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.

Open File, by Peter Corris

I dropped the envelopes in the box and felt a hard punch to the right kidney that drove the wind out of me. I spun around, fighting for breath, and took a solid thump down where you don’t want it. The toast and coffee threatened to come up, my eyes flooded and closed against the pain and I sagged against the postbox, still gasping, and with no strength to retaliate.

Cliff Hardy, private investigator, has been forced into retirement by deregistration. As he packs up his office, he comes across an open file, from a case back in 1984. Reading the file takes him back to his investigation into the disappearance of a teenager, Justin Hampshire.

What would cause a quiet, ambitious teenager to disappear without a trace? As Hardy delves into Hampshire’s past, he is drawn into a stream of events involving all members of the teenager’s family, a politician and various hired thugs. Hardy’s own life is endangered as he works to uncover the truth.

Open File is an intriguing mystery story, filled with the usual blend of mishaps, close calls and humour which mark this likeable larrikin detective’s work. He manages to alienate the police, charm some ladies and outwit the rogues who want him stopped. But is this mystery too hard for Hardy to solve?

A good read.

Open File, by Peter Corris
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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

Death Before Wicket, by Kerry Greenwood

Phryne Fisher is a sleuth with a difference – this 1920s Australian heroine is sassy, adventurous, promiscuous, and a woman before her time. Although she lacks a university education, she is versed in language, culture and the classics, and able to hold her own in any society. Men fall at her feet and women trust her. She is also brilliant, if unorthodox, in solving mysteries and crime.

In Death Before Wicket she visits Sydney to watch some cricket, attend a ball and visit the University. But Phryne’s plans for a few pleasurable days are interrupted by two mysteries – the disappearance of the sister of her companion, Dot, and the theft of exam papers and other documents from the University.

Phryne finds herself deep in the midst of greed, blackmail and the dangers of black magic, as she weaves some magic of her own to solve the twin mysteries.

Death Before Wicket is the tenth Phryne Fisher adventure from Kerry Greenwood. First published in 1999, it has been rereleased to coincide with the release of the latest installment, The Castlemaine Murders.

Death Before Wicket, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Urn Burial, by Kerry Greenwood

When Phryne Fisher is invited to holiday at Cave House, she looks forward to some fine society and some quality time with her lover, Lin Chung. But she has barely arrived when she is caught up in solving a crime.

Fisher, by all appearances a lady of society,is in fact a sophisticated sleuth. Attracting danger and mystery nearly as much as she attracts members of the opposite sex, she maintains her elegance and composure whilst managing to be ruthless and canny.

In this case, her host, Tom Reynolds, has been receiving death threats from someone in the household, Phryne herself is nearly killed when her horse trips on a deliberately placed wire and the parlourmaid is strangled to death before her corpse mysteriously disappears.

Phryne finds herself in danger when she is locked in the cellar with Lin Chung, but, despite her fears, manages to solve the case and maintain her dignity.

The eight in the Phryne Fisher series, Urn Burial is stylish and sharp.

Urn Burial, by Kerry Greenwood
This edition published by Allen & Unwin, 2003, first published by Penguin, 1996

Kittyhawk Down, by Garry Disher

Inspector Challis has more than one case on the go. An unidentified man has been fished out of the sea with an anchor around his waist, a troubled farmer has become violent and is on a crime wave of his own, and someone is stalking Challis’s friend Kitty.

Meanwhile, Challis has personal problems to deal with too. His wife, in jail for conspiring to murder him, constantly pressures him for reassurance. His girlfriend, the editor of the local paper, wants more than he can give right now, and his feelings towards Kitty are confusing.

Kittyhawk Down is the second Inspector Challis murder mystery. Fans who have waited since 2000 will be pleased to see the reappearance of this endearing character who is just as intriguing here as in the first title, The Dragon Man, winner of the German Crime Fiction Award and a shortlist title for the Ned Kelly Award.

Kittyhawk Down is a an excellent piece of Australian crime fiction.

Kittyhawk down, by Garry Disher
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Deadly Tide, by Sandy Curtis

When Chayse is assigned to an undercover op working on a fishing boat, he is determined not to get personally involved. But that determination is in danger of cracking when he meets the new skipper of the trawler, Samantha Bretton.

Samantha has her own reasons for not getting involved – not with Chayse, or any other man. On top of whatever lurks in her past, her father has been wrongly charged with murder and has a broken leg preventing him from returning to the boat. Samantha must work the trawler or her father faces losing it.

Thrown together by the confines of the boat and by a series of misfortunes, Samantha and Chayse fight their feelings for each other. Even when they acknowledge their bond, each has secrets which could break the relationship apart. Despite this, however, the pair continue to work at solving the murder attributed to Sam’s father. Perhaps if they can unravel that mystery they can begin to work out their other problems.

Deadly Tide is the first gripping mystery title from author Sandy Curtis. With a special combination of mystery, suspense and romance, it is a compelling read.

Deadly Tide, by Sandy Curtis
Pan Macmillan, 2003

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.

Murder in Montparnesse, by Kerry Greenwood

There is nothing that inspires Phryne Fisher more than a mystery. When her wharfie mates Bert and Cec come to her for help, Phryne becomes involved in solving a mystery more personal than she first expects.

Bert, Cec and their five mates, celebrating the end of World War I in 1918, have unknowingly witnessed a murder in Paris. Ten years later, two have died in strange circumstances and the remaining five men fear for their own lives.

While Phryne delves into these events in a quest to find the killer, she must deal witht he memories of her own time in Paris. Her former lover Rene Dubois returns to haunt both her dreams and her reality.

At the same time, Phryne’s houshold is in turmoil. Her lover, Lin Chung, is about to be married and her trusted staff are threatening to leave her employ.

Murder in Montparnesse is the twelfth title in the Phryne Fisher series by Australian author Kerry Greenwood. For those not familiar with this sassy, self-styled detective of 1920s Melbourne, there are some unanswered questions about her background, however as the novel progresses these become less important.

Phryne Fisher moves in a world of class and culture, but hovers on the edge of shadow and intrigue. She is equally comfortable with fine art and cocktails as with house breaking and vengeance – on the side of justice, of course.

Murder in Montparnesse is a delight for lovers of crime fiction.

Murder in Montparnesse, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin 2002