The crime, mystery, detective, thriller suspense category continues to attract a healthy number of reviews which reflect the diversity of crime writing by Australian women. For the numerically inclined in 2014 there were

  • 157 reviews
  • 50 reviewers
  • reviews of 85 different works by a total of 64 authors
  • the oldest book reviewed was published in 1948 (although it was recently re-released so I don’t know if it really counts)
  • 102 of the reviews were of books published in 2014

Most reviewed books

I think it’s fitting that this year three very different but equally fantastic books share the honours for most reviewed titles, each garnering 10 reviews. In alphabetical order these are

BeamsFallingPMNewtonBEAMS FALLING is former cop P.M. Newton’s second novel set in Sydney’s recent past featuring  Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly. Here Ned is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after the events depicted in the first novel of the series (THE OLD SCHOOL) and is on restricted duties. On the mistaken assumption she can speak Vietnamese Ned is assigned to a Task Force investigating ‘Asian crime gangs’ but she is soon involved with the investigation into the shooting of a school boy. This is one of those crime novels that really uses the conventions of the genre as a backdrop to the exploration of social themes including the refugee experience in Australia and the way individuals and their wider communities understand and cope with various kinds of trauma. The novel was shortlisted for the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime novel. Do read AWW Challenge founder Elizabeth Lheude’s Q & A with the author.

thelostgirls-wendyjamesTHE LOST GIRLS is a standalone novel from Wendy James depicting the 1970’s disappearance of a teenage girl from a Sydney beachside suburb and the impact that disappearance has on those left behind, especially her two cousins, her father and even a complete stranger who becomes linked to the incident unwillingly. The familiarity of its characters, locations and sensibilities make the novel both compelling and frightening in a way that books featuring axe-wielding psychopaths never quite manage to be. It is easy to imagine these people and the scenarios they find themselves in being your next door neighbours. Or perhaps your own family. The novel also explores the notion that truth is never absolute.

throughthecracks-brownTHROUGH THE CRACKS is another standalone novel, this time from Honey Brown (who also appeared on last year’s most reviewed list), that tells the story of Adam, a young boy who has been held captive by an abusive father finally being able to escape, with some unlikely help. What sets the novel apart from the pack is that it doesn’t dwell voyeuristically on the undoubtedly graphic details of Adam’s situation though it does, where necessary, let the reader know just how grim Adam’s circumstances were. But the focus really is on the central characters of Adam and the homeless boy who befriends him and their journey towards a different life. Be sure to check out Honey Brown’s guest appearance here at the AWW site as part of our focus on Aussie women writers with a disability

Honourable Mentions

  • Jaye Ford.s ALREADY DEAD (8 reviews), Anna George’s debut novel WHAT CAME BEFORE (6 reviews) and Katherine Howell’s DESERVING DEATH (5 reviews) all deserve a mention for attracting multiple readers.
  • Lucy Christopher’s THE KILLING WOODS, Rebecca James’ COOPER BARTHOLOMEW IS DEAD, Ellie Marney’s EVERY BREATH and EVERY WORD and Margaret Wild’s VANISHING MOMENT were the young adult novels that attracted attention from this year’s reviewers
  • Collectively we’re, once again, not prolific readers of true crime but a couple of titles did get attention including Robin Bowles’ ROUGH JUSTICE and Helen Garner’s THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF which generated my favourite review of the year for its incorporation of a sonnet in addition to a thoughtful critique.

Most prolific reviewer(s)

We all pale into insignificance when compared to Brenda who posts her reviews at Good Reads. Brenda reviewed 37 titles just for this genre during the 2014 challenge! The only person who came even vaguely close (if you use a fairly loose definition of the word close) is my fellow challenge co-host Shelleyrae who reviewed 14 books at Book’d Out which she classified as crime/mystery/thriller for last year’s challenge.

Most fun I had being one of the Challenge co-hosts

During March the AWW Challenge site focused on lesbian and queer women writers so I volunteered to contribute in the form of Sleuthing and Sexuality, a very potted history of the surprisingly (to me) small amount of crime writing by Australian women to feature queer or lesbian characters/themes.

(Almost) Bi-Monthly Wrap-ups

During the year I posted 5 wrap-ups which all feature more books for you to check out and extracts from some of the fabulous reviews the Challenge has garnered over the year. February, April, August, October, December

Thanks to all the reviewers who took part in this year’s Challenge and the authors who supplied us with such an array of outstanding books. Hope you’ll all join us again in 2015 where we will answer the question can anyone beat Brenda’s review tally?

About Me

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, co-host of Fair Dinkum Crime, a site devoted to promoting and discussing Australian crime fiction, since 2010 and have twice been a judge for a national crime fiction award.