Wednesday 5 May 2021


I do like a bit of Australian crime fiction and I do like a reading challenge. I'm just not very good at completing them on time.

In the end I managed fourteen books across two years.....

1. John Dale (ed.) - Sydney Noir (Akashic Noir Series) (2019) (February, 2019)           4.5 STARS

Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city.

Brand-new stories by: Kirsten Tranter, Mandy Sayer, John Dale, Eleanor Limprecht, Mark Dapin, Leigh Redhead, Julie Koh, Peter Polites, Robert Drewe, Tom Gilling, Gabrielle Lord, Philip McLaren, P.M. Newton, and Peter Doyle.

From John Dale's introduction to the book:

Nothing lasts in Sydney, especially good fortune: lives are upturned, shops are sold, roads dug up, trees and houses knocked down, premiers discarded, and entire communities relocated in the name of that economic mantra--growth and progress. Just when you think the traffic can't get any worse and the screech of the 747s descending over your roof can't get any louder, along comes a wild electrical storm that batters the buildings and shakes the power lines and washes the garbage off the streets and you stand, sheltered under your broken brolly in the center of Sydney, admiring this big beautiful city.

What never changes, though, is the hustle on the street. My father was a detective in the vice squad shortly after the Second World War, and he told stories of busting SP bookies in Paddington and Surry Hills, collaring cockatoos stationed in the laneways of South Sydney, and arresting sly-groggers. Policing back then was hands-on for the poor and hands-off for the rich. Crime and Sydney have always been inseparable: a deep vein of corruption runs beneath the surface of even its most respectable suburbs.

2. Mark Brandi - Into the River (2019) (March, 2019)   4.5 STARS






Growing up in a small country town, Ben and Fab spend their days playing cricket, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab's dad hits him, or how the sudden death of Ben's next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

Then a newcomer arrived. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab's dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

Twenty years later, Fab is going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can't ignore the past any more.

3. Peter Temple - An Iron Rose (1998) (May, 2019)     *5 STARS

I'd found a life that wasn't based on watching and lying and plotting, on using people, laying traps, practising deceit. But I'd brought a virus with me, carried it like a refugee from some plague city, hiding symptoms, hoping against hope they would go away. And for a time they had. And I was happy.

But when men in police uniforms came to execute me on the roadside, beside dark fields, it was a definite sign that my new life was over.

Mac Faraday is a man with a past living a quiet life in the country - until his beloved friend Ned Lowey is found hanged. Is it suicide? Faraday won't accept that and starts to ask questions.

Why did Ned visit Kinross Hall, the local home for juvenile girls?
Why did he keep press cuttings about the skeleton of a girl found in an old mine shaft?
Who was the beaten girl found naked beside a lonely road?

As Faraday's search begins to uncover chilling secrets, he finds himself thrown back into the past, forced to confront again the dangers of his old life.

Once he was the hunter, now he has become the prey.

4. Chris Hammer - Scrublands (2018) (June, 2019)   4 STARS

In an isolated country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself.

A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don't fit with the accepted version of events.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers - missing since the time of the massacre - are found in the scrublands. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is the one in the spotlight.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to uncover a truth that becomes more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town's secrets stay buried.

5. Candice Fox - Crimson Lake (2017) (November, 2019)  4.5 STARS

How do you move on when the world won't let you?

12:46: Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop
12:47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her
12:52: The girl is missing . . .

Six minutes in the wrong place at the wrong time - that's all it took to ruin Sydney detective Ted Conkaffey's life. Accused but not convicted of a brutal abduction, Ted is now a free man - and public enemy number one. Maintaining his innocence, he flees north to keep a low profile amidst the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

There, Ted's lawyer introduces him to eccentric private investigator Amanda Pharrell, herself a convicted murderer. Not entirely convinced Amanda is a cold-blooded killer, Ted agrees to help with her investigation, a case full of deception and obsession, while secretly digging into her troubled past. The residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair's every move . . . and the town offers no place to hide.

"Complex, human characters, and a dark, meaty story, and fine writing, and a great sense of place - this is one of the best crime thrillers of the year. Sign me up as a big-time Fox fan!" - #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child

6. Dave Warner - Exxxpresso (2000) (December, 2019)   3 STARS

Rick pulled a folded glossy brochure from his pocket and spread it out. Every time he looked at it, his heart just welled up with joy. It was the Ferrari of espresso machines. Eight cups delivered simultaneously, milk frothed with four times the power of a standard machine...

Rick has his Milano but no wife. His wife Marietta has a lover but no money. Zeen has a life expectancy as short as her skirt. And Guthrie has just shot a pizza delivery boy. Soon Rick has no choice but to drive that Highway to Hell... or Kalgoorlie anyway.

In the richest square mile of dirt in the world a state-of-the-art espresso machine will determine the fate of a bunch of triple-crossing desperados.

"You're right into your coffee man, I'll give you that."
Rick brushed that away. "For me, coffee is a business."

7. Richard Anderson - Boxed (2019) (January, 2020)      3 STARS

‘I jump back, curse in rapid fire, and then lean forward and shove the box hard, off the bench, and away from me. It thuds on the floor. Is this a nasty trick?’

Dave Martin is down on his luck: his wife has left him; his farm is a failure; his house is a mess; he has withdrawn from his community and friends; and tragedy has stolen his capacity to care. He passes the time drinking too much and buying cheap tools online, treating the delivered parcels as gifts from people who care about him.

And then boxes begin to arrive in the mail: boxes that he didn’t order, but ones that everyone around him seems to want desperately. As he tries to find out the secret of the boxes, Dave is drawn into a crazy world of red herrings and wrong turns, good guys and bad, false friends and true, violence, lust, fear, revenge, and a lot, lot more. It’s not a world he understands, but is it the only one Dave can live in?

8. Blair Denholm - Boyd and Sarge: NYPD Law and Disorder (2019) (January, 2020) 

These two cops will have you roaring with laughter

Officer Boyd and the Sarge are the dumbest cops around. DO NOT call them in an emergency
Incompetent yet lovable, hapless Boyd and long-suffering Sarge have become a huge hit online.

Their legion of loyal fans eagerly await daily episodes full of ridiculous humor.

Find out why Twitter goes crazy every day over their antics.

˃˃˃ Readers can't get enough Boyd and Sarge
"Boyd and Sarge are the busiest pair of comic-cops in the world. Not only are they fighting crime on the streets, but also battling their personal demons, and verbally fencing with each other to hilarious effect. Sarge spares no punches, but Boyd bounces right back up with the most outrageous explanations. The misadventures of Boyd and Sarge generate a laugh a minute - each tweet-sized piece is a brilliant, tongue-firmly-in-cheek commentary that uses the pun to dazzle and delight"

"Sarge and Boyd are a great way to start your morning off with laughter"If you're a fan of The Far Side by Gary Larson, there's a good chance you'll love Boyd and Sarge"

"There are times when his humor is subtle, when it catches the reader a beat after the piece is read. Other times, it is in your face, and one is rolling on the floor in belly laughs"

"I first discovered Boyd and Sarge on Twitter when I stared following the author. Every day, I began looking forward to these Twitter-sized bites of cleverly crafted play-on-words that brimmed with slapstick comedic timing.

So imagine my delight when I jokingly suggested to the author that he should compile all his Boyd and Sarge tweets into a book, and he replied that he had!

This book makes a brilliant gift for the granddad, dad, uncle or adult brother in your life - or anyone who enjoys the bumbling antics of a PG15+ Laurel and Hardy or Mr Bean.

Boyd and Sarge are two unforgettable characters who never fail to bring about a belly laugh with their antics."

˃˃˃ Packed with puns, dad jokes, black humor and fantastic illustrations, everyone will love Boyd and the Sarge
If you're a fan of The Far Side by Gary Larson, there's a good chance you'll love Boyd and Sarge.

Scroll up and grab your copy today.

9. Katherine Howell - Frantic (2007) (April, 2020)    3 STARS

In one terrible moment, paramedic Sophie Phillips’ life is ripped apart – her police officer husband, Chris, is shot on their doorstep and their ten-month-old son, Lachlan, is abducted from his bed. Suspicion surrounds Chris as he is tainted with police corruption, but Sophie believes the attack is much more personal – and the perpetrator far more dangerous...

While Chris is in hospital and the police, led by Detective Ella Marconi, mobilise to find their colleague's child, Sophie's desperation compels her to search for Lachlan herself. She enlists her husband's partner, Angus Arendson, in the hunt for her son, but will the history they share prove harmful to Sophie's ability to complete her mission?

And could one dangerous decision cause Sophie to ultimately lose everything important in her life?

10. Blair Denholm - Sold to the Devil (2020) (May, 2020) 4 STARS

He stirs up trouble just by rolling into town. Can this human wrecking ball on the run dodge the Federal police and a Russian crime syndicate bent on revenge?

Gary Braswell is a walking disaster. Dodging his violent enemies with new papers and the help of a surgeon’s knife, Gary attempts to lie low with a stint in freezing Tasmania. But he’s barely settled in with his stolen $150,000 stash when a body-building thief snatches the cash… and then turns up bloodily dismembered.

When Gary is fingered for the killing, he’s terrified he’ll blow his highly illegal history wide open. And since Australia’s most-wanted man is desperate to avoid a stretch in the slammer, this true-blue criminal better knuckle down quickly before he gets nailed.

Will the knockabout party animal escape the cuffs and dodge a snowstorm of strife?

Sold to the Devil is the gritty second book in a fast-paced comic noir thriller series. If you like hilarious page-turners, screwball characters, and crazy

11. Jane Harper - The Dry (2016) (July, 2020)  4.5 STARS


I just can't understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn't rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke's death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend's crime.

Praise for The Dry 

'Spellbinding' Ian Rankin

'Stunningly atmospheric' Val McDermid

12. Blair Denholm - Fighting Dirty (2020) (August, 2020) 4 STARS

It took just one bad decision to put his whole life in jeopardy

Tough-talking London Detective Inspector Jack Lisbon now faces a life-changing choice – seek justice or exact vengeance

After a young fighter takes a beating for throwing a bout, DI Lisbon makes a decision that will come back to haunt him – he accepts a bribe to look the other way. With everything poised to go pear-shaped, the embattled cop embarks on a path that could destroy his career, or save him from destruction. One thing you can be sure of, ex-boxer Lisbon never backs down from a fight!

The twist at the end will leave you breathless!

⭐ A story of evil and redemption

⭐ The characters leap off the page

⭐ Jack Lisbon is a kick-ass investigator who packs a punch

⭐ An action-packed page-turner

Follow Jack Lisbon's journey in the upcoming series: "The Fighting Detective"

13. Jane Harper - The Survivors (2019) (December, 2020) 5 STARS

Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on a single day when a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences. The guilt that haunts him still resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal town he once called home.

Kieran's parents are struggling in a community which is bound, for better or worse, to the sea that is both a lifeline and a threat. Between them all is his absent brother Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge in the murder investigation that follows. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away...

14. Blair Denholm - Kill Shot (2020) (December, 2020)   4 STARS

When only one brand of justice will do...
A body found in the mangroves, mutilated beyond recognition.

What at first appears to be a crocodile attack is soon established as a shocking murder.

Can ex-boxer Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon solve the mystery before the sleepy town of Yorkville goes into total meltdown?

When a popular MMA fighter disappears, police now face a possible double homicide. The list of suspects grows longer, but no one in the closed fighting community is talking. 

Join DS Lisbon and his partner Detective Claudia Taylor on a heart-thumping ride through the steamy tropics of Northern Australia as they hunt for a killer out of control.

At least it was a step in the right direction, my previous challenge took 3 years!

William Marshall - Yellowthread Street (1975) (4)

Andrew Nette - Gunshine State (2016) (4.5)

Iain Ryan - Drainland (2016) (4.5)

Dave Warner - City of Light (1995) (4)

Iain Ryan - Four Days (2015) (4.5)

Kenneth Cook - Fear is the Rider (2016) (4.5)

Garry Disher - The Heat (2015) (5)

David Whish-Wilson - Line of Sight (2010) (5)

Peter Temple - Ithaca In My Mind (2012) (4.5)

Brian Stoddart - The Pallampur Predicament (2014) (4)

Brian Stoddart - A Madras Miasma (2014) (5)

Peter Robb (AKA) B. Selkie No Sweat (AKA Final Cut) (AKA 1/3 of Pig's Blood and Other Fluids) (1995) (3)


Peter Robb - Pig's Blood and Other Fluids (Maybe) (1999) (3)

Garry Disher - Two Way Cut (2004) (3)

I'm hoping to read a lot more from Garry Disher, Dave WarnerDavid Whish-Wilson, Peter Temple, Bill Bateman, Andy Muir, Iain Ryan, Peter Doyle, Brian Stoddart and others in the future.... 


  1. You've read some good 'uns, Col. Temple, Howell, Fox, Harper, Denholm... all terrific. One of the things I like about Aussie crime fiction is its variety. These are all different authors with different styles - not much chance of getting tired of the 'same old thing.'

    1. Thanks Margot. There's ahuge variety of settings in Australian crime fiction. That's part of the appeal I think. There's a lot more talented authors that didn't get a look in either this time around.

  2. That's impressive, Col. I have read one of the books in your lists, and a few others are ones I want to read.