Tropic of Death, by Robert Sims

The little girl stood back and admired her sandcastle. She waved to her mother, who didn’t notice, before drifting off to look for shells. Wandering over to a clump of seaweed, she squatted and tugged at a slimy strand. It dislodged something strange in the mud, which she gazed at in fascination.

When a little girl uncovers a severed head on a Queensland beach, a resort town is shaken. But, when a second body is found it seems there is a serial killer on the loose. In Melbourne, criminal profile Rita Van Hassel doesn’t expect to get involved in the case, but soon finds herself on secondment in Whitley.

It doesn’t take long before Rita realises that, murders aside, Whitley is not the idyllic place it first appears on the surface. A secret research base casts a gloomy shadow of the town, and within the town itself there is a dark undercurrent of drugs and standover men. For Rita to solve the crime she is going to have to tread on some very dangerous toes.

Tropic of Death is an absorbing thriller. It is the second novel featuring Detective Rita Van Hassel who is a strong character, determined to do her job in difficult circumstances. With diverse characters and attractive settings, as well as a mixture of intrigue and action, this is a tale sure to delight lovers of crime fiction.

Tropic of Death

Tropic of Death, by Robert Sims
Allen & Unwin, 2009

The Shadow Maker, by Robert Sims

She put her fingers to her nose and sniffed something like soot or ash. At first she thought her face had been disfigured then realised there were no wounds on her cheeks. So where did the burnt smell come from? Tentatively she moved her fingertips to her eye sockets. That’s when she started screaming.

There is a brutal sexual predator on the loose in Melbourne. Someone is attacking young women, knocking them senseless and leaving them mutilated. The first woman is blinded, the next has her ears damaged. The attacks are getting worse, and women are dying. Detective Marita Van Hassel, from the Melbourne Sexual Crimes Squad, is called on to use both her profiling and investigative skills to try to catch this animal. But the killer is proving elusive, and he has Rita in his sights as well.

The Shadow Maker is a thrilling and disturbing crime novel, from new novelist Robert Sims. With some really dark moments, the novel is frightening in places, but Sims contrasts this with some romance and the day to day life of the detective character, to make it balanced and absorbing. Readers will find this book hard to put down and will be looking forward to more from Sims and his character, Rita Van Hassel.

The Shadow Maker, by Robert Sims
Arena, an imprint of Allen & Unwin, 2007