Women’s crime writing is riding the crest of an enormous wave of popularity. Women like writing it, the publishers like printing it, and we all love reading it – and, increasingly, we can enjoy it being translated to the screen.
Sisters in Crime invited convenors, author members, Davitt Award judges and winners, and others to nominate their best holiday reads for 2023-2024. We were delighted to receive a recommendation from UK author and trailblazer (and member), Lynda La Plante. One of Lynda’s own books was nominated by an Australian fan! As you’ll note, the selections traverse an extraordinarily wide range of themes, locations, and interests. There is even a bit of magic – not to mention reindeer (not Santa’s helpers!) Some nominations are up-to-the-minute. Others are golden oldies. What they all offer, of course, are hours of reading pleasure and diversion. Let us know what you think.
LAINIE ANDERSON (AUTHOR)
Michelle Prak, The Rush (Simon & Schuster, 2023)
Michelle is a friend of mine, but I promise I’m not being biased when I say her debut Australian thriller is a ripper. This is ‘outback noir’ at its page-turning best, set over two suspenseful days of foreboding skies, flash floods, and lurking evil. Prakky grew up in country South Australia, and draws the landscape as effortlessly as her central characters. The masterful plot twist at the end had me thinking about the story construction and envying Michelle’s talent for days afterward.
SARAH BARRIE (AUTHOR)
Nicola Moriarty, You Need to Know (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
The holidays are here. The extended family has gathered. The cars are packed and the convoy sets off. The cottage is a few hours’ drive – but not everyone will live to see it … This is a book that if you’ve somehow managed to miss in the last couple of years, would make the perfect holiday read! You Need to Know is totally compelling narrative of family dynamics, unravelling hidden secrets and fractured relationships. This story thrives on gripping secrets and intricate relationship dilemmas, and the characters feel remarkably authentic, stepping out from the pages with vivid realism, resembling friends or neighbours in their depth and relatability. Moriarty’s cleverly plotted storyline, its fast-paced nature, and unpredictable twists solidify her position as a top-tier Australian author. I raced through the pages of this utterly absorbing page-turner. Don’t miss it!
LOUISE BASSETT (AUTHOR)
Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
Christie’s famous mystery has all the elements for a perfect holiday read: a glamorous and eerie setting (the Orient Express in a snowstorm), an intriguing list of suspects, an irredeemable villain, and the reassuring genius of Hercule Poirot. Christie elevates this locked room mystery with an innovative plot, a moving and very human exploration of justice, and a deeply satisfying ending. The Queen of Crime at her best.
HARRIE BLAKE (AUTHOR)
Joanne Dobson, Quieter than Sleep (Doubleday, 1997)
If you love murder, poetry, and academia, this book is for you. The first books in the series are only available in paperback but are worth the effort. A female amateur sleuth, Professor Karen Pelletier’s prime literary passion is poet Emily Dickinson and she brings her intelligence and tenacity to finding out what exactly happened to the head of Enfield’s English department who was found strangled with his own flashy necktie.
ANDREA BARTON (AUTHOR)
Sarah Hawthorn, A Voice in the Night (Transit Lounge, 2021)
Sarah Hawthorn’s debut thriller has twists and turns galore. The story moves between London, New York, and Sydney, and keeps us guessing until the last page. Lucie’s lover, Martin, died on 9/11. Twenty years later, she receives a note, signed Martin, suggesting he used the confusion and chaos following that fateful day as an opportunity to disappear. But why doesn’t he reveal himself? Is someone playing with her mind? Or is she conjuring Martin from her imagination?
ASHLEY KALAGIAN BLUNT (AUTHOR)
Monica Vuu, When One of Us Hurts (Pan Macmillan, 2023)
A book I’ve been obsessed with this year is Monica Vuu’s twisted, mysterious, and darkly creepy, debut. This novel takes the small-town crime fiction trope to shocking new heights. This is a psychological mystery full of macabre surprises, most notable for the two distinctive voices driving the story. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you’re in for a chilling treat.
DEB BODINNAR (2023 DAVITT JUDGE)
Katherine Howell, Frantic (Pan Macmillan 2007)
Frantic is the first of eight Ella Marconi novels. I was hooked after reading this one which won the Davitt (Adult Fiction Winner) in 2008. Katherine had been a paramedic herself and her insights into this world are second to none. This book is what introduced me to the wonderful world of Australian female crime authors, and also began my association with Sisters in Crime. While reading Frantic, you feel like you are actually living the situation alongside the characters and breathing in the same air. I highly recommend you try and find a copy, maybe in a library or the odd op shop or at least any of Katherine’s books, you will not be disappointed. Take the ride – it’s worth it. (Editor: Note that it is available as an e-book from Pan Macmillan).
ANNE BUIST (AUTHOR)
Ali Lowe, The Running Club (Hachette Australia, 2023)
The Running Club is an easy read for the by the pool or on the beach – grabs you from page one with the vicarious pleasure of some of the worst aspects of female relationships in a slightly over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek manner. Fast-paced and a bit of fun.
SUE BURSZTYNSKI (AUTHOR)
Nikki Mottram, Crows Nest (UQP, 2023)
Child protection worker Dana Gibson has had marriage issues after the loss of her own child, and leaves Sydney for a job in the Queensland regional town of Toowoomba. She visits nearby Crows Nest to assess the children of Sandra Kirby. Soon after, Sandra and her friend Debbie are shot dead in Sandra’s car late at night. Potential killers all seem to have alibis. The police declare it a murder-suicide and close the case, but to Dana it doesn’t make sense. She continues to investigate, despite getting into trouble at work over it. There are people who would rather she didn’t…
SHELLEY BURR (AUTHOR)
Freya Marske, A Power Unbound (Tor, 2023)
Marske is a Canberra author, and A Power Unbound closes out the trilogy she started with A Marvellous Light. Each book is a cracking mystery, and the murders form part of a larger story about a secret society of magic users in Georgian England. What really draws me to the series is how Marske juggles multiple genres beautifully, without short-changing any of them – mystery, historical, fantasy, and (spicy!) romance. It’s a perfect holiday read if you’re looking for something really out of the ordinary to finish the year with.
LINDY CAMERON (AUTHOR & CONVENOR)
Val McDermid, Past Lying (Hachette Australia, 2023)
Past Lying is the sixth in the series headed by the indefatigable Scottish DCI, Karen Pirie. Following close on the tragedy in Still Life, Karen’s team of cold case investigators are more than intrigued by the discovery of an unfinished manuscript by a recently-deceased crime writer. Strangely the story has striking similarities to a real-life unsolved disappearance. Past Lying is a mystery within a mystery, or a book within a book, and McDermid as usual outdoes herself with the entanglement of clues and motives. The book is also set in the midst of Edinburgh’s COVID lockdown which brings back vivid memories of what Melbourne went through at the same time – and also makes for an even more interesting investigation.
NINA D CAMPBELL (AUTHOR)
Nikki Crutchley, To the Sea (HarperCollins Australia, 2021)
Another year with so many incredible crime titles has made choosing a single book such a challenge. But, in the end, Nikki Crutchley’s hauntingly atmospheric novel, To The Sea, nudged ahead because it just won’t let me go. The story of a family living an isolated existence at Iluka, a wild paradise nestled between a towering pine plantation and a pristine private beach, To the Sea gently and reverentially explores the nature of power, the power of fear, and the dynamics of family as Nikki Crutchley slowly unveils the dark secrets that lie at the heart of their seemingly idyllic existence. This book got under my skin as much as its characters burrowed into my heart and I know I’ll be going back to it again in the future.
B.M. CARROLL (AUTHOR)
Rae Cairns, Dying to Know (Harper Collins. 2023)
This book is original and frighteningly realistic. I couldn’t put it down. Twelve years ago budding journalist Geneva Leighton received a phone call that stopped her life in its tracks. Her terrified sister, Amber, was locked in the boot of a moving car and begging Geneva for help. Amber was never heard from again. Now shocking new evidence has come to light and Geneva’s world is thrown into chaos again.
ELIZABETH COLEMAN (AUTHOR)
Kerryn Mayne, Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder (Penguin Australia, 2023)
This book is sweet, smart, funny, and heartbreaking, all at once. Lenny Marks is a rigidly self-controlled primary school teacher who’s trying so hard to forget her past that she’s not even sure what’s real anymore. When an unexpected letter arrives her self-imposed order unravels, and she’s eventually faced with a momentous decision that had me on the edge of my seat. Lenny is a lovable, relatable human being, and the other warm, engaging characters in her orbit reflect the novel’s compassion. I loved this.
VICKY DADDO (AUTHOR)
Bronwyn Hall, Gone to Ground (HarperCollins Australia)
Gone to Ground is a pacy thriller set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo featuring UN doctor Rachel Forester who stays behind to tend to an injured child while the rest of her team is evacuated to escape growing violence. A military unit arrives with a wounded soldier and Rachel and the team are forced to flee the camp through the jungle, facing armed militia and a conspiracy of crime and corruption.
CAROLINE DE COSTA (AUTHOR)
Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Dark Mode (Ultimo Press 2023)
This truly terrifying account of how sweet, plant-loving Sydney girl Reagan Carsen got herself caught up in the darkest corners of the internet twists and turns until you think it cannot get any worse. And then it does. Brilliantly researched and crafted, Dark Mode also has some wonderful characters – especially Korean-Australian true-crime writer Min and her mother. You’ll be cancelling your social media, going off the grid, locking the door, and pulling the bedclothes tight, but you won’t stop reading until its unsettling end. Absolutely not to be missed this holiday season.
LESLIE FALKINER-ROSE (CONVENOR)
Heather Rose, Bruny (Allen & Unwin, 2019)
Ever since Heather Rose picked up the Davitt Award in 2006 for The Butterfly Man, I’ve been a fan. Bruny, released in 2019, is still very relevant today as it imagines scenarios stemming from the biggest global issues.
It has strong characters and the beautiful, evocative setting of Bruny Island in Tasmania.
LYNETTE FINCH (AUTHOR)
Anne-Helen Laestadius, Stolen, (Bloomsbury, 2023)
Told in the third person, through the point of a Sami girl Elsa, the story explores the impact of a hate crime. When Elsa is seven, she witnesses a man brutally kill her reindeer calf and intimidate Elsa into silence. When her father reports the crime to police, they are indifferent. The story jumps ten years, as threats and resentment against the Sami escalate. In this debut novel, Laestradius brings the readers to an understanding of the corrosive impact of race crimes combined with official indifference without overloading us with pain. When Elsa decides to go after justice for her people on her own, we’re right there with her, hearts in our mouths, fully invested.
SARA FOSTER (AUTHOR)
Ber Carroll, The Other Side of Her (Affirm, 2023)
The mystery of a missing nanny is slowly unravelled as Carroll cleverly connects the dots between seemingly disparate characters. I really enjoyed the pace of this story, the central characters are compelling and unsettling, and the deeper underlying themes are beautifully and thoughtfully conveyed. I love novels about everyday people with dark secrets, and this one is a fantastic holiday read.
KELLY GARDINER (AUTHOR & CONVENOR)
Alison Goodman, The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies (HarperCollins, 2023)
Alison Goodman’s previous series (Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club) combined Regency manners with daredevil demon hunting – now her new book is more realist historical fiction that still manages to reimagine women’s lives in the Regency period. Augusta (Gus) and sister Julia set out not only to solve crimes against women but also to rescue the women involved – with a little help from a dashing highwayman. A Regency romp with well-drawn characters, dastardly villains, and the odd cup of tea. Perfect holiday reading.
POPPY GEE (AUTHOR)
Monica Vuu, When One of Us Hurts (Pan Macmillan Australia, 2023)
Monica Vuu has set her excellent debut novel in a fairly ghastly Tasmanian seaside village and I loved this unusual point of view. There are no white beaches, turquoise water, and soaring seagulls. Instead, this weather-battered summer resort town is inhabited by unfriendly locals and overrun with menacing crows. The secrets of the locals unravel unexpectedly in this darkly delicious Hitchockian psychological thriller.
LESLEY GILLIS (CONVENOR)
D. M. Greenwood, Clerical Errors (Headline Book Publishing PLC, 1991)
This is an oldie, a goodie, and an interesting read. I cannot remember where I purchased it but probably at Gaslight Books in Canberra. It had the best crime section of any bookshop and always stocked the unusual and different and not mainstream whodunnits. It’s now available on Amazon, eBay and Kindle. Clerical Errors is the first in a series of nine books. Nineteen-year-old, Julia Smith, starts at her first job at the Medewich Cathedral and discovers a severed head in the Cathedral font just after an hour of commencing work! Deaconess Theodore Braithwaite, a lone pillar of commonsense, takes Julia under her wing and together they attempt to unravel the truth behind the death of Reverend Paul Gray. Who knew that parish work could be just so challenging and murderous?
NARRELLE M HARRIS (AUTHOR)
Livia Day, Drop Dead in Red (Tansy Rayner Roberts, 2023)
The second of the Fashionably Late cosy crime books by Livia Day, Drop Dead in Red is set in and around the vividly brought-to-life Huon Valley.
The cast of textured and diverse characters is drawn with great warmth and the capacity for growth, and the whole is intertwined with intrigue, comedy, intelligence, and a genuine sense of threat. Highly recommended.
SARAH HAWTHORN (AUTHOR)
Lisa Jewell, None of This Is True (Penguin Books, 2023)
This is a perfect pick for reading on a plane, lying on a beach, or curling up with a mug of cocoa. It’s a glorious twisty tale which, just when you think you’ve figured it out, a further mystery unravels. I listened to the audio version, beautifully narrated by Nicola Walker (supported by an extensive cast) so I kept listening whilst driving the car, working out at the gym, and cooking dinner.
PHILOMENA HORSLEY (2023 DAVITT JUDGES COORDINATOR)
Elizabeth Wetmore, Valentine (HarperCollins Publishers, 2020)
Gloria Ramírez has been savagely beaten and raped. She’s just fourteen years old. But because she’s poor, uneducated, and Mexican, most people in this small, racist, backwater town in 1970s America think she probably asked for it. After all, the rapist is a ‘good kid’ from a fine family. As the court date looms, the chapters alternate between the views of Gloria and a network of local women. Some justify or ignore the assault, but others – such as Mary Rose, a pregnant ranch wife, and Corinne, newly widowed – take a courageous stand against masculine brutality. The story is an extraordinary, beautifully written, and emotional account of women’s resistance to prejudice and violence.
H.R. KEMP (AUTHOR)
Johana Gustawsson, Yule Island (Simon & Schuster, 2023)
I received an advance copy to review and thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Set in Sweden, the characters are well-written and the complex plot throws up many surprises. It kept me guessing. This modern gothic thriller is based on a true story and was the winner of the Cultura Ligue de l’Imaginaire Award 2023. The story is about an art expert who joins a detective to investigate a horrific murder on a Swedish island, leading them to a mystery rooted in Viking rites and Scandinavia’s deepest, darkest winter. It has layers of suspense, intrigue, and tension. A great read.
AMANDA KNIGHT (AUTHOR)
Rebecca Heath, The Summer Party (Head of Zeus, an imprint of Bloomsbury, 2023)
Rebecca Heath’s twists and turns reveal a clever murder mystery beautifully written that will engage from the first page and is a must for your holiday reads! Alternating between the summer of 2000 and the winter of 2019, this fantastic atmospheric psychological thriller set on the coast of southern Australia, explores a devastating secret that threatens to rip the glamorous Whitlam family apart. It all begins when 16-year-old Lucy Ross is invited to a party at the Whitlam remote clifftop mansion where she sees something she shouldn’t have. Two decades later, Lucy finds herself in Queen’s Point again when a body washes ashore. As long-buried secrets start to surface, Lucy must decide. Will she confront the past and tell the truth? Or will she still do anything to protect the people she loves?
LYNDA LA PLANTE (AUTHOR)
Marie Tierney, Deadly Animals (Zaffre, 2024)
Thirteen-year-old Ava Bonney possesses an unusual intellect far beyond her years. While her friends play, Ava’s fascination lies in the intricate process of animal decomposition, studying roadkill on the streets around her home. But, one night, Ava’s secret nocturnal routine takes a chilling turn when she stumbles upon the lifeless body of fellow classmate, Mickey Grant. As Detective Seth Delahaye takes charge of the perplexing case, Ava refuses to sit idle. Determined and resourceful, she embarks on a daring quest to unveil the truth behind the string of chilling deaths plaguing her community. Armed with her unique skills and unrivalled local knowledge, Ava becomes an unlikely force in the race to apprehend the elusive killer before more lives are claimed. I have been hand-selling this book since I read the proof I was sent. I highly recommend it.
CHRISTINA LEE (AUTHOR)
Yrsa Sigurdardottir, The Prey (Hodder & Stoughton, 2023)
How are you going to keep cool this summer? The Prey, set in midwinter in the Icelandic wilderness, will take your mind off the local weather. Yrsa brilliantly combines crime, thriller, and horror genres in this gripping, twisting tale of missing hikers, a ghostly child, and something evil lurking in the snow. This book won the Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year, and you’ll see why. Oh, and read it with the lights on. Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. [Note: Icelandic people are known formally by their first names – so she is called Yrsa, not Sigurdardottir.]
PI Ted Bristol and her canine sidekick Miss Marple are back, as feisty and tenacious as the first time. I love the Melbourne setting and the host of interesting supporting characters – especially Ted’s niece Chuck. The twists and turns in A Dance with Murder kept me guessing, I couldn’t put this book down. Ted is a flawed, loveable heroine who can kick some serious butt and I wish I could solve crime half as well as her.
PETRONELLA MCGOVERN (AUTHOR)
Joanna Jenkins, How to Kill a Client (Allen and Unwin, 2023)
Joanna Jenkins is our own Aussie feminist version of John Grisham, taking on murder in the legal corridors of steamy Brisbane. When the horrible, misogynistic lawyer Gavin Jones is found dead, no one is upset and there is a huge list of suspects. But the old boys club protects itself and the only female legal partners, Ruth and Viv, must make sure they’re not thrown under the bus. A thrilling page-turner that takes you behind the scenes of the big law firms, into corporate corruption, jobs-for-the-boys, and greed. An utterly fascinating debut.
TESS MERLIN (AUTHOR)
Candice Fox, Fire with Fire (Penguin Books Australia, 2023)
Candice Fox has a big personality as a person and, as a writer, she grabs her reader hard and fast and doesn’t let go until the end. What appealed to me about Fire with Fire was that this was a crime fiction based around various crimes rather than just a murder. The parallel stories maintain the suspense and connect in the right places, making this a super holiday read.
L.J.M. OWEN (AUTHOR)
Ann Cleeves, The Glass Room (Pan Macmillan, 2012)
In this classic Vera Stanhope investigation, Vera is drawn into a murder at a writers’ retreat. This installment has the usual brooding Northumberland landscape, deep characters, twisty plot, and irritable lead detective that Vera’s readers (and watchers) have come to know and love. I couldn’t go past recommending The Glass Room this year, having just hosted Ann Cleeves for two weeks and run three weeks of writers’ retreats as part of the Terror Australis crime and mystery festival. I know many of Sisters in Crime Australia’s members are also writers, so this might be a perfect indulgence one afternoon this summer.
VIKKI PETRAITIS (AUTHOR)
Alison Goodman, The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies (Penguin Random House, 2023)
For me, the sign of a good book is when I get to the end and immediately message the author to ask when the sequel will be out. That’s what I did after reading The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies. One of the many things I loved about Alison Goodman’s regency detective mystery is that the Ladies – Lady Augusta ‘Gus’ Colebrook, and her twin sister, Julia – are women of means and use their agency to help others. The so-called invisibility of middle age – they’re 42 – means they can use their privilege to infiltrate situations to solve mysteries and rescue women in peril. Throw in a dashing exiled Lord and you’re good to go.
NELL PIERCE (AUTHOR)
Leïla Slimani, Lullaby (Faber, 2018)
In the opening pages of Leïla Slimani’s tense thriller, Lullaby, we learn that two children have been killed by their nanny. Our knowledge of this event hangs ominously over the novel, particularly as we read of the seemingly charmed early days in which the parents are “overjoyed” by a nanny who “seems to have sprung straight from the pages of a children’s book”. Slimani deftly portrays the uncomfortable dynamics of the relationship between the children’s nanny and parents, raising questions about motherhood, wealth, race, and family. Lullaby is a gripping, haunting novel that has stayed with me years after my first read.
MICHELLE PRAK (AUTHOR)
Maryrose Cuskelly, The Cane (Allen & Unwin 2022)
The Cane is a literary thriller set in Queensland sugar cane country during the ’70s. Aside from being a marvellous page-turner, Maryrose crafts enjoyable flashbacks (for this child of the 70s). I lapped up the nods to the fashion of the time, the food. and more. Sadly, there’s a great deal of sexism too, which is accurate for the era. There are multiple POVs, everything is very skilfully done, and young characters like Essie are beautifully written, with realistic insights into the emotional turmoil of being a tween.
FELICITY PULMAN (AUTHOR)
Wendy James, The Accusation (HarperCollins Publishers Australia, 2019)
I was introduced to Wendy James’ ‘domestic noir’ novels when she was invited to speak to my local book club recently. I read and really enjoyed her latest novel, A Little Bird, before she came, and bought two more of her novels on the day. I’ve now finished An Accusation and, (as always), James kept me guessing all the way through as to who was telling the truth, as an innocent young girl accuses an older woman and her mother (who is suffering from dementia and is generally deemed to be ‘mad’) of abducting her and keeping her captive until she managed to escape. Set in a small country town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, and all the dirty linen comes out in the trial. The suspense builds until the final – and unexpected – denouement. With believable characters in excruciating circumstances, James’s novels are a real find, and I’ll be buying more after I’ve finished the next one, The Golden Child.
HAYLEY SCRIVENOR (AUTHOR)
Dinuka McKenzie, Taken (HarperCollins, 2023)
I’ve said it before, but I will happily read anything Dinuka McKenzie writes, forever. At the beginning of Taken, Det Sgt Kate Miles has just returned from maternity leave, when a baby goes missing and she is tasked with leading the investigation. It’s such a satisfying sequel to the already-astonishing The Torrent, but it also stands on its own two feet as a compelling character study, a nail-biting thriller, and an exploration of what makes a life worth living. Most importantly, you won’t have to wait long for the third installment in the series (Tipping Point), which will be out on 31 January, 2024!
CARMEL SHUTE (CONVENOR)
Lindy Cameron, ed., The Scarlet Stiletto: 30 Years of Mystery, Murder and Malice (Clan Destine Press, 2023)
This might seem like Sisters in Crime blowing its own trumpet, but it’s not. As a judge of the Scarlet Stiletto Awards for the past 30 years, I read all these stories contemporaneously and, since May, I have also listened to them on podcast. Together, all the stories more than stand the test of time. Collectively, they are an outstanding read, alternatively thrilling, perceptive, funny, and sad – and often pushing the boundaries. A perfect diversion (or gift) for the holiday season.
Lynda La Plante, Unholy Murder (Zaffre, 2021)
LARAINE STEPHENS (AUTHOR)
The preserved body of a nun is found in a coffin when excavation works begin in the grounds of a former convent. She’s been buried alive! That caught my attention. Shades of The Fall of the House of Usher. In a standard police procedural set in the 1980s, Jane Tennison faces obstacles in her search to uncover the truth – corruption and pushback from the Catholic Church, her place in a male-dominated profession, and the need to grow her confidence in herself as a detective and in following her instincts. I enjoyed the development in Jane’s character, as well as the twists and turns in the plot.
ALISON STUART (AUTHOR)
Karen Baugh Menuhin, A Wreath of Red Roses: Heathcliff Lennox Investigates (Little Cat Publishing, 2022)
Continuing my love affair with Karen Menuhin’s Heathcliff Lennox cosy mysteries… this is Book 9. An old moated house, and a series of strange deaths. Gorgeous Lennox bumbles his way through an investigation again – great fun and a light read.
(I particularly recommend the audio editions).
LUCY SUSSEX (AUTHOR)
Catherine Chidgey, Pet (Europa, 2023)
Chidgey’s psychological thriller is about the young, anchored by the precise details of a suburban New Zealand childhood. Sinister is a constant undertone, with a primary school teacher who is not what she seems. This tense, taut narrative really hooks the reader. It should make one hell of a movie.
JEM TYLEY-MILLER (AUTHOR)
Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca, (Little, Brown Book Group 2015)
First published in 1938, Rebecca is a must-read for lovers of the psychological thriller genre. I try to revisit one classic every summer, and this year sinking into the dense gothic world of Manderley was an utter delight. After a whirlwind romance with handsome and rich Maxim de Winter, a naïve young bride finds herself mistress of an exquisite mansion. But as change overcomes her husband, the young bride begins to wonder whom she should fear most: the wicked housekeeper Mrs Danvers, the ghost of Maxim’s first wife Rebecca, or the husband she barely knows.
LISA WALKER (AUTHOR)
Sharon Bolton, The Pact (Hachette, 2022)
I’m a sucker for a ‘golden summer gone wrong that returns to haunt you’ story, and this is a great one. Twenty years ago, six school friends took part in a dare devil game where three innocent people died. One of them offered to take the blame, and the jail sentence, in return for a favour from each, but now she is out and demanding her payment. Nail-biting suspense!
SANDI WALLACE (AUTHOR)
Sagit Schwartz, Since She’s Been Gone (Crooked Lane Books, 2024)
Narrated in dual timeline, this story starts with clinical psychologist Beatrice ‘Beans’ meeting a new patient. This patient claims that Bean’s mother is alive and in danger. But her mother died in a hit-and-run accident when Beans was just fifteen, and this was the catalyst for her life-threatening eating disorder, and later, the reason for her career pathway. Now, Beans is compelled to trace her mother’s past to uncover the truth, a quest that catapults her and those she loves into grave danger. Since She’s Been Gone is a fast-moving realistic thriller. Beans’ journey is tumultuous, heartfelt, filled with loss but also hope, and the story informs of different addictions – food restriction and opioid drugs – with a deft touch. Highly recommended to lovers of psychological thriller–psychological suspense novels. Look out for it in February 2024.
RUTH WYKES (CONVENOR & DAVITT JUDGE)
Aoife Clifford, When We Fall (Ultimo Press, 2022)
I read this book twice in the last twelve months. It’s set in a coastal town, where a woman’s body is found at the bottom of a ravine. So why is there salt water in her lungs? Aoife Clifford gave us a terrific story and her characters were rich in depth and I really cared what happened to them. I loved the setting and the way I felt like I was there. It’s a beautifully written story from an Australian author who never disappoints me. She’s such a good storyteller.