Wolf Pack by C.J. Box

y648In his nineteenth Joe Pickett novel, C.J. Box reminds readers that among the weeds of the seemingly idyllic Twelve Sleep County is a world filled with violence, fear and anger. What begins as a routine inquiry into the misuse of an unregistered drone aircraft that terrifies a herd of mule quickly spirals into something far more menacing and deadly, as Joe, Katelyn Hamm and Nate Romanowski, are pitted against a quartet of savage killers.

It is Joe’s counterpart in Shell County, Fish and Game Warden Katelyn Hamm, who spots the massacre of the mules, and urges Joe to aid her investigation when the rogue aircraft heads into his turf. Joe obliges, and traces the aircraft to the compound of the mysterious Bill Hill, whose arrogance astounds Joe; Hill is fearless, and is certain he’ll face no charges for his crime. More worrisome for is his assertion it will be Joe who is reprimanded should he even try. And sure enough, two surly FBI agents from Washington DC soon arrive in town, who first warn off Katelyn, then Joe, who doesn’t take kindly to overzealous officialdom. Rather than accede, Joe’s interest in Bill Hill is piqued; but just as he closes in on the truth about Hill, a kill squad attached to the Sinaloa drug cartel make their own move; and Joe and his allies are caught smack bang in the middle.

Wolf Pack coruscates with everything needed for a humdinger of a thriller: a cast of characters you care for (and have since day dot), a plot that thrums, and a denouement that lands like a gut punch. Joe Pickett’s 20th can’t come soon enough. Somehow, impossibly, this series just keeps improving.

ISBN: 9781788549240
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 384
Imprint: Head of Zeus
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publish Date: 5-Mar-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

 

 

Review: The Island by Ragnar Jónasson

 

9780718187828.jpgA fairly conventional whodunnit plot — a police detective is sent to investigate what happened on Elliðaey (an archipelago consisting of more than 15 islands located south of Iceland) after one member of a group of friends fails to return from their trip — is elevated into the top tier by one of the finest authors of crime fiction today. Although it lacks the percussion blast climax of The Darkness, Ragnar Jónasson’s second book in the ‘Hulda Series’ is a mesmerising psychological drama on loss, guilt and revenge; altogether haunting and thrillingly well written, the kind of book that will entrance you and keep you reading until the small hours.

When we met Hulda Hermannsdóttir in The Darkness, she was 64-years-old and approaching retirement, and handling her final case; in The Island she is in her fifties, in her prime as an  investigator; and in The Mist (published next year according to my sources see the internet) she’ll be in her forties. Jónasson’s decision to tell Hulda’s story from end to beginning yes, in reverse! is brilliant, and is a startling (and welcome) change of dynamic in the police procedural genre. Forewarned of what her future holds adds a whole new dimension to proceedings — which isn’t to say The Island can’t be enjoyed without reading its predecessor, but with two months until publication, you’ve got plenty of time jump on board this stunning trilogy and affix remarkable layers of poignancy to scenes involving Hulda’s family, and in particular, the novels dénouement.

Swift, sentimental, and deeply satisfying. Jónasson prudently strews clues and complications into Hulda’s investigation with unrivalled prowess. You’ll rapidly turn the pages to determine the killer; you’ll remember The Island, long after the mystery is solved, for its protagonist.

ISBN: 9780718187828
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 352
Imprint: Michael Joseph Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 4-Apr-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare

call me evieIn J.P. Pomare’s cleverly claustrophobic, impossible-to-put-down debut Call Me Evie, a 17-year-old girl stranded in rural New Zealand with a man named “Jim” wrestles with her hazy memory to recall the truth about a violent incident that occurred in Melbourne.

Jim assures Kate — who he calls “Evie” — he has brought her to the small, isolated beach town of Maketu to protect her from police interrogation and the public’s vitriol awaiting her back home, and to aid the restoration of her memory by  asking probing questions about the incident that eviscerated the normality of her life. But there’s nothing magnanimous about Jim’s intentions, or his methods: Kate isn’t allowed to go online; her phone has confiscated; she’s locked in her room at night; and on the few occasions she ventures beyond the perimeter of the property, it’s clear Jim has corrupted the local population into viewing her as mentally unbalanced, a danger to herself and potentially others. All Kate wants to do is go home to align the fragments of her fractured recollections into a cohesive whole — but as her attempts to escape become more desperate, Jim becomes increasingly unhinged and unpredictable. There is little doubt from the start that their relationship is doomed; Pomare keeps readers guessing on just how everything will implode.

Call Me Evie is a slow-burner of a psychological thriller, thick with a constant undercurrent of menace, where nothing should be taken at face value, which ignites into a nail-biting finale. It’s got all the elements the genre demands — an unreliable narrator, a plot that cuts between past and present — and it twists and turns, then twists again. A page-turner for sure, but one that lingers.

ISBN: 9780733640230
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 416
Imprint: Hachette Australia
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publish Date: 27-Dec-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: Run Away by Harlan Coben

9781780894263.jpgIn Harlan Coben’s capable hands, the familiar runaway daughter plot is revitalised and exacerbated, in a thriller replete with several truly sneaky twists and a haunting dénouement. Although Coben’s customary wit and banter is diluted — the repercussions of Simon Greene’s search for his daughter, Paige, doesn’t really allow for sass or wisecracks — Run Away is another masterful domestic thriller, and another impressive page-turner from one of my favourite writers.

When Simon, a successful Manhattan money manager, identifies his runaway college dropout (now junkie) daughter Paige playing guitar in Central Park, he approaches her, hoping to encourage her back into rehab, or at the very least a few nights away from her abusive boyfriend, Aaron. Things do not go well. Strung out on drugs, Paige barely seems to recognise her father — and their resulting confrontation results in Simon punching Aaron in the face, and becoming a viral sensation as a rich guy abusing the poor. Paige disappears, and for three months, Simon and his wife, Ingrid, hear nothing;  that is until Bronx Homicide Detective Isaac Fagbenle turns up at Simon’s office, asking questions about the murder of Aaron. The Greene’s are suspects, but Paige is the obvious one and she’s still missing. So Simon and Ingrid launch their own investigation, which brings them into the path of Chicago PI Elena Ramirez, hired to find the missing adopted son of wealthy Sebastian Thorpe III, and a murderous duo named Ash and Dee Dee, the latter of whom waxes lyrically about the Maine religious commune she belongs to. Somehow Coben manages to successfully connect these threads, building momentum until the very last page.

Fasten your seat belt for this roller-coaster ride through family hell.

ISBN: 9781780894263
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 352
Imprint: Century
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 21-Mar-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Newcomer by Keigo Higashino

9781408711828“Newcomer” is the second Detective Kyochiro Kaga mystery translated from Japanese into English after “Malice, back in 2014. Having been demoted from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s elite Homicide Division, Kaga now finds himself working in the Nihonbashi Precinct; specifically a murder in Kodenmacho, where Mineko Mitsui, a woman with seemingly no enemies, was discovered strangled in her apartment.

Kaga’s investigation unfolds through the eyes of various inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The detective’s deliberations and observations are shrouded from the reader; we are mere witnesses to his brilliant deductions. It’s an interesting narrative choice, but without access to his thoughts and feelings, or any idea of what he does when he’s not hunting bad guys, there’s nothing to latch onto, no emotional connection to Kaga; he is too enigmatic to be a memorable protagonist, at least based on this novel alone.

As he interposes himself in the lives of the Kodenmacho locals, their stories start to intersect in unexpected ways. The beauty of their associations is that they’re neither far-flung or forced; there’s not some mass conspiracy among the shopkeepers in Kodenmacho tied to Mineko’s murder; they’re linked in the subtlest of ways. And just when you think Higashino is leading you to an a-ha! revelatory moment, or indeed a denouement, we learn it’s merely another red-herring or building block towards determining the true killer. If only the climactic revelation that establishes the killer’s motive was as ingenious as the preceding twists and turns. Rather than end with a thunderclap, “Newcomer” ends with a rumble. Still, there’s enough here to warrant a second visit to Keigo Higashino’s Tokyo.

ISBN: 9781408711828
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 352
Imprint: Little, Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 20-Nov-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Kill Shot by Garry Disher

9781925773224Garry Disher is one of the most reliable practitioners in crime fiction, and his creation, Wyatt, one of the genre’s most enigmatic antiheroes. Like Richard Stark’s long-running Parker series — the chief inspiration for Wyatt — the joy of these books are the mechanics of the plotting and Disher’s ability to take resolutely unsympathetic characters and somehow make their journeys further into the depths of moral ambiguity (and in many cases, outright corruption) indelibly compulsive.

Wyatt is an analogue man operating in a digital world. In the modern age of high-tech security keypads, retina scans, CCTV professional thieves have the odds stacked even further against them. Lately Wyatt has stayed in the black thanks to a series of one-man burglaries, but he needs a bigger job, something with a better payoff. Sam Kramer — Wyatt’s fixer, working from inside prison, using his network of informants, lawyers, police and hard men — has identified just the target. Jack Tremayne is facing jail time for a Ponzi scheme, but has salted away close to a million in liquid assets Kramer’s source is certain he intends to use to skip the country. So the job is simple; conceptually, at least: nab Tremayne’s getaway fund before he has the chance to use it. Trouble is, Kramer and Wyatt aren’t the only ones interested in the funds, and violence quickly ensues as a parade of nasty men close in on the money.

Kill Shot is another winner from Disher, who, as ever, builds suspense without a shred of overstatement. Crisp, unsentimental, and deeply satisfying. If you’re looking for a crime writer to fill the void left by Peter Corris’ Cliff Hardy this summer, Garry Disher is your man.

ISBN: 9781925773224
Format: Paperback / softback (232mm x 154mm x 21mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: The Text Publishing Company
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Publish Date: 3-Dec-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

 

Review: Gone By Midnight by Candice Fox

9780143789154.jpgSince her debut, Hades, Candice Fox has consistently stretched and reshaped the Australian crime novel by creating in each of her books a deliciously chilling ambience and an aura of pervasive evil, alongside narratives that are so hard charging and irresistibly readable they demand to be read in a single sitting. Gone By Midnight is no different.

On the fifth floor of the White Caps Hotel, a young boy goes missing. Left alone with his three mates in the comfort of a lavish hotel room while his mother dines downstairs with her fellow parents, when Sara Farrow checks on the kids at midnight she discovers her child, Richie,  gone — without a trace, it seemed, as CCTV footage confirms he never left the building. With her wretched past, Sara knows the police will instinctively turn their gaze onto her, which will distract them from tracking down the true culprit. So she hires disgraced  cop Ted Conkaffey and convicted killer Amanda Pharrell — the unlikeliest of dynamic duos, who’ve starred in Fox’s stellar Crimson Lake and Redemption Point — to shadow the police investigation, follow their own leads, and  locate her child.

But unrelated factors threaten to derail Ted and Amanda’s enquiries: a rogue Crimson Lake cop has set her sights on Amanda, and will stop at nothing to see her dead and buried, and not at all painlessly; and two years after false accusation robbed him of his previous life as a respected detective and family man,  Ted’s daughter is staying with him — just in time to be in the crosshairs of Richie’s abductor.

The Conkaffey / Pharrell series continues to split focus between exploring the procedural conventions of the whodunit genre and developing its heroes. Fox, who loves her characters colourful, makes readers love them too, and it doesn’t much matter whether they’re naughty or nice, or some shade between. Indeed, the true pleasure of Gone By Midnight isn’t the mystery at its core — which is suitably labyrinth and gripping — but witnessing its brilliantly quirky cast interact: Ted desperately hoping to rebuild his life, tantalised by the prospect of a new romance; Amanda struggling to overcome the demons of her past, and constant flirtations with the darker underbelly of her soul.

Gone By Midnight is Candice Fox at her riveting best. In this golden era of Australian crime fiction, Fox should be identified as the writer who redefined the genre in terms of its form, content and style.

ISBN: 9780143789154
Format: Paperback / softback (233mm x 153mm x 31mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Bantam
Publisher: Transworld Publishers (Division of Random House Australia)
Publish Date: 22-Jan-2019
Country of Publication: Australia