Fiction Review

Australian Crime Wave

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Did you catch Barbara Peters comments in the Livestream interview with Candice Fox? The owner of Poisoned Pen Bookstore, and editor at Poisoned Pen Press said she’s frequently asked what the next “big thing” after Scandinavian noir is, and she answers Australian crime fiction. If you listened carefully, you can almost hear a history of Australia’s crime novels.

Arthur Upfield is the first well-known Australian crime fiction author, best known for his Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte series, featuring the first half-Aboriginal detective, based in Queensland. The first of those books, The Barrakee Mystery, was published in 1928. They were the basis for a successful Australian television series, “Boney”, in the 1970s.

In 1996, the Australian Crime Writers Association presented the first Ned Kelly Awards, the leading literary award for Australian crime fiction. If you look at a list of award winners, you may be surprised to see names such as Adrian McKinty, Barry Maitland and Michael Robotham, but they are all authors who moved to Australia. Their books are all available through the Web Store.

But, here are some Australian authors and titles that might not be as recognizable. If there’s a book jacket, the book, and possibly other titles by the author, are available through the Web Store.

Shane Maloney’s The Brush-Off won the Ned Kelly Award in 1997 for Best Novel. It features Murray Whelan, a political operative. Whelan appears in a series by Maloney.


That same year, Peter Temple won the Ned Kelly for Best First Novel for Bad Debts. Temple is the author that Candice Fox said she read and studied for dialogue. Temple won Best Novel in 2000 for Shooting Star, in 2001 for Dead Point, in 2003 for White Dog, and in 2006 for Broken Shore. Temple died on March 8, is featured in Saskia Mabin’s piece in The Guardian

Bad Debts

Garry Disher is the author of the Challis/Destry police novels that take place on the Mornington Peninsula.

Garry Disher at Velma Teague(1)
Garry Disher in Arizona, 2009

He won the 2007 Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel for Chain of Evidence in that series, and in 2010, he won for Wyatt, a novel featuring his anti-hero of that name.

Peter Corris had a long career before announcing his retirement from writing in 2017. He wrote forty-one books in his Cliff Hardy series featuring the private investigator in Australia, as well as other crime novels. Ironically, he won his Ned Kelly Award for Deep Water, a story in which Hardy travels to the United States.

Deep Water

Candice Fox herself has won two Ned Kelly awards for her Archer and Bennett thriller series.

Candice Fox
Left to right – Candice Fox and Barbara Peters

In 2014, she won the Best First Novel for Hades, and followed up by winning Best Novel in 2015 for Eden. Now, she’s touring for Crimson Lake, and has co-written Fifty Fifty with James Patterson.

The most recent winner of the Ned Kelly Best First Novel Award is Jane Harper for The Dry, featuring Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk. Falk also is the investigating officer in Harper’s second book, Force of Nature.

Kerry Greenwood may not have won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel or Best First Novel, but in 2003 she was awarded the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award. The author of the Phryne Fisher mysteries, set in the 1920s, is published by Poisoned Pen Press in the United States.

Sulari Gentill is another author whose historical mysteries are published by Poisoned Pen Press in the U.S. They feature Rowland Sinclair, a gentleman and artist in 1930s Australia where his investigations involve Communists and Fascists.

Sulari has been a featured guest on the blog several times, first when she was In the Hot Seat for an interview, The second time, she talked about Australia.

Sulari Gentill

If you’re looking for a reader’s list of Australian crime fiction, there’s one on Goodreads. Or you can check out the list of Ned Kelly Award winners and nominees.

Candice Fox said Australia has a dark side. If you explore some of the country’s crime fiction, you may discover it.

Candice Fox via Livestream

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Candice Fox
Left to right – Candice Fox and Barbara Peters

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, said she’s often asked what the next “big thing” in crime fiction is. In her interview with author Candice Fox, she says it’s Australian crime fiction. Candice Fox is the author of Crimson Lake, and, with James Patterson, Fifty Fifty. Signed copies of both books are available through the Web Store.

Fox was just at The Poisoned Pen, and you can listen to her discuss her writing, and Australian crime writers, with Barbara Peters via Livestream.

Brad Meltzer & The Escape Artist

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Did you know this is Brad Meltzer’s twentieth year in the writing business? He’ll be at The Poisoned Pen on Thursday, March 15 at 6:30 PM. He’ll be joined by Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger. Meltzer will be signing his latest book, The Escape Artist. Signed copies can be ordered through the Web Store.

Escape Artist

Here’s the summary of The Escape Artist.

“Meltzer is a master and this is his best. Not since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have you seen a character like this. Get ready to meet Nola. If you’ve never tried Meltzer, this is the one.”–Harlan Coben

Nola is a mystery
Nola is trouble.
And Nola is supposed to be dead.
Her body was found on a plane that mysteriously fell from the sky as it left a secret military base in the Alaskan wilderness. Her commanding officer verifies she’s dead. The US government confirms it. But Jim “Zig” Zigarowski has just found out the truth: Nola is still alive. And on the run.
Zig works at Dover Air Force Base, helping put to rest the bodies of those who die on top-secret missions. Nola was a childhood friend of Zig’s daughter and someone who once saved his daughter’s life. So when Zig realizes Nola is still alive, he’s determined to find her. Yet as Zig digs into Nola’s past, he learns that trouble follows Nola everywhere she goes.
Nola is the U.S. Army’s artist-in-residence-a painter and trained soldier who rushes into battle, making art from war’s aftermath and sharing observations about today’s wars that would otherwise go overlooked. On her last mission, Nola saw something nobody was supposed to see, earning her an enemy unlike any other, one who will do whatever it takes to keep Nola quiet.
Together, Nola and Zig will either reveal a sleight of hand being played at the highest levels of power or die trying to uncover the US Army’s most mysterious secret-a centuries-old conspiracy that traces back through history to the greatest escape artist of all: Harry Houdini.
Curious? Alex Segura wrote an excellent article for The Big Thrill. It’s called “A Return to Roots”, and it includes comments by Brad Meltzer. You can read it here.


Alison Gaylin’s If I Die Tonight

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At, reviewer John Valeri says, “If I Die Tonight is a triumph of sophisticated, stylized storytelling. Though the fractured family is an age-old rite of passage, Gaylin—whose finger always seems to be on the pulse of societal stressors—infuses the topic with absolute immediacy.” His entire review can be read here.

If I Die Tonight

Gaylin, author of If I Die Tonight, joins Phillip Margolin, author of The Third Victim, at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, March 13 at 7 PM. Signed copies of Gaylin’s novel are available through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of If I Die Tonight.

Reminiscent of the bestsellers of Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben—with a dose of Big Little Lies or Stranger Things—an absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense from the author of the highly acclaimed and Edgar Award-nominated What Remains of Me and the USA Today bestselling and Shamus Award-winning Brenna Spector series, in which a seemingly open-and-shut police case with a clear-cut hero and villain turns out to be anything but simple.

Late one night in the quiet Hudson Valley town of Havenkill, a distraught woman stumbles into the police station—and lives are changed forever.

Aimee En, once a darling of the ’80s pop music scene, claims that a teenage boy stole her car, then ran over another young man who’d rushed to help.

As Liam Miller’s life hangs in the balance, the events of that fateful night begin to come into focus. But is everything as it seems?

The case quickly consumes social media, transforming Liam, a local high school football star, into a folk hero, and the suspect, a high school outcast named Wade Reed, into a depraved would-be killer. But is Wade really guilty? And if he isn’t, why won’t he talk?

Told from a kaleidoscope of viewpoints—Wade’s mother Jackie, his younger brother Connor, Aimee En and Pearl Maze, a young police officer with a tragic past, If I Die Tonight is a story of family ties and dark secrets—and the lengths we’ll go to protect ourselves.

Mickey Spillane’s 100th Birthday

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Mickey Spillane would have turned 100 on March 9. In honor of the author, Titan Books is releasing two books that were finished by Spillane’s friend and colleague, Max Allan Collins. The Last Stand was the manuscript Spillane had completed when he died in 2006. Killing Town was the novel that introduced Mike Hammer, but Spillane never finished it. Now, with permission of Spillane and his estate, Collins has completed that book.


Both books are available for special order through the Web Store.

For a little background as to Mickey Spillane’s relationship with Max Allan Collins, check out the interview in Library Journal

Mickey Spillane and Max Allen Collins
Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Lars Kepler & The Sandman

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According to Janet Maslin in The New York Times, this couple created “A Monster in the Mold of Hannibal Lector”.


She’s talking about the Swedish husband-and-wife writing team of Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, who write under the name Lars Kepler. In a recent article in Publishers Weekly, “Knopf Bets on Another Scandinavian Author”, Jim Milliot talks about the publisher’s reboot of Lars Kepler’s books in the United States.


The Sandman is the first of the books to be released with new translations in the U.S. And, the authors will be at The Poisoned Pen on Wednesday, March 14 at 7 PM to discuss their books.


Plan to be here to meet these international publishing stars. If you can’t be at the Pen that night, you can order a signed copy through the Web Store.

Here’s the summary of The Sandman.

“Sensational … like meeting Hannibal Lecter all over again – twice.” —Lee Child

The #1 internationally best-selling thriller from the author of The Hypnotist tells the chilling story of a manipulative serial killer and the two brilliant police agents who must try to beat him at his own game.

Late one night, outside Stockholm, Mikael Kohler-Frost is found wandering. Thirteen years earlier, he went missing along with his younger sister. They were long thought to have been victims of Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, Jurek Walter, now serving a life sentence in a maximum security psychiatric hospital. Now Mikael tells the police that his sister is still alive and being held by someone he knows only as the Sandman. Years ago, Detective Inspector Joona Linna made an excruciating personal sacrifice to ensure Jurek’s capture. He is keenly aware of what this killer is capable of, and now he is certain that Jurek has an accomplice. He knows that any chance of rescuing Mikael’s sister depends on getting Jurek to talk, and that the only agent capable of this is Inspector Saga Bauer, a twenty-seven-year-old prodigy. She will have to go under deep cover in the psychiatric ward where Jurek is imprisoned, and she will have to find a way to get to the psychopath before it’s too late–and before he gets inside her head.

Nancy Herriman, In the Hot Seat

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Later this month, Nancy Herriman will launch a new historical mystery series, beginning with Searcher of the Dead. She was kind enough to take time from her schedule to answer some questions, to sit in the hot seat. For more information, you can check out her website at You can special order Searcher of the Dead through the Web Store.

Thank you, Nancy, for taking time for the interview.

Nancy, would you introduce yourself to the Poisoned Pen blog readers?

— Here’s a bit about me: I retired from an engineering career to take up the pen, and my work has won the RWA Daphne du Maurier award. I have published several novels, including two historical (sweet) romances and a mystery series set in 1867 San Francisco. After 20+ years living in the Phoenix area, I currently live in Central Ohio where, when not writing, I enjoy singing, gabbing about writing, and eating dark chocolate. In March of 2018, the first in my Bess Ellyott Elizabethan mysteries (Crooked Lane Books) was released.

Why did you choose to write historical mysteries rather than historical fiction?

— I have attempted to write historical fiction, with no luck in getting published. When my agent, knowing my love of mysteries, encouraged me to try my hand at one, I took her up on the suggestion. The book I wrote at her prodding was the first one in my San Francisco series.

Would you introduce us to Bess Ellyott?

— Opinionated, strong-willed, Bess Ellyott is an herbalist living in the waning years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. She is a widow who has lost her children to illness and her husband to a murderer. She tends to the folk of a small town in Wiltshire, where she has come to reside in her brother’s home. In search of peace and quiet, trouble seems to follow her.

Tell us about Searcher of the Dead, without spoilers.

Searcher of the Dead

— I’ll share a shortened version of the back-cover copy: Herbalist Bess Ellyott flees London after her husband is murdered, but the peace she has found in the quiet Wiltshire countryside is short-lived. Her brother-in-law, a prosperous merchant, is himself found dead—dangling from a tree, an apparent suicide.

Clues suggest otherwise to Bess. Word around town holds that the dead man might be a victim of rival merchants scheming to corner the wool market. Bess, though, is convinced the killer is out to destroy her family for reasons unknown.

Can she trust the town constable to help her find the truth? Christopher Harwoode will cross members of his own family to find the killer…whose next target may very well be Queen Elizabeth I herself.

Your previous series was set in 1867 in San Francisco. It’s quite a departure to switch to Elizabethan England. What was the appeal of a new time period?

— I have always been fascinated by the medieval/Tudor time period. The first manuscripts I ever wrote (15+ years ago) were set in medieval England, so it’s a long-standing interest of mine. I intend, however, to continue to write more in the San Francisco series, which I’d hate to abandon.

What kind of research did you do to switch continents and historical periods?

— I had to dig out all my old research books and read intensely. It has required more work than expected to switch my brain from thinking about post-Civil War San Francisco to 1590s Wiltshire. I’ve researched all aspects of daily life (food, habits, clothing), the history of Catholic efforts to restore the church (which is a key story element in Searcher of the Dead), the role of constables and coroners and Tudor-era crimes and punishment. I’ve read up on 16th and 17th-century herbal preparations, the scenery of Wiltshire and typical towns in that area, even how houses were constructed and common floor plans. Even trivia such as common sheep diseases or how to make cheese. It’s impossible to get inside the heads of people from that period, but I hope to at least give a flavor of what their lives were like.

Now, for a few personal questions. When friends come to visit, what’s your favorite place to take them? What do you miss about Arizona?

— Two places I really love in this area are the local indoor farmer’s market (North Market) and the Short North with all of its fabulous restaurants and art galleries. No end of good food in this town. What I miss most about Arizona is the wide open desert, which is sadly getting harder and harder to find. And the smell of creosote after a summer rainstorm.

What did you read as a child? What was your favorite book? 

— I read ‘horse’ books like ‘Black Beauty’ (is that even a sub-genre any longer?) and children’s fantasy novels. If I had to choose, I’d say my favorite book was ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.’ When I was around ten, a family friend gave me her copy of an Agatha Christie book she’d finished. After that, the die was cast! I consumed them like sweets.

You now write historical mysteries. What authors have influenced you?

— I delight in reading Lindsey Davis and Rhys Bowen’s ‘Her Royal Spyness’ books, and would love to write witty historical mysteries like those ladies, but obviously don’t! I’m not certain anyone has directly influenced me, aside from all the Dickens I read in high school. His books seem to have encouraged me to have a large cast of characters in my novels.

Name an author or a book you wish had gotten more attention.

— Jason Goodwin. I adore his Yashim mysteries, which are set in 1830s Istanbul. Rich in detail and with a fascinating sleuth, I think they’re brilliant. Unfortunately, the series has come to an end after a short run.


Thank you, Nancy. As I said, you can special order Searcher of the Dead through the Web Store.