The Dry, by Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane HarperEven those who didn’t darken the door of the church from one Christmas to the next could tell there would be more mourners than seats. A bottleneck of black and grey was already forming at the entrance as Aaron Falk drove up, trailing a cloud of dust and cracked leaves.
Neighbours, determined but trying not to appear so, jostled each other for the advantage as the scrum trickled through the doors. Across the road the media circled.

Aaron Falk is reluctant to head to Kiewarra, the town of his childhood. but his childhood friend, Luke Hadler, is dead, and he appears to have killed his wife and son, too, in a horrible murder suicide. Luke’s father has asked Aaron to come, and he feels it’s the least he can do. Aaron is a policeman, but murder isn’t his field – he’s a Federal Police investigator, specializing in corporate crime. Sso when he’s asked to help look into Luke’s death, he’s reluctant.

Aaron’s own past in the town is murky. As a teenager he was implicated in the death of a girl and, although he knows he was innocent, it seems the townspeople are less prepared to let the matter rest. His presence in the town and determination to get to the bottom of Luke’s death puts his own safety at risk.

The Dry is an absorbing crime novel, with the dual mysteries – the apparent murder-suicide now, and the older death of a teenage girl – providing plenty for both the reader and the characters to work through. the character of Luke is well-drawn, with his past and present selves pleasingly developed. The town, too, is populated with an interesting cast, and the mysteries it hosts will keep readers guessing.

The Dry, by Jane Harper
Pan Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743548059

Monty & Me, by Louisa Bennet place a wee-mail above Legless’s ancient message. No need to sign it because every dog has a unique aroma. It’s the same wee-mail I’ve left whenever I’ve had the chance to pee. It conveys my shame. I ask one question: who killed Professor Patrick Salt? I hang my head and tuck in my tail as I plod after Rose. She’s investigating his murder, but little does she know, so am I. I failed Paddy in life and I have vowed I will not fail him in his death.

Monty the dog has just arrived at his new home. His new owner, Rose, is very caring, and Duckdown Cottage seems a nice place to live. But Monty can’t be happy here until he finds out who killed his former owner, Professor Salt. Monty was there when it happened and, even though he was injured trying to protect his owner, he still feels responsible for not doing more. He’s going to track down the killer.

Rose, meanwhile, wants to find the killer, too. She is a trainee detective, involved with the police investigation into Salt’s murder. But she has accidentally mucked up another investigation and now she’s in trouble at work. Perhaps if she can solve the Salt case, she can redeem her reputation.

Monty and Me is a mystery story with a difference: the narrator is a dog. Monty can’t speak to Rose (or other humans) but he can understand them, and read, too, and he finds ways to get his message across to Rose. He is helped by a rat, a magpie, and a lady beetle, among other animal accomplices, as well as by Rose, who comes to realise that Monty is pretty special.

Although a story from the dog’s perspective may sound like a children’s book, and the cover will certainly appeal to young readers, Monty and Me is intended for adult readers, and will most appeal to those who can suspend disbelief and enjoy the novelty.

Monty and Me, by Louisa Bennet
Avon, Harper Collins, 2015
ISBN 9780008124045

The Simple Death, by Michael Duffy

A hospital lawyer has gone missing and a man fitting his description has been seen falling off the Manly Ferry. Detective Nicholas Troy is investigating, but he has a lot on his mind. His friend and mentor Father Luke Corelli lies dying in a hospice, his name besmirched by an accusation of child abuse, and Troy’s wife has left him, taking their son to Brisbane…

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…It’s just, speaking generally, a lot of old people want to die, and some don’t know what they want. Then there’s others.’ Said slowly, like pushing heavy words up a hill.
‘You’re talking about more than one person?’
There was a long silence.
‘This is off the record, right?

A hospital lawyer has gone missing and a man fitting his description has been seen falling off the Manly Ferry. Detective Nicholas Troy is investigating, but he has a lot on his mind. His friend and mentor Father Luke Corelli lies dying in a hospice, his name besmirched by an accusation of child abuse, and Troy’s wife has left him, taking their son to Brisbane.

Elsewhere in Sydney, Leila Scott has been nursing her mother through terminal cancer, and has crossed paths with a euthanasia group with shady undercurrents. When Troy starts to question whether their activities conceal something darker, the two cases overlap.

The Simple Death is the second mystery featuring Nicholas Troy, but stands comfortably alone. Troy is an honest cop, who finds himself sometimes struggling to hold that line as he becomes aware of the differences between morality and the law.

A gripping read.

The Simple Death

The Simple Death, by Michael Duffy
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742375526

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Murderer's Thumb, by Beth Montgomery

Adam’s hand and neck were suddenly clammy. He stumbled closer, fighting back an urge to flee. But there was no mistaking what he saw. It was bone. He ran over to the black object, which lay on the soft bed of fallen silage. It was a boot. A black boot with a metal buckle. His eyes swung back to the silage in the grab/ the idling tractor had shaken free more of the dead grass. Adam could make out the curving bones of a ribcage.

Adam is not impressed when he and his mother have to move to rural Falcon ridge. They are on the run, hiding from Adam’s violent father. This is supposed to be a safe place for them, but a few days after his arrival, Adam discovers a body buried in a silage pit on the farm where they live.

Unsettled by the find, Adam is nonetheless intrigued. He likes mysteries, and here is one right under his nose. Helped by the diary he finds hidden in his house, Adam sets out to figure out who killed the girl, the teenage daughter of the farm owner, who disappeared six years previously.

Murderer’s Thumb is an intriguing murder mystery for teen readers, but it also something more, exploring the issues of secrets in small communities, and of being an outsider in such a place, among others. There are several twists and a diverse and interesting cast of characters.

Murderer's Thumb

Murderer’s Thumb, by Beth Montgomery
Text Publishing, 2008

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Who Killed Bianca, by Emma Darcy

Succesful romance novelist K. C. Gordon is looking forward to her trip on the Ghan from Sydney to Alice Springs. Part research opportunity, part relaxation, she has no desire to be caught up in a murder investigation.

Unfortunately for K.C., it seems she might have little choice. Among her fellow travellers is a group of eight of Sydney’s elite, all of them with dramas, pasts and secrets they don’t want to see exposed. They are dogged by another passenger, the infamous gossip columnist, Bianca Bernini, who has joined the trip purely to dig dirt and expose the secrets of her eight adversaries. She does not forsee that the trouble she is about to cause will result in her murder.

K.C. finds herself drawn into this group and into trying to figure out who the murderer is.

Who Killed Bianca is a gripping murder mystery from one of Australia’s most popular female novelists, Emma Darcy. Darcy, better known for her numerous romance titles, shows her versatility with this, her second murder mystery featuring the sassy 40-something K.C. Gordon.

Good reading.

Who Killed Bianca, by Emma Darcy
Pan Macmillan 2002

Babel, by Barry Maitland

When Professor Springer, one of England’s leading philosophers, is assasinated on the steps of the London University where he works, DCI David Brock is called into investigate. His usual partner, Kathy Kolla is on leave.

Springer has been outspoken in his views against fundamentalism, and suspicion is cast on London’s Arab communities. When Kolla is drawn into the investigation, it becomes more complex. Is the murder as straightforward as it seems, or could it relate to the deep divisions between different factions in the university?

Brock and Kolla must solve the mystery before further violence gets out of hand.

Babel is crime fiction as it should be written – danger and intrigue combine with characters of substance and just the right level of surprise.

Barry Maitland was born and raised in Britain. He came to Australia to teach Architecture at the University of Newcastle, but has since retired to work full time on his writing. This can only be a good thing for the lover of quality crime fiction.

Babel, by Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin, 2002.