs, unlike most novels where a creak on the stairs is somehow different, more mundane, but not in this work by Denise Mina. It’s a compelling page-turner set amidst a global financial scandal involving rich lonely women, poor lonely women, and adolescents, both rich and poor. Cameo characters and creepy characters who are disarmingly familiar: you know they live in the same street as you. Mina’s prose glistens with careful choices and just the right amount of control.
CARMEL SHUTE (CONVENOR)
Sarah Barrie, Unforgiven (HarperCollins Publishers Australia): Over crime books about paedophiles? Unforgiven will make you think again. Yes, Lexi Winter, has been a victim of notorious paedophile the Spider, soon to be released from jail, but she’s far from victimised. She supports herself by being an escort but her real passion (apart from whisky) is hacking the dark web and entrapping local paedophiles. But now a man claiming to be the real Spider is committing heinous crimes … Lexi gets on his case and is simply awesome – resourceful, funny and so, so strong. I read the book in one sitting (or, more accurately one lying-down).
LARAINE STEPHENS (AUTHOR)
Lori Duffy Foster, A Dead Man’s Eyes (Level Best Books, 2021): A Dead Man’s Eyes is not only a great mystery, but it is a character study as well, something that a lot of crime fiction lacks. I enjoyed getting to know the main character, Lisa, and the dynamics of her relationship with her daughter, Bridget. The backstory is really interesting – teenage pregnancy, mixing with the wrong crowd, dysfunctional parents – and how Lisa pulls her life together to “make something of herself”. I enjoyed the character of Dorothy and her role in raising Bridget. There is depth to this book. There was a certainty about descriptions of procedures and practices in law enforcement, the coroner’s office, and the press that gave the story authenticity, attributable to the fact that the author was a crime reporter before turning to crime writing.
ALISON STUART (AUTHOR)
Karen Menuhin, Murder at Melrose Court (Little Dog Publishing Ltd): The first in the Heathcliff Lennox series, this is a classic cosy mystery featuring Major Heathcliff Lennox (his mother loved Wuthering Heights). Lennox is a reclusive World War I pilot who finds himself inextricably drawn into the solving of a murder at his uncle’s home over Christmas. A classic snow-bound murder mystery written with whimsy and humour and featuring a suitably eccentric cast of characters including a butler who loves amateur dramatics and a dog who hates dead things. I particularly recommend the audio narration of all Karen’s books (I loved them so much I bought both the e-book and the audio!). Light reading for the summer!
LUCY SUSSEX (AUTHOR)
Suzanne Frankham, Shadow Over Edmund Street (Journey to Words Publishing): Very few crime fiction debuts are as accomplished as Suzanne Frankham’s Shadow Over Edmund Street. It has the interiority of Icelandic noir, with a similar acute sense of place. In this novel, an Auckland suburb goes from battling to posh, which is also the story of its inhabitants. Nefarious events in Australian law made this book coincidentally very topical, and I still wonder why Frankham didn’t figure in awards listings in her birth and adopted country of Oz.
SARAH THORNTON (AUTHOR)
Catherine Jinks, Shepherd, (Text Publishing, 2019): A fast-moving, thrilling, and intensely moving portrayal of a young lad’s harsh life and the seeds of love that still remain inside his beaten heart. Transported to Australia for poaching, fourteen-year-old convict, Tom Clay is now assigned as a shepherd. He’s managed to get by in a world full of violent men but now a vicious killer is coming for him and the new fella, a loudmouth named Rowdy Cavanagh. It’s a terrific read and the characters are just as compelling as the thrilling horror of the pursuit. Jinks has such a deft hand, so many terrific turns of phrase, and the tension is tight-rope taut. A masterfully crafted novel that you’ll devour in one afternoon before picking up the most recent release by the same author… Shelter, with the tagline, ‘Have you locked the door?’
EMMA VISKIC (AUTHOR)
The Arsonist, Chloe Hooper (Penguin 2019): An in-depth look at Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday fires might not seem like a great holiday read, but I couldn’t put this book down. It’s gritty, insightful, and beautifully written. I can see why it won a slew of awards, including the 2019 Davitt for Best Non-fiction. Chloe Hooper has a rare ability to go beyond the facts and draw out people’s motivations. True crime writing at its best.
EMILY WEBB (AUTHOR & PODCASTER)
Emily Maguire, An Isolated Incident (Pan Macmillan Australia): This is a book I read a few years ago and still think about. Main character Chris, a no-nonsense, flawed, well-liked barmaid at a small-town pub is searching for answers about her sister Bella’s murder. While the media descends and police search for the killer, Chris is in trauma and becoming suspicious of people in the town. This book weaves the murder mystery with a narrative about violence and how the media reports crimes against women. A jarring read.
HELENE YOUNG (AUTHOR)
Lee Christine, Crackenback (Allen & Unwin): Crackenback is a fast-paced crime suspense novel set in the Australian Alpine Region. The pace cranks up from the start and doesn’t let up. The Snowy Mountains star as a deeply defining character throughout the unfolding action. It is the second book in a series, but can absolutely be read as a stand-alone. A dose of winter chill will be perfect for a long hot Australian summer.