Booktopia Crime Buzz
MARCH 2010 | Edition Two
Welcome to the March Crime and Mystery Buzz
What a terrific month of crime we have! There's a mixture of familiar authors with new titles, and great debut novels from stars of the future.

Lee Child fans should not miss the new Jack Reacher novel 61 Hours. It's a beauty! I read it in a sitting and I can tell you, Jack is back at his best!

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: Lee Child just answered Booktopia's Ten Terrifying Questions and you can read his responses in our Blog. Read Lee's and many other great responses by clicking here.

Graham Hurley returns with his Portsmouth detective DI Faraday in another gripping yarn Beyond Reach, and Sophie Hannah adds to her growing reputation as the best writer of psychological thrillers going round with A Room Swept White.

Among the debut writers, I can't recommend Belinda Bauer's Blacklands highly enough. Likewise The Salati Case by Tobias Jones is a wonderful new addition to the European crime list and I hope it's the first of many.

Other treats include Kel Robertson's Smoke and Mirrors, an example of very classy Australian crime writing, and, for the true crime buffs, Escobar, by Roberto Escobar. Chilling and uncompromising!

And much more. So, lots to get your teeth into, to set the pulse racing and the mind ticking.

Good reading!

Chris Bilkey
Booktopia Crime Buzz Editor
Book of the Month
Lee Child

Jack Reacher is back!

And this time he's doing what he does best - teaming up with the underdog against the forces of evil. The setting is a small community in bitterly cold South Dakota, and the enemy is a ruthless assassin under orders from an even more ruthless crime boss in Mexico.

Lee Child's series (61 Hours is the fourteenth) featuring the enigmatic nomad Jack Reacher is the top of the tree of adult boy's own adventure. All the hallmarks are there. He defends the weak, he's smart, laconic and a fearless and lethal fighter. And a drifter.

Baggage? He carries a toothbrush and an ATM card. Emotionally, however, he's weighed down by the ghost of his brother, whose death he blames on himself (see Killing Floor, the first in the series).

61 Hours is a return to the format that works best for me: the isolated community with small town issues being visited by an external threat. And a tough courageous woman to share the stage with Jack, although this one isn't a potential romantic involvement. (But maybe the one on the end of the phone is!)
This is escapism at its best. Get your hands on it and put up the "Do Not Disturb" sign.

Click here to buy 61 Hours
RRP: $32.95
Booktopia Price: $27.95
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Best of British
Graham Hurley

DI Faraday is a distinct and immensely likeable creation, with depth and contradictions. Hurley's plots are superb, and Beyond Reach is no exception. The twists are well hidden but logical in retrospect, and the story unrolls at a cracking pace.

A boy dies in a hit and run, and a desperate mother reveals a string of previous attacks on the victim... and a link to a terrible crime from the 80s. Despite resistance from the family, the police hierarchy want this cold case cleared up, never mind the human cost.

Graham Hurley gets a lot of comparisons to Ian Rankin, and while there are differences, it's easy to see why. In his Faraday series (Beyond Reach is the tenth), one of Hurley's themes is the moral decay of cities, and Portsmouth is a good setting to explore that. Likewise he's not a fan of the trend of statistic-driven policing, a recurring theme in Rankin's Rebus novels.

Beyond Reach won't disappoint existing Hurley fans, and is sure to gather more. Get on board!

Click here to buy Beyond Reach
RRP: $32.99
Booktopia Price: $27.99
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 Elly Griffiths

Griffiths introduced her heroine Ruth Galloway in Crossing Places, a marvellously atmo- spheric mystery set in the Norfolk fen country.

Galloway is an archaeologist with a forensic bent and a chaotic private life.

In The Janus Stone, Galloway returns, as messy as ever, with the added complication of unexpected pregnancy (the father is DCI Nelson, her co-investigator). The headless skeleton of a small child is discovered during the demolition of an old children's home. Is it linked to the disappearance of two children from the home 40 years ago?

Griffiths' writing reminds me of the early novels of PD James. The writing is certainly a cut above the standard pot-boiler, and Griffiths gently explores the issues encountered by profess- ional women in male-dominated roles. The characters live and breathe, their foibles and shortcomings ring cast iron true.

If you like English mysteries with a nod to their origins, you'll love The Janus Stone.

Click here to buy The Janus Stone
RRP: $32.95
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Belinda Bauer

When I read Minette Walters' first novel The Ice House I knew that a star had arrived. It was that good.

Belinda Bauer's Blacklands prod- uces the same effect. It is an extraordinarily accomplished debut that explores some very dark places.

Steven Lamb is a twelve-year-old living in a family overshadowed by the disappearance and presumed murder of his Uncle Billy. He sets out to find his corpse by digging holes on Exmoor where Billy was supposedly buried. The futility of the search leads him to more direct action - beginning a correspondence with the imprisoned child killer Arnold Avery, a manipulative psychopath.

Having a child protagonist is a tough assignment for a writer. The temptation to over-endow them with knowledge and insight is immense. Bauer manages the task beautifully, preserving the innocence and frailty of Steven, and contrasting it with the undiluted malevolence of Avery's presence.

Believe me, we'll be hearing a lot more about Belinda Bauer. Blacklands is the real deal.

Click here to buy Blacklands
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Simon Lelic

This is a very assured debut novel that doesn't fit snugly in the crime genre. The writing is compell- ing, exploring issues of bullying, victimisation and mob behaviour.

In a sweltering London summer, teacher Samuel Szajkowski walks into a school assembly and opens fire. Three pupils and a teacher are shot dead before Samuel turns the gun on himself. As the only woman in her office at CID, DI Lucia May is finding it difficult to be taken seriously by her colleagues.

When she is assigned the case, she is expected to tie things up quickly and without a fuss. As Lucia begins to piece together the testimonies of the teachers and children at the school, a much uglier and more complex picture of the months leading up to the incident begins to emerge.

As the pressure to bury the case builds and the harassment by her colleagues takes a more sinister turn, Lucia begins to realise that she has more in common with Samuel Szajkowski than she could have imagined.

It's unsettling and will have you thinking long after you have finished reading. Definitely worth the journey.

Click here to buy Rupture
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Literary Crime
Tobias Jones

Here's a new European-based detective to get excited about! Most Italian crime novels have been based on central characters in various police forces. Now meet Castagnetti, a PI who ticks all the boxes for a likeable, determined and incorruptible hero battling bureaucracy, privilege and greed.

Casta, as he is known to his friends, is hired to confirm that the ne'er-do-well of the Salati family, Riccardo, is in fact dead, as he is presumed to be. His mother has just died, and the relatives would like to get the hands on the inheritance as soon as possible, thanks very much, and a quick "presumed dead" finding for Riccardo would clear the way. Unfortunately for them, Casta is not prepared to simply file a report and collect his fee. He starts digging, and the more he finds, the more mysterious the case becomes.

The setting is a town that sounds very like Parma (where the author lives), and the book is infused with an undercurrent of criminal activity combined with a glorious feel for Italy and things Italian.

The writing is fluid and dryly humorous; Casta has a liking for hard drink and attractive women, and he has a hobby that is shared by another famous fictional detective (I'm not telling!).

Fans of European crime will lap up Castagnetti, as will lovers of the PI genre. Let's hope that it is the start of a series!

Click here to buy The Salati Case
RRP: $17.99
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Thrillers and Chillers

Jon Stock

Jon Stock's spy novels have been described as a cross between Jason Bourne action and George Smiley intrigue and characterisation. It's easy to see how this combination of Ludlum and Le Carre is invoked. The pace is cracking and the stakes are high, but there is an intelligence and depth to the work that sets it apart from other spy thrillers. Dead Spy Running is all that and more.

Suspended MI6 agent Daniel Marchant finds himself in a deadly London Marathon in which he must keep running to thwart a competitor strapped with explosives. His heroism in preventing carnage on the street is not enough to clear his name. He is caught in the crossfire between the CIA and the British agencies, with horrendous personal cost.

He has more than his own reputation at stake. His father was hounded out of MI6 at the behest of the Americans, and Daniel is determined to restore his good name as well. With few friends and plenty of enemies, Daniel pursues the trail from England to Poland to India and back again.

Dead Spy Running portrays this world of hidden alliances, terrorist moles and agency politics better than anything I have read since George Smiley.

And that is saying an awful lot!  

Click here to buy Dead Spy Running
RRP: $19.99
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Linwood Barclay

David Harwood is a normal guy in a normal job with a normal wife and family.

And then he isn't.

His wife Jan disappears during a family trip to the local amusement park, and David's life begins to unravel. A hunt for the missing woman reveals little to confirm David's version of her disappearance, and suspicion accumulates around him. He starts to question the bedrock of his marriage - is my wife who she says she is?

While the police seem focused on building a case against him, David starts digging into the story his wife has told him of her background. And things are not as they seem. A trip to her home town reveals a dreadful secret with awful implications. The ground has shifted below his feet, and if he is to survive and protect his son, he must confront some serious vested interests.

Plots involving people with normal lives that spin out of control can lose their grip on the reader out of sheer improbability. Linwood Barclay keeps you enthralled by adding small bits at a time, each one very credible and consistent. My empathy for the hero didn't waver, and I had to know what happened.

I read it in a day, and will certainly back up for more.

Click here to buy Never Look Away
RRP: $32.95
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Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah has quite quickly built a reputation as a superb writer of the psychological thriller built around domestic situations. And deservedly so.

Her novels transcend the crime genre through the quality of the writing and the exploration of themes relevant to all our lives - jealousy, love, justice and retribution. Hannah is also a poet, and it shows. Elegant, bright phrases gleam like gold thread through the tapestry of the novels, making them a pleasure to read.

In A Room Swept White, a title taken from a poem, TV producer Fliss Benson sets to work on a documentary on cot death and miscarriages of justice. Three women were accused of the murder of their children and pursued by the zealous child protectionist Dr Judith Duffy. All are now free. But as the the investigation for the doco gets underway, one of them is found dead, with a card in her pocket on which are written sixteen numbers. Just like the one Fliss Benson received at her office.

This is a treat for lovers of quality crime. 

Click here to buy A Room Swept White
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Christopher G. Moore

I have come late to Christopher Moore's PI novels featuring Vincent Calvino. And that's been my loss.

Moore has lived in Bangkok for twenty years, and it shows. His knowledge of the hidden Bangkok, the crime, the politics and the people shines through. And his writing recalls the gritty noir of Chandler and the intrigue of Le Carre with a dry humour thrown in.

Paying Back Jack is the tenth Calvino novel, and together they represent a rich panorama of east meets west. This time round Calvino is drawn into the murky world of private prisons, political assassination and UN officialdom. Calvino is the hard-boiled successor of Philip Marlowe, a damaged, beaten-down but never beaten protagonist who doesn't know when to quit. The Bangkok he inhabits is full of life, corruption and broken dreams. Moore drags you in to experience all of it.

Whether you try it for the exotic setting, the hard-boiled hero or the intrigue and action, you won't be disappointed. And you'll be back for more!

Click here to buy Paying Back Jack
RRP: $32.95
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Something a Little Different
Robert Winder

OK, I've fudged things a bit here. Well, a lot actually. This isn't a crime novel, and doesn't really belong in the genre.

But it is a novel. And it does involve crime.

I couldn't resist, because it's an audacious book describing the abduction of Shakespeare during the last years of his life by none other than King James I. (It didn't happen, of course, but it makes a great story.) The King wants the Bard to write a play lionising his great great uncle Henry VIII. Shakespeare, in his advancing years, is ashamed of his sycophantic treatment of Richard III, and is determined not to repeat it with the serially married Henry VIII. So he decides to write a warts-and-all historical play of Henry VII instead.

And he does. And here's the audacious part. Robert Winder, the author of this book, includes the play as an integral part of the novel, to great effect.

This is wonderful historical fiction of the what-if variety and well worth a quick detour from the regular crime beat.

Click here to buy The Final Act of Mr Shakespeare
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Crime from Oz
Kel Robertson

When I read Kel Robertson's first Inspector Chen novel Dead Set I was convinced we had a new star on the horizon in Australian crime writing. It had wow factor all over it. Laconic, bloody and up-to-the-minute modern it was a breath of fresh air, and my only disappointment was that there weren't more of them to be had.

Well, now there are. Or at least there's one more. Newly released by Macmillan, Smoke and Mirrors takes Brad Chen back into the murky world of Australian politics and organised crime via the death of a one-time Whitlam government minister. As the body count keeps rising, a deadly secret emerges from the time of the dismissal of that government.

Intricate plotting, witty dialogue and characters from left field make for wonderful reading. Kel Robertson joins Shane Maloney and Peter Temple as writers with a distinctly Australian voice who write convincingly and with humour about crime in our back yard. You won't be disappointed!

Click here to buy Smoke and Mirrors
RRP: $22.99
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American Crime
Linda Fairstein

Linda Fairstein was Head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney's office in Manhattan for decades, and is one of America's most visible legal experts on sexual assault and domestic violence.

 It's also why she writes such compelling crime thrillers and why her Alexandra Cooper series regularly tops bestseller lists. Fans turn to Fairstein for straight-from-the-headline crimes, cutting-edge investigations, and vindication for victims.

In Fairstein's twelfth novel, Hell Gate, Alex Cooper finds her attention torn between investigating a shipwreck that has human cargo  and the sex scandal of a New York congressman fallen from grace. These cases aren't as unrelated as they seem, and the political landscape of New York City could hang in the balance of her investigation.

As ever, Fairstein delivers a taut and gripping novel that won't lie down. Nor will you.

Click here to buy Hell Gate
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 Sydney Bauer

Sydney Bauer is an Australian writer who has made it big in the US. And it's easy to see why. She writes legal thrillers set in the US, and does it with style. Matter of Trust is her fifth, all featuring Boston-based attorney David Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh takes a call from an old friend Chris Kincaid in New Jersey. Kincaid is now a US Senator and his dilemma concerns the disappearance of another member of their childhood gang - Marilyn Maloney - whom the now-married Senator used to date.

When a blonde woman's body is hauled out of the Passaic River, the situation becomes more complicated - there is a corpse to identify and, despite his fears about where this might be going, David agrees to help. The situation soon spirals out of control as Chris involves David in a lie to the police. Marilyn is dead, Chris is confirmed as her lover and the popular senator - arrested for her murder - engages David as his attorney.

Click here to buy Matter of Trust
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Crimes Past
When it comes to historical crime, I've always felt that there are two categories - very good and very bad. It's so easy to get the details wrong, to ask too much of the reader when it comes to the suspension of disbelief. A badly done historical mystery looks more amateurish than a badly done modern one.

Having said that, I'm delighted that the two in this month's new releases definitely fall into the well done category. Both are splendid evocations of the nineteenth century (one in London, one in Vienna) with stories that drag you in and won't let go.

But that's the good thing about historical crime. Like the little girl in the poem, when they're good, they're very very good!

J. Sydney Jones

It's the summer of 1898 and Austria is transfixed by a series of brutal murders. When renowned painter Gustav Klimt's female model becomes the fifth victim, the artist is fingered as the culprit. The killings are macabre involving mutilation and ritualistic elements.

Klimt's lawyer, Werthen, and his friend, the famed criminologist Inspector Gross, must delve into a nationwide conspiracy in order to acquit the unusual and unpredictable artist. (In the course of the novel, Gross repeatedly complains that Sherlock Holmes has "stolen his methods"!)

Theories soon emerge linking the murders to Austria's aristocracy, in particular, the disappearance and possible murder of Crown Prince Rudolf, the son of Emperor Franz Josef.

With an encyclopaedic knowledge of Vienna's history, culture, and politics, J Sydney Jones has introduced a gripping new mystery series set in a cosmopolitan city at the height of its artistic and social importance.

It's a book that will appeal to lovers of mystery and lovers of history alike.

Click here to buy The Empty Mirror
RRP: $22.99
Booktopia Price $19.50
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James McCreet

When it comes to Victorian (as in 19th century, not south of NSW) crime, I've always found myself a little ambivalent.

The Incendiary's Trail has changed that. This is a superb evocation of an era of an embryonic police force, of appalling poverty and hardship. With more than a nod to Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens, McCreet has produced a cracker of an historical thriller with grit, macabre characters and ruthless criminals.

Detective Inspector Newsome of the new Detective Force decides to recruit a recently apprehended master criminal to help bring the culprits to justice. A polymath with a mysterious past, the man is no eager volunteer.

And when the ghastly murder of conjoined twins galvanises the city, Newsome blackmails his prisoner - Noah Dyson, as he calls himself - into working with the Force's finest: Sergeant George Williamson.

For authenticity, great narrative drive and a terrific showdown, this one doesn't disappoint.

Look out for more.

Click here to buy The Incendiary's Trail
RRP: $22.99
Booktopia Price $19.50
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In This Issue

Book of the Month

Best of British

Literary Crime

Thrillers and Chillers

Something a Little Different

Crime from Oz

American Crime

Crimes Past


True Crime


We can send you newsletters for the following categories:

Booktopia Buzz
Crime Buzz
Six to Twelve Buzz


David Hosp

On the night of the St Patrick celebrations in 1990, some of the world's most famous and valuable paintings were stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They were never recovered, and
there were no clues as to their whereabouts - that is until now.

When Boston attorney Scott Finn takes on well-known thief Devon Malley as a client, he gets much more than he bargained for.

Not only is he asked to care for Devon's teenage daughter Sally while Devon awaits bail, but his investigations into
what he believed was a case of petty theft lead him to the underworld of Boston's organised crime gangs, links with the IRA and the realisation that he may be close to solving the mystery of the stolen
paintings all those years ago.

Click here to buy Among Thieves
RRP: $32.99
Our price: $27.95
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David Hewson

The eighth stunning novel in David Hewson's
acclaimed crime series set in modern Rome.

Twenty years ago, a mysterious group called the Butteri committed a series of bizarre crimes evoking
the lost race of the Etruscans, and leaving in their wake several bodies, a cryptic message, and a
kidnapped child.

Now, the leaders of the G8 are descending on Rome for a summit at the Quirinale Palace.

When a politician is found ritually murdered, seemingly by a strange young man dressed as the Etruscan blue demon, detective Nic Costa suspects that the old case was never really

The Butteri have returned - and are planning to unleash devastating attacks on the city.

Officially sidelined from the investigation but encouraged by
the wily old Italian President, Dario Sordi, Costa and his team start to dig deeper into the past.

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The Demon Blue
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Sam Eastland

First in a gripping new series of detective novels set during the birth of Stalin's Russia.
It is the time of the Great Terror.

Inspector Pekkala - known as the Emerald Eye - was the most famous detective in all of Russia.

He was the favourite of the Tsar. Now he is the prisoner of the men he once hunted.

Like millions of others, he has been sent to the gulags in Siberia and, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, he is as good as dead.

But a reprieve comes when he is summoned by Stalin himself to investigate a crime.

His mission - to uncover the men who really killed the Tsar and his family, and to locate the Tsar's treasure.

The reward for success will be the chance to re-unite with a woman he would have married if the Revolution had not torn them apart.

The price of failure - death.

Set against the backdrop of the paranoid and brutal country that Russia became under the rule of Stalin, Eye of the Red Tsar introduces a compelling new figure to readers of crime.

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Eye of the Red Tsar
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Mo Hayder

Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is back and there’s a nasty car jacker ahead of his game.

Evening is closing in as DI Jack Caffery arrives to interview the victim
of a car theft.

But this is no ordinary theft. The man who’s stolen the car was wearing a Santa Claus mask.

And, on the back seat, packing away the shopping, was an eleven-year-old girl.

And she’s still missing.

A day later the car is found. Inside, there’s a letter. ‘It’s started,’ the letter states.

Caffery’s a good cop; the best in the business, some say. But this time something’s badly wrong.

Click here to buy Gone
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David Stone

David Stone's latest offering opens with a brutal assassination attempt on the rainy streets of Venice that sets CIA agent Micah Dalton on a collision course with a vengeful Serbian warlord.

Picking up where The Echelon Vendetta left off – Dalton is still on the run from the CIA, finding himself ever more entangled in a web of conspiracies.

He tries to uncover the links between a savage act of piracy in the South China Sea, the disappearance of a CIA agent, and an elusive ship known only as 'Orpheus'.

As he desperately seeks to unlock the shattering secret, Dalton is once again caught up in an international chase that takes him from Italy to Singapore and finally back to his homeland and ever-greater danger to himself…

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The Orpheus Deception
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While True Crime is not my read of first choice, occasionally something comes along that demands your attention.

Such is this month's highlighted book by Roberto Escobar, brother of the infamous Pablo Escobar.

Hero and villain, he demands attention, and this book by his brother is as authoritative as it gets.

Roberto Escobar

Murderer, drug dealer, politician, philanthropist, devil, saint: many words have been used to describe Pablo Escobar, but one is irrefutable - legend.

For the poor of Colombia, he was their Robin Hood, a man whose greatness lay not in his crimes, but in his charity; for the Colombian rich he was just a bloodthirsty gangster, a Bogie Man used to scare children in their beds; for the rest of the world flush with his imported cocaine, he was public enemy number one.

During his reign as the world's most notorious outlaw, he ordered the murder of thousands, at one point even bombing a passenger jet.

He smuggled drugs into the US in mini-submarines, he was elected to parliament, and he staged midnight escapes through the jungle from whole army battalions.

He built his own prison, consorted with presidents, controlled an estimated fortune of over $20 billion, and for over three years outwitted the secret American forces sent to kill him.

His ambition was as boundless as his violence, and neither was ever satisfied.

This is the first major, and definitive, biography of this remarkable criminal life, told in jaw- dropping detail by the one man who, more than any other, can understand just how far he came and just how low he fell: his brother, Roberto Escobar.

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