As the AWW Challenge’s resident crime correspondent I have been woefully and inexcusably inactive in recent months but at least I have emerged from the ether at a great time to celebrate crime writing by Australian women. The Ned Kelly Awards are the country’s premier awards for crime writers and women writers have fared well in this year’s shortlists. In the Best Fiction category books by Australian women occupy three of six spots and the news is equally good for the Best First Fiction category where women writers take two of the four spots. For the Best True Crime category there are five books with one being authored by two women and another being co-authored by a female and male author. Let’s see what AWW reviewers have made of the titles.
In the Best Fiction category the shortlisted novels by women are
Kathryn Fox’s Fatal Impact takes her series heroine to Tasmania in a forensic thriller in which dead bodies take a back seat to the very topical issue of food security. So far I’m the only one to have reviewed the book for AWW and I said
It takes real skill to produce a ripper of a yarn that is at the same time thought-provoking. To additionally depict more than one view of a complex issue is even more rare and I applaud Fox for pulling it off. She does so mainly through depicting her central protagonist as not being completely informed about food politics at the outset of the book and allowing her to meet various experts and opinion-holders on both sides of the fence. As the novel progresses she draws her own conclusions based on the facts and information she collects (a radical concept in this age of shock-jock spouted mumbo-jumbo masquerading as knowledge)…I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it highly. It is full of surprises, never lets up its frenetic pace, provides much food for thought (pun intended) and is entirely able to be read without any prior knowledge of the series.
P.M. Newton’s Beams Falling is set in the recent past and features an Australian-Vietnamese police woman recovering from trauma. The book has been reviewed 8 times in the challenge so far including by Yvonne Perkins who wrote
Newton excels in writing about place. Her books are not about the bells and sparkles façade that Sydney likes to parade to the rest of the world. They are about grungy Sydney, the real Sydney that most residents have to live in. There is no glamour here, but the truth of the parked car that expels over-heated, stale air when someone opens the door; the crowded train stations; the broken people; the ugly, unloved buildings of neglected suburbs.
In addition to grabbing yourself a copy of this excellent novel you should also check out the interview Challenge founder Elizabeth Lhuede carried out in May with Pam Newton.
Angela Savage’s The Dying Beach features an ex-pat Australian working as a private detective in Thailand who investigates the death of a tour guide. The book was reviewed over at Whispering Gums where crime fiction is a rare sight, as is hinted at by the review’s final paragraph
The Dying Beach is a compelling page-turner that also makes some points about cultural difference and tolerance, the challenge of tourism, and the complexity of environmental management in developing countries. It achieves this without, to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, deviating dramatically from the conventions of its genre. And that is a good thing, because the result is the sort of novel that could appeal to a cross-over audience. The challenge, though, is how to get readers, like me for example, to cross over.
I love it when we get a convert.
Turning to the Best First Fiction category the shortlisted novels by women are
Ellie Marney’s Every Breath has not been reviewed during this year’s challenge but the young adult novel featuring two Melbourne teens who investigate a crime received an enthusiastic review at Speculating on Specfic last year
Every Breath is an engaging crime thriller that most will enjoy, especially because of its rich setting, exciting plot and great characters. I’m glad there are more books to come about Mycroft and Watts, because I’m not ready to let them go yet! I’ll be eagerly looking forward to the sequels!
Candice Fox’s Hades is a dark tale of a hunt for a serial killer and the twisted personal history of one of his hunters. It has attracted four reviews this year including one at Book’d Out
The pace is compelling, the writing tight and concise and the tension high from the novel’s first pages. It builds to a stunning climax that left me breathless and eager for more…Hades is is a gripping and exciting read journeying into a atmospheric underworld of Sydney.
Unfortunately neither of the shortlisted true crime books with female authors have attracted the attention of AWW reviewers (yet) but the novels are
- No Mercy by Eleanor Learmonth & Jenny Tabakoff who outline the physical and neurological changes that typically affect the victims of disaster. Then, using true stories from history as case studies, they investigate the scenario famously imagined by William Golding in Lord of the Flies and borne out by the extraordinary Robbers Cave experiments of the 1950’s
- Forever Mine by John Kidman & Denise Hofman which chronicles the abduction and murder of Sydney schoolgirl Samantha Knight, who seemingly vanished into thin air from busy Bondi Road, in the late afternoon of August 1986.
The Ned Kelly Award winners will be announced in a ceremony as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival on the 6th of September. Good luck to all.
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As far as regular reviewing goes the most popular novel since the last roundup has been Honey Brown’s Through the Cracks which is an unconventional crime novel about a boy emerging from years of abuse. At Sam Still Reading the book’s confronting sensibility is summed up nicely
Through the Cracks is not a cushy, comfortable read – let’s get that out of the way first. You won’t be chuckling to yourself as you read this – in fact, you’re more likely to be squirming in your seat as your mind conjures the images that Honey Brown suggests has happened to her protagonists. It’s a well written novel, but it deals with subject matter that most of us are fortunate not to have any experience with. It’s a book that you’ll feel slightly guilty for racing through the pages, trying to work out if someone, anyone, gets their happy ending
A review that really stood out for me from the recent batch was of Kate Forsyth’s Dancing on Knives, a novel about an agoraphobic girl living in terror, over at The Opal Octapus
I love the way that Dancing on Knives is about how the most ‘fragile’ person can be the only one holding things together. The book is thoroughly food-infused (and definitely needs a recipe glossary!). Others have critiqued it for its gently moseying pace. Sure, it’s not a driving thriller, but you don’t read a Forsyth for the page-turniness. It is less a speedboat ride and more a paddle-steamer meander through a sublime, dark forest. With Spanish food.
Talk about a review which really gives you a sense of how the book affected the reader!
And one of this year’s ‘big things’, Anna George’s What Came Before, which is the story of a man who admits to killing his wife, has garnered its share of attention from AWW participants including at All The Books I Can Read
What Came Before is a gripping insight into domestic violence and showcases how a strong and confident woman like Elle can find herself in a situation where she’s enmeshed with a man such as David, who has temper and alcohol issues, who manipulates and justifies his every action
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If you’re after some ideas of more crime/mystery/thriller or true crime books to read then head over to the genre’s reviews page for this year’s challenge to see what else is being discussed or check out the previous roundups for this review category
- AWW2012 Crime Wrap Up for the year
- AWW2013 Crime Roundup #1
- AWW2013 Crime Roundup #2
- AWW2013 Crime Roundup #3
- AWW2013 Crime Roundup #4
- AWW2013 Crime Roundup #5
- AWW2013 Crime Roundup #6
- AWW2013 Crime Roundup #7
- AWW2013 Crime Wrap Up for the year
- AWW 2014 Crime Roundup #1
- AWW 2014 Crime Roundup #2
I’m Bernadette Bean. I’ve been reading avidly for as long as I can remember, blogging about reading since late 2008 at Reactions to Reading and co-hosting Fair Dinkum Crime, a site devoted to promoting and discussing Australian crime fiction, for the past couple of years. I read and reviewed 18 books as part of my own participation in the 2012 challenge. Some of them weren’t even crime novels!