Anybody who knows me will be aware that I'm mathematically challenged. Besides, I hate giving numbers of stars as reviews and Top 5's or 10's or whatever numbers give me heartburn, so instead, I wanted to just re-mention some of the books that made my reading 2012. I was rather pleased to have hit the 120 that I set myself as a goal on Goodreads (in fact if I was up to date with reviews) I reckon that number will end up much closer to 140, which is not a bad effort given that it was a hellishly busy year all round. But enough waffle. The books that really worked for me this year, and that deserve another mention are...
THE COLD COLD GROUND, Adrian McKinty - right, well Irishman who lives here now, and that works to claim him as a local as far as I'm concerned. Regardless of where he lives, THE COLD COLD GROUND was, quite frankly, an absolutely outstanding book.
A DISSECTION OF MURDER, Felicity Young. Okay this wasn't a knock your socks off sort of a book, but it is definitely felt like a very welcome start to what's going to be a very good series. And because of the next book up in this list, I'm getting increasingly interested in historical mystery novels which, if you'd have told me I would a few years ago, I'd have been questioning your sanity.
PAVING THE NEW ROAD, Sulari Gentill. I love the Rowly Sinclair series. It's fun, it's got good plots, it takes me to parts of the world and into history that frankly, at school, I was so not interested in I lost consciousness on a regular basis in history lessons. If I didn't think it would take time away from the book writing game, I'd be suggesting somebody talk to her about school curriculum. But don't. Leave her alone. She's got more books to write.
AFTER THE DARKNESS, Honey Brown. Loved this book. Simple as that. Not just because for once, the victim wasn't your average threatened female, not just because the whole threatening scenario was so unexpected, and not just because it was flat out a very clever plot. It was because of the games the thing played in your head. Taut, terrific and very very clever.
PROMISE, Tony Cavanaugh. What is this doing here I wonder because I really didn't like the mad bad serial killer thing, but the rest of the book did work really well. Loved the central character, loved the gallows humour, loved the Australian-ness of the whole thing. Hopefully there will be a series.
THE MISTAKE, Wendy James. Another book I wasn't sure about to start off with, but it's sneakily challenging, disconcerting, compelling, car crash fascinating, and probably one of the best fictional reminders I've had in a while that public and media opinion should never be mistaken for the justice system, regardless of the ultimate outcome. Classic psychological thriller.
POET'S COTTAGE, Josephine Pennicott. I so wasn't expecting to like this book. It looked like it might be just a little too fantastical or something for my taste. Boy was I wrong about that.
IN HER BLOOD, Annie Hauxwell. I really couldn't quite get how this plot was going to work - the whole premise seemed a bit too much of a stretch. Until I started reading it. Worked like a dream.
COLLECTING COOPER, Paul Cleave. Okay, well I do have rather a thing for this author's books, despite a sneaking suspicion that he wants all of us scared to within an inch of our lives on a frequent basis. An unusual outing in that a central character makes a return in this book, but really, Cleave is definitely in my "would read his shopping list" category.
BLACK WATTLE CREEK, Geoffrey McGeachin. Another "shopping list" member. Evocative, beautiful storytelling with a plot inhabited by a fascinating, damaged central character.
HELL'S FURY, PD Martin. Do not let anyone tell you women can't write thrillers. They are talking through an inappropriate orifice.
A particular highlight has definitely been the rise of the local noir scene (well it's been rising away on its own for a while most likely, but I've just noticed it). In that group the standouts this year where GHOST MONEY by Andrew Nette and DARK CITY BLUE by Luke Preston.
LITTLE STAR, John Ajvide Lindqvist. Founding member of the "shopping list" category, this was another classic example of using a scenario to teach a gentle little lesson, wrapped up in pitch perfect story telling. Loved this book. Loved everything I've ever been lucky enough to read by this extremely clever author.
THE DINOSAUR FEATHER, Sissel-Jo Gazan. I still don't quite get how a 535 page book which starts off deep in discussions on paleo-ornithology was quite as good as it was. But it was. Fantastic.
THE SINNER, Petra Hammesfahr. Part thriller, part psychological study, a tricky book that requires a lot of attention, that I didn't mind devoting to it for a nanosecond.
RUSH OF BLOOD, Mark Billingham. Standalone, really interesting premise, combining a character study, a classic psychological thriller and a good old fashioned whodunnit.
SHATTER THE BONES, Stuart MacBride. Yes, well, no surprises about another "shopping list" entrant, but this really truly is part of a very favourite series, and there is the sneaking signs of a little forward motion, what with the sniff of a personal relationship that might work, expanding teams, promotions, oh and families being created. Luckily DI Steele isn't showing any signs of mellowing.
THE WOMAN BEFORE ME and THE SACRIFICAL MAN, Ruth Dugdall. The sorting algorithm for the "shopping list" category got very complicated when Dugdall's first book arrived, and then blown out of the water at the second. These are both fascinating psychological studies which just about ticked every known favourite thing of mine box.
A DARK AND BROKEN HEART, R.J. Ellory Another member of the "shopping list" group - this was a fascinating story, tightly written, descriptive, evocative, sparse and very very pointed. With a perfect ending.
In a sort general hat tip, if I could also say I'm really enjoying the Malcolm Fox, Complaints series by Ian Rankin, plus it's a nice feeling to know I've still got a couple of Camilla Lackberg's books stacked up on the shelves.
Another highlight has definitely been a wander back through the Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri, which I knew, but had kind of forgotten at the same time, just how good they are. It's also lovely to start out a new year with a new Cliff Hardy novel - THE DUNBAR CASE is the next review I must finish off.
Northern Ireland. Spring 1981.
Hunger strikes. Riots. Power cuts.
A homophobic serial killer with a penchant for opera. And a young woman's suicide that may yet turn out to be murder.
On the surface, the events are unconnected, but then things - and people - aren't always what they seem. Detective Sergeant Duffy is the man tasked with trying to get to the bottom of it all. It's no easy job - especially when it turns out that one of the victims was involved in the IRA, but last seen discussing business with someone from the UVF. Add to that the fact that as a Catholic policemen, it doesn't matter which side he's on, because nobody trusts him - and Sergeant Duffy really is in a no-win situation.
A compelling new series about Dr Dody McCleland, the first female autopsy surgeon. A woman. A doctor. A beastly science. At the turn of the twentieth century, London's political climate is in turmoil, as women fight for the right to vote. Dody McCleland has her own battles to fight. As England's first female autopsy surgeon, she must prove herself as she also proves that murder treats everyone equally... After a heated women's rights rally turns violent, an innocent suffragette is found murdered. When she examines the body, Dody is shocked to realise that the victim was a friend of her sister - fuelling her determination to uncover the cause of the protester's suspicious death. For Dody, gathering clues from a body is often easier than handling the living - especially Chief Detective Inspector Matthew Pike. Pike is looking to get to the bottom of this case but has a hard time trusting anyone - including Dody. Determined to earn Pike's trust and to find the killer, Dody will have to sort through real and imagined secrets. But if she's not careful, she may end up on her own examination table.
It’s 1933, and the political landscape of Europe is darkening.
Eric Campbell, the man who would be Australia’s Führer, is on a fascist tour of the Continent, meeting dictators over cocktails and seeking allegiances in a common cause. Yet the Australian way of life is not undefended. Old enemies have united to undermine Campbell’s ambitions. The clandestine armies of the Establishment have once again mobilised to thwart any friendship with the Third Reich.
But when their man in Munich is killed, desperate measures are necessary.
Now Rowland Sinclair must travel to Germany to defend Australian democracy from the relentless march of Fascism. Amidst the goosestepping euphoria of a rising Nazi movement, Rowland encounters those who will change the course of history. In a world of spies, murderers and despotic madmen, he can trust no-one but an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress.
Plots thicken, loyalties are tested and bedfellows become strange indeed.
Trudy and Bruce Harrison have a happy marriage, a successful business, and three teenage children. One fateful day they take the winding coastal route home, and visit the Ocean View Gallery, perched on the cliff edge. It's not listed in any tourist pamphlet. The artist runs the gallery alone. There are no other visitors. Within the maze of rooms the lone couple begin to feel uneasy – and with good reason.
Trudy and Bruce will be ripped from the safe, secure fabric of their life and will have their world turned upside down and shaken. Attacked, trapped and brutalised, they barely escape the gallery with their lives – only to find there's no real getting away.
Top Homicide cop Darian Richards has been seeking out monsters for too long. He has promised one too many victim's families he will find the answers they need and it's taken its toll. Now retired, a series of disappearances see him return to the gun. On his terms. But he knows, every promise has a price to pay.
After surviving a gunshot wound to the head, Darian calls it quits and retires to the Sunshine Coast in an attempt to leave the demons behind. But he should have realised, there are demons everywhere and no place is safe. A serial killer is prowling the Sunshine Coast area and Darian tries to ignore the fact his experience could make a difference hunting him down.
All he wants is to sit at the end of his jetty on the Noosa River and ignore the fact that girls from the area have vanished over the past fourteen months. All blonde and pretty. Youngest: 13. Oldest: 16. He knows they are all dead but the cops were saying 'missing' or 'vanished’. That’s what you have to say if you don’t have a body.
Jenny Brown was the first. She vanished sometime after 4 in the afternoon, Saturday 15 October the previous year. Except for her parents and her friends and everybody who knew her, it was thought she was just a runaway. Especially by the cops who allowed a good two or three minutes before arriving at that conclusion. By the time they’d reached the gate to the front yard of her house, before they’d even walked across the road and climbed into their cruiser, they would’ve forgotten Jenny Brown even existed.
But then others disappeared and they couldn’t call them all runaways. Darian can’t sit idly by and he decides he is going to find the killer and deal with him... his way.
We all have secrets . . .
Jodie Garrow is a teenager from the wrong side of the tracks when she falls pregnant. Scared, alone and desperate to make something of her life, she adopts out the baby illegally – and tells nobody.
Twenty-five years on, Jodie has built a new life and a new family. But when a chance meeting brings the adoption to the notice of the authorities, Jodie becomes caught in a nationwide police investigation, and the centre of a media witch hunt.
What happened to Jodie's baby? And where is she now? The fallout from Jodie's past puts her whole family under the microscope, and her husband and daughter must re-examine everything they believed to be true.
Poets had always lived there, the locals claimed. It was as if the house called to its own...
When Sadie inherits Poet's Cottage in the Tasmanian fishing town of Pencubitt, she sets out to discover all she can about her notorious grandmother, Pearl Tatlow. Pearl was a children's writer who scandalised 1930s Tasmania with her behaviour. She was also violently murdered in the cellar of Poet's Cottage and her murderer never found.
Sadie grew up with a loving version of Pearl through her mother, but her aunt Thomasina tells a different story, one of a self-obsessed, abusive and licentious woman. And Pearl's biographer, Birdie Pinkerton, has more than enough reason to discredit her.
As Sadie and her daughter Betty work to uncover the truth, strange events begin to occur in the cottage. And as the terrible secret in the cellar threads its way into the present day, it reveals a truth more shocking than the decades-long rumours.
Everyone is hooked on something.
It's not that easy to kick the money habit. After the world meltdown forces London's bankers to go cold turkey, people look elsewhere for a quick quid: the old fashioned East End.
So when investigator Catherine Berlin gets an anonymous tip-off about a local loan shark, the case seems straightforward – until her informant is found floating in the Limehouse Basin.
In another part of town, a notorious doctor is murdered in his surgery, and his entire stock of pharmaceutical heroin stolen. An unorthodox copper is assigned to the case, and Berlin finds herself a reluctant collaborator in a murder investigation.
Now Berlin has seven days to find out who killed her informant, why the police are hounding her and, most urgently of all, where to find a new – and legal – supply of the drug she can't survive without.
Christchurch is baking in an unrelenting heat wave and people are disappearing.
Cooper Riley, a psychology professor, doesn't make it to work one day. Emma Green, one of his students, doesn't make it home. When ex-cop Theodore Tate comes out of jail, he's begged by Emma's father to help find his daughter. After all, Tate was in jail for nearly killing Emma the year before, so Tate owes him. Big time. Tate has also been asked by his ex-colleague Detective Schroder to assist on a case currently frustrating the Christchurch police department – the search for a female killer called Melissa X. The further Tate looks, the more he keeps coming back to Grover Hills, the mental institution on the outskirts of the city that closed down three years ago. Something bad happened there over the years, down in the basement which the patients called The Scream Room. Tate is going to have to delve into Grover Hill's past if there is any chance of finding Emma Green and Cooper Riley alive. What Tate doesn’t bank on is that his two searches will coalesce in unexpected ways...
The insane are running the asylum in this cracking new Charlie Berlin thriller.
It's September 1957, two days before the VFL grand final, and Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin finally has some time off. But there's no rest for this decent if damaged man, still troubled by his wartime experience as a bomber pilot and POW. A recently widowed friend asks a favour and he's dropped into something much bigger than he bargained for.
When he uncovers dubious practices at a Melbourne funeral parlour, it's quickly obvious that anyone asking questions is also asking for trouble. His offsider is beaten and left for dead, witnesses are warned off, Special Branch is on his case, and even Berlin's young family may be at risk.
His pursuit of the truth leads him to Blackwattle Creek, once an asylum for the criminally insane and now home to even darker evils. And if Berlin thought government machinations during World War II were devious, those of the Cold War leave them for dead .
She lies in an Afghani prison cell, disowned by the CIA and regularly tortured. Seven months into her prison term, a lone operator stages a daring extraction. But who is Decker, the mysterious man behind her rescue?
He claims to represent The Committee, an international group made up of ex-professionals from the CIA, FBI, Interpol, MI5, Scotland Yard, Mossad and ASIS; a private organization that serves and protects where the current intelligence or justice agencies fall short.
Decker also claims to know her long-dead father, and brings to the table an offer she can’t refuse; “Go on one mission, and I’ll tell you about your father’s secret life.”
Her assignment: John Hope. Her orders: kill him.
Ghost Money is set in Cambodia in the mid-ninties, when the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency was fragmenting and the country’s rival coalition parties were in conflict with each other from for dominance. Missing in the chaos is businessman Charles Avery. Hired to find him is Vietnamese Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan. Quinlan’s search will take him from Phnom Penh to the country’s border with Thailand and plunge him into a mystery that plunges him into the heart of Cambodia’s bloody past.
If there’s one thing worse than a crooked cop on your heels then it’s a whole unit of them.
A fistful of people are murdered, fifteen million dollars is stolen and detective Tom Bishop is stuck in the middle. When he hits the street, every clue points in the same direction – his colleagues in a police department demoralised by cutbacks and scandals. Hunted, alone and with no place left to turn, Bishop embarks on a hellish journey down into the gutters where right and wrong quickly become twisted and problems are solved with gunfire and bloodshed.
Over the next two days, Tom Bishop will be cornered. He will be beaten. He will bust into prison. He will shoot at police. He will team up with violent criminals. He will become one of them. He will break every rule in the book, chasing a lead nobody else will go near down a rabbit hole of corruption, murder and buried secrets.
Will Bishop become the very monster he set out to destroy?