Fire With Fire by Candice Fox

Fire With Fire Cover

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia (Trade Paperback – 4 April 2023)

Series: Standalone

Length: 480 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


One of Australia’s most exciting and compelling crime fiction authors, Candice Fox, returns with another intense and impressive novel, the powerful and memorable Fire With Fire.

Over the last several years, few Australian authors have dominated the crime fiction market as effectively as veteran author Candice Fox, who has produced some outstanding reads.  Fox is a very interesting author who started off focusing on the Australian market with several books set out in the wilds of Australia, including her Archer and Bennet series and the Crimson Lake books, the latter of which was recently adapted into the Australian television show, Troppo.  However, in more recent years, Fox has moved on to the larger international audience and has produced several great books set in America, as well as collaborating with legendary author James Patterson for their Detective Harriet Blue series.  I personally know Fox more for her international work rather than her Australian fiction, as I have been lucky enough to receive copies of her last few books, including the gritty standalone read Gathering Dark, the elaborate prison break novel The Chase, and the fantastic and heartfelt 2 Sisters Detective Agency co-written with James Patterson.  Each of these novels has been fun in their own way, and 2 Sisters Detective Agency ended up being one of my favourite Australian books of 2021.  Due to excellent books like these, Fox is now a key addition to my yearly reading schedule, and I just had to grab a copy of her latest novel, Fire With Fire, especially as it had a pretty epic plot behind it.

What starts as a normal day at the understaffed Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Centre in Los Angeles swiftly turns deadly when two people take over the lab, holding three people hostage.  However, this is no ordinary hostage situation, as the kidnappers are husband and wife Ryan and Elsie Delaney.  Two years earlier, the Delaneys’ daughter Tilly went missing at the Santa Monica beach, which the police eventually ruled an accidental drowning.  However, Tilly’s body was never found, key evidence was lost, and her parents never believed the official story and resented a lacklustre police investigation.

Now, desperate for answers, the Delaneys offer the LAPD an ultimatum: find Tilly dead or alive within 24 hours or they will destroy evidence in several major cases, all but destroying key investigations.  Armed with uncanny knowledge of which evidence is the most vital to the LAPD and which samples are too valuable to lose, the Delaneys appear to hold all the cards against the police.  However, the LAPD have no intention of validating the Delaneys’ actions by searching for Tilly.

However, one LAPD detective, Charlie Hoskins, has more motivation to save the evidence in the lab than the rest of the department.  Hoskins has finished up a gruelling five-year undercover stint within the ruthless Death Machines biker gang, an experience he barely survived.  All the evidence that he collected against the gang is now sitting in the lab, and if it goes up in flames, everything he tried to accomplish would be for nothing.  With the rest of the police force angling for a more lethal solution to the Delaney problem, Hoskins decides to find Tilly himself.

Helped by recently fired rookie Lynette Lamb, the woman responsible for blowing his cover with the Death Machines, which saw him literally thrown to the sharks, Hoskins begins a new investigation into Tilly’s disappearance, hoping to find any evidence that can convince the Delaneys that their daughter really did drown.  However, the more they dig, the more Hoskins and Lamb begin to realise that there is something far more sinister behind Tilly’s disappearance.  With time running out before his evidence is destroyed, and with the Death Machines hunting him across LA, can Hoskins find out what happened to Tilly before it’s too late and a lethal gang of killers are set free?

This was another excellent novel from Fox that featured an outstanding and captivating story.  Fox sets the entire narrative up perfectly, first introducing the main characters of Hoskins and Lamb by showing them on the very worst days of their life, as Hoskins is tortured out by the gang he infiltrated, while Lamb is fired on her first day as a rookie cop for being responsible for the leak.  From there, the story focuses on the start of the lab siege as the Delaneys take over and send the police their demands.  I really love this cool main scenario for the Fire With Fire as it is such a brilliant way to gain leverage over a police force.  Fox uses this to great effect to engage the major storylines of the book.  Firstly, there is an intriguing and intense siege storyline as police, led by LAPD Chief of Police Saskia Ferboden, attempt to resolve the situation without the destruction of evidence.  Fox examines many different sides of this situation, from the desperation of the Delaneys, the fear of the hostages in the lab, the emotions of the Delaney’s remaining daughter outside, and the growing hostility of the cops as they watch their evidence get destroyed.  This leads to a captivating series of events as Saskia and her FBI negotiator try to resolve the situation peacefully, only to hit setback after setback, as the Delaneys get violent, the hostages try to be heroic, and all her cops get mutinous at her decisions.

While the storyline around the siege is pretty intense and emotionally powerful, the real meat of the story focuses on Hoskins and Lamb as they attempt to find the Delaneys’ missing daughter, Tilly, before it is too late.  This entire storyline falls together extremely well as the unlikely partnership of Hoskins and Lamb are forced to work together and soon form an entertaining team as they simultaneously investigate the disappearance while also dodging the vengeful gang gunning for Hoskins.  The investigation angle takes them into some interesting directions, and I liked the compelling mystery that Fox wove together for this part of the book.  The author loads in a ton of misleads, alternate suspects, and problematic witnesses, each of whom muddy the water and ensure that the ultimate solution to the case isn’t too clear until the end.  The confrontation between Hoskins and his former gang also forms a great part of this story, especially as there are some excellent twists involved there, and the resulting carnage adds some major danger to the book.  However, the best part of this storyline is the partnership between Hoskins and Lamb, which steals the show with its genuineness and fun moments.

Fox has a highly readable writing style that I felt lent itself to this story and helped to turn it into an enjoyable read.  Pretty much everything about this book, including its flow, its pacing and the balance of story elements is set up really well, and I had a fun time getting through it.  The fast-paced and sharp chapters really move the plot along quickly, and you find yourself reading page after page, trying to see what awesome or intense event will occur next.  I liked how Fox split the story focus around Fire With Fire and the constant changes between the investigation for the missing girl and the deadly siege at the lab, really helps to amplify the intensity of the plot and keep the stakes very high.  I was also very impressed by the excellent blend of mystery, intense drama, high-octane action, and powerful character development, that were the primary features of the plot.  There is a barely a page where Fox isn’t portraying something pretty damn interesting or moving, and you are constantly intrigued with what is going to happen to the characters or the plot moving forward.  This ended up being a pretty amazing read, and I had such a great time getting through it.

One of the major writing highlights of Fire With Fire has to be the complex and damaged characters who formed the basis for much of the story.  There are some exceptional and well-written characters featured throughout this book, and Fox does a great job of showcasing their inner pain, motivations, and compelling personal pasts to the reader as the focus switches between them.  Two of the most notable are the characters of Detective Charlie Hoskins and Lynette Lamb, who serve as the main figures of the investigate arm of the plot.  Hoskins is a tough and independent figure who spent five years infiltrating a deadly criminal gang trying to find evidence to put them all away for murder, only to be discovered at the last minute and tortured.  Barely recovered from his ordeal, Hoskins spends the book trying to protect his hard-won evidence by finding the missing girl.  There is a lot of desperation behind Hoskins as he tries to make all the sacrifices and bad things he did over the last five years matter, and this leads to some great character moments throughout Fire With Fire.  There is also a major trauma component behind Hoskins, as he tries to get over the dark things he experienced during his torture and escape, which leads to him making some reckless decisions.

Hoskins is well matched up with his young and somewhat naïve partner Lynette Lamb.  Lamb is a rookie cop who was targeted without her knowledge and used to find information that exposed Hoskins to his gang.  Fired on her first day on the job, Lamb manages to find Hoskins out of both guilt and determination, hoping that he can get her job back.  Thrust together by circumstance, Lamb stubbornly partners up with Hoskins and works with him to find the missing girl.  There are a lot of great elements to Lamb’s storyline, and out of all the characters in Fire With Fire, she has the most growth as she tries to prove she is tough and capable enough to be a police officer.  The pairing of Hoskins and Lamb is an excellent highlight of the book and I loved how Hoskins reluctantly takes Lamb under his wing and tries to toughen her up., quickly realising there is far more to her than he initially though.  The two make an outstanding team, and they both cover the other’s weakness extremely well.

Aside from Hoskins and Lamb, some of the other standout characters include Ryan and Elsie Delaney, who take over the forensic lab and hold the evidence and people there hostage.  Fox does an outstanding job portraying the desperation behind these two characters as their obsession about finding their missing daughter, bought on by guilt and anger, drives them to extremes.  These two are some of the most complex figures in the entire book, especially as their actions, while bad, are understandable.  Other characters, such as Chief Ferboden and Hoskin’s entertaining friend Surge, help to round out the excellent cast of this book and I felt that these great figures really helped to turn Fire With Fire into a powerful and highly enjoyable read.

Overall, this was an amazing novel from Candice Fox, who once again shows why she is one of Australia’s premier crime fiction authors.  Fire With Fire had an outstanding and clever narrative to it that really drew me in and kept me extremely engaged the entire way through.  The excellent blend of intense narrative, amazing characters and a unique crime fiction scenario was highly effective, and I had a wonderful time reading this awesome book.  Fire With Fire comes highly recommended, and you will get really drawn into this great standalone crime fiction novel.


Waiting on Wednesday – Ripper by Shelley Burr

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this latest Waiting on Wednesday, I highlight a great new upcoming Australian crime fiction novel from one of the breakout authors of 2022 with Ripper by Shelley Burr.

Ripper Cover

Last year I had the very great pleasure of reading the fantastic first novel from debuting Australian author Shelley Burr, Wake.  Set in a dying rural town out in the middle of the Australian outback, Wake examined an infamous crime where a young girl disappeared from her house without a trace, never to be seen again.  19 years later, two determined people with their own traumas attempt to find out what happened to the missing girl, including her haunted twin sister and a professional investigator with secret reasons for trying to solve the mystery.  Wake ended up being an outstanding novel and I loved how its compelling and intense mystery unfolded while also expertly showing off the desolate local landscape.  This was such an amazing read and it ended up being one of my top debuts and favourite Australian fiction novels of 2022.

Due to how impressive her first book turned out, I have been eager to see what Burr would come up with next and I was very happy that details about her second book was recently released.  This second book is Ripper, which is currently set for release in August 2023, and will take the reader to a new outback town with a murderous past, this time as the location of a serial killer’s final three murders.

Plot Synopsis:

Gemma Guillory has lived in Rainier her entire life. She knows the tiny town’s ins and outs like the back of her hand, the people like they are her family, their quirks as if they were her own.

She knows her once-charming town is now remembered for one reason, and one reason only. That three innocent people died. That the last stop on the Rainier Ripper’s trail of death seventeen years ago was her innocuous little teashop. She knows that the consequences of catching the Ripper still haunt her police officer husband and their marriage to this day and that some of her neighbours are desperate – desperate enough to welcome a dark tourism company keen to cash in on Rainier’s reputation as the murder town.

 When the tour operator is killed by a Ripper copycat on Gemma’s doorstep, the unease that has lurked quietly in the original killer’s wake turns to foreboding, and she’s drawn into the investigation. Unbeknownst to her, so is a prisoner named Lane Holland.

 Gemma knows her town. She knows her people. Doesn’t she?

sounds like it is going to be quite an awesome book.  I love the idea of returning to another town whose reputation has been tainted by a notorious crime, and the setting of Ripper is pretty cool with its connection to the Rainier Ripper.  Seeing a dark tourist company coming to town, only to be targeted by a copycat at the place of the original killer’s last stand sounds fantastic, especially as it is going to reopen all the wounds the previous killings left open.

I have no doubt that Burr will produce an excellent mystery around that premise, however, the thing that is really interesting to me about Ripper’s plot synopsis is the reference to the prisoner Lane Holland.  Holland was one of the protagonists of Wake, so it looks like Ripper is going to be a direct sequel to Burr’s first book.  I am very interested in seeing Burr continue Holland’s story from Wake, especially as the character’s attempts to stop his terrible father saw him sent to jail, and it will be cool to see how the author brings him into this latest story.  While I was definitely going to seek out Burr’s new book no matter what, the fact that is a sequel is a major selling point to me and Ripper is now one of the books I most excited for in the next few months.  Ripper has a ton of potential and I look forward to seeing how this talented new Australian author follows up her first epic novel.

Echo Lake by Joan Sauers

Echo Laker Cover

Publisher: Allen & Unwin (Trade Paperback – 2 May 2023)

Series: Standalone/Book One

Length: 375 pages

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars


Acclaimed Australian screenwriter Joan Sauers makes her crime fiction debut in a big way with the clever and enticing mystery novel, Echo Lake, a riveting read that makes great use of its iconic Australian setting.

Following an ugly divorce, historian Rose McHugh decides to completely uproot her life and move out of the hustle and bustle of Sydney.  Following her dreams of a rural lifestyle, Rose moves to the Southern Highlands of Australia, buying a rustic cabin outside the town of Berrima.  However, despite her hopes of an idealised and quiet life in the countryside, Rose is about to discover that the Southern Highlands have some big secrets.

After an encounter with a local thug, Rose makes an intriguing discovery of an undeveloped roll of film buried in her back garden.  Burning with curiosity, Rose develops the photos, only to discover that they contain the last known pictures of a beautiful young woman who went missing six years earlier and who the police suspect was murdered.  Fascinated by the mysterious turn of events, Rose decides to do her own digging into the case.

However, rather than the fun adventure she was expecting, Rose soon finds herself in grave danger when one of the people she talks to winds up dead.  Going against the advice of the police, Rose continues her investigation, working with a cohort of new friends from around the local towns.  But the closer she gets to the truth, the more she discovers that there is something sinister going on in her new home.  Can Rose uncover the truth before it is too late, or will she also end up a cautionary tale of the Southern Highlands?

This was an excellent first novel from Sauers, who takes the reader on a magical and entertaining journey into a great Australian setting with this gripping murder mystery.  Echo Lake is a fantastic read that really does a good job of drawing you in with its scenic and beautiful locales before hooking you with the captivating mystery.  Sauers starts the story off strongly, showcasing the location while also introducing you to protagonist Rose McHugh, whose complex history, relationships, and canine companion makes her quite an appealing character.  The initial chapters focus on her getting her bearing in the various towns of the Southern Highlands, including meeting members of the supporting cast, before she is dragged into the mystery of the missing woman thanks to a discovery of film in her backyard.  From there the mystery develops at a quick pace, as a witness is murdered, and Joan finds herself both a target and a suspect.  Doing her own investigation, she uncovers several new clues that slowly begin to unravel the mystery, which becomes her new obsession.  At the same time, Sauers provides an intense and compelling examination into Rose’s life in the Southern Highlands, as well as her complex history and desires for the future.  There are some moving moments as Rose attempts to get her life on track and this ties nicely into the final revelations about who the killer is and how they have been targeting people.  This results in an intense and captivating conclusion that I was pretty hooked to, and this ended up being a really good and entertaining read.

I quite liked how Echo Lake turned out, and Sauers did a fantastic job of creating a novel that was both exciting and heartfelt.  Echo Lake falls within the cosy mystery subgenre as the book is often focused on Rose’s life and amateur sleuthing rather than scenes of death and carnage.  I felt that the author got the right balance of character development, scene setting and personal drama within Echo Lake that served as a great counterbalance to the crime fiction side of things.  You really get to know and appreciated Rose and the cast of supporting characters, and it will be fun to see them again if Sauers ends up doing a sequel.  I will admit that I wasn’t always the biggest fan of the protagonist, mainly because Sauers gave her psychic vibes (a major cliché for me) and she makes a lot of silly decisions.  Despite this, I still really enjoyed her emotional journey, and she served as a great focus for the plot.  Sauers also produced a great mystery in Echo Lake, and I liked how twisty and complex it got in the places.  The raft of intriguing and memorable supporting characters worked to create multiple possible suspects, each of whom may have had a connection to the case, and you are left wondering for a good portion of the novel who might have done it.  I think the eventual reveal of the killer was done well and Sauers set it up with some clever clues.  As such, this ends up being a very impressive read and I had a great time getting through this classy and compelling read.

While I loved the story and characters, for me the best and most iconic part of Echo Lake was the author’s brilliant use of setting as she explores the Southern Highlands of Australia.  The Southern Highlands is a historical area of Australia that lies between Canberra and Sydney, and which is now filled with picturesque small towns that cater to the tourist trade.  Sauers’ is clearly a fan of this area and makes great use of this setting throughout Echo Lake, featuring several notable local towns and bush locations, often in entertaining and clever ways.  Due to a lifetime of travelling between Canberra and Sydney, I am well familiar with these towns, and I can say that Sauers did a pretty awesome job of capturing their feel and layout.  You can really sense each town’s distinctive vibes through Sauers’ writing, and I loved how she captured the beauty and sense of community that they have.  The author goes out of her way to feature as many iconic places from these locations as possible, including several of the better cafes, stores, pubs, and even the local dog park.  I was personally happy that Sauers featured the iconic and fun antique shop, Dirty Janes, in her novel (a favourite of my wife/editor), and Echo Lake often came across a bit like a tourist brochure at times.

However, the really impressive setting descriptions in Echo Lake come when Sauers looks at the bushland that surrounds the central town locations.  Many of the most dramatic moments of Echo Lake occur out in the ancient bush and walking trails the area is known for, and the author does a beautiful job showing how isolated, quiet and hauntingly beautiful these bush locations can be.  These descriptions run the gauntlet from awe-inspiring to extremely sinister, depending on the tone of the story, but they always work to enhance the book no matter the scene.  As such, I was deeply impressed by the authors use of setting, and I loved how well she featured this familiar Australian location into this amazing novel.

Overall, Echo Lake was a great first novel from Joan Sauers who produced a comfortable and intriguing Australian murder mystery.  I loved the interesting story and striking settings of Echo Lake, which work wonderfully together to produce a captivating and entertaining read.  A fantastic novel that is really worth checking out.


Waiting on Wednesday – Everyone on This Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  In this latest Waiting on Wednesday, I highlight a fantastic upcoming novel that is likely to be one of the funniest and most compelling Australian reads of 2023 with Everyone on This Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson.

Everyone on this Train is a Suspect Cover


One of the benefits of living in Australia as I have the great pleasure of receiving and reading multiple Australian novels each year, which has really introduced me to some fantastic writers.  One of the most solid and fun in recent years is Benjamin Stevenson, who has really made his mark on the Australian crime fiction landscape.  Previously known as a comedian with his twin brother, Stevenson made his crime fiction debut back in 2018 with the impressive murder mystery Greenlight.  Released as Trust Me When I Lie and She Lies in the Vines outside of Australia, Greenlight was an excellent novel that followed a guilt-ridden true-crime documentary maker who might have gotten a murderer out of jail.  This was an outstanding read and Stevenson followed it up in 2020 with the sequel book Either Side of Midnight (one of my favourite Australian books of 2020) which saw his protagonist investigate another elaborate murder made to look like a very public suicide.  Both these books were extremely good and I loved the compelling combination of clever mystery and a complex protagonist.

While I enjoyed his original two crime fiction novel, I personally don’t think that Stevenson really hit his stride as an author until last year when he presented his epic read, Everyone in my Family Has Killed SomeoneEveryone in my Family Has Killed Someone was a brilliant and captivating novel that saw the protagonist recount a complex family tale in memoir format of a very complicated family reunion at a ski resort where the guests started ending up murdered.  Of course, everyone in the family is a potential suspect as, like the title of the book suggests, they have all been responsible for someone’s death in the past.  Not only was this a very clever and entertaining story, but Stevenson also loaded the plot with a ton of humour while also making a ton of homages to classic whodunnits and locked room mysteries.  Everyone in my Family Has Killed Someone was an exceptional novel that got an easy five-star rating from me and ended up being one of the best Australian novels of 2022.

I really, really loved Everyone in my Family Has Killed Someone, as it was such a fantastic novel, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Stevenson was planning a sequel to it with the focus of this article, Everyone on This Train is a Suspect, which is set for release in October 2023.  As the name suggests, this new novel will see the protagonist of Everyone in my Family Has Killed Someone get involved in another series of murders, this time aboard a train setting.

Plot Synopsis:

Ernest Cunningham returns in a deliciously witty locked room (train) mystery.

When the Australian Mystery Writers’ Society invited me to their crime-writing festival aboard the Ghan, the famous train between Darwin and Adelaide, I was hoping for some inspiration for my second book. Fiction, this time: I needed a break from real people killing each other. Obviously, that didn’t pan out.

The program is a who’s who of crime writing royalty:

the debut writer (me!)
the forensic science writer
the blockbuster writer
the legal thriller writer
the literary writer
the psychological suspense writer.

But when one of us is murdered, six authors quickly turn into five detectives. Together, we should know how to solve a crime.

Or commit one.

How can you find a killer when all the suspects know how to get away with murder?

Oh dear, now this is going to be pretty damn hilarious.  Look I was already hyped about Stevenson’s new novel well before I knew the plot details, but the above synopsis is so fun.  There are so many layers to this upcoming story, including the clear Murder of the Orient Express homages, the setting aboard the iconic Ghan train, and the fact that every suspect on the train is a mystery writer of some variety.  The idea that one of these authors (which includes the protagonist) is a potential killer and they are using their literary skills to get away with it is brilliant and has a lot of potential from a mystery and narrative perspective.

However, the thing that I am most looking forward to in Everyone on This Train is a Suspect is the way that Stevenson will no doubt lovingly lampoon every single one of these different crime fiction sub-genres in his own fantastic way.  He did such an outstanding job of both satirising and exemplifying the whodunnit novel in his last book, which is what I assume he is planning for the sequel.  Simultaneously examining and making fun of several different crime fiction genres is going to be a big ask from the author, but I honestly have no doubt he can pull it off and turn it into something special for all crime fiction readers.

Look, based on how good Stevenson’s previous novels, especially Everyone in my Family Has Killed Someone, was, there was very little chance that I wouldn’t have grabbed this book later this year.  But the fact that Everyone on This Train is a Suspect is an awesome sequel to his previous fantastic novel which aims to further reference and examine fun crime fiction elements is a major selling point to me.  Stevenson honestly gets better with every book he writes, and this new novel has so much damn potential as a result.  As such, I have no doubts whatsoever that Everyone on This Train is a Suspect is going to be a remarkable read and I am fully expecting it to be one of the absolute best Australian novels of the year.

Waiting on Wednesday – Resurrection Walk by Michael Connelly

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  In this latest Waiting on Wednesday article, I check out the new Michael Connelly novel coming out later this year with Resurrection Walk.

Resurrection Walk Cover


Since the very start of my dive into the crime fiction genre, one of my favourite authors is easily the very talented Michael Connelly, who has been a fixture on the scene since the 1990s.  Known for his big, joint crime-fiction universe featuring several very recognisable protagonists, Connelly is a very impressive writer who has continued to produce captivating and enjoyable novels throughout his entire career.  Most crime fiction readers will be very familiar with his Bosch and Mickey Haller novels, as well as the related television adaptations, and Connelly has amassed over 35 highly regarded novels in his career.

I personally have had a great time reading several of his latest books, and I have enjoyed seeing all the different protagonists and crime fiction sub-genres that he utilises.  This includes the great police procedural novels in the Ballard and Bosch series, which sees two of Connelly’s best police protagonists team up to solve several cold cases.  All four of these novels, which include Dark Sacred Night, The Night Fire (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2019), The Dark Hours (one of my favourite books of 2021) and Desert Star (one of my favourite books of 2022), were extremely epic, and I really enjoyed the impressive partnership the two characters formed.  In addition, I have also enjoyed that latest Jack McEvoy novel, Fair Warning (one of my favourite books of 2020) and the latest Mickey Haller novel, The Law of Innocence.  Both these outstanding novels really showcased the differing storylines and approaches of their respective protagonists, and I had a wonderful time with both.

Due to how much I have enjoyed his last several books, I am always very keen to grab Connelly’s annual release as soon as it comes out.  So, I was naturally incredibly happy when they released some early details about his next book, Resurrection Walk, which is coming out in early November.  Resurrection Walk will be the 37th overall novel in Connelly’s connected crime fiction universe, as well as being the seventh Mickey Haller/The Lincoln Lawyer novel.

The Mickey Haller/Lincoln Lawyer novels follow the titular protagonist, unconventional defence attorney Mickey Haller, who is better known as the Lincoln Lawyer due to his tendency to practice the law out of the back of his Lincoln Town Car.  The Mickey Haller books have all been fun and exciting reads, and I really enjoy the legal thriller focused storylines which are interesting alternatives to more typical murder mystery novels he is known for.  Several adaptations of his work have also been done, including The Lincoln Lawyer film and the recent The Lincoln Lawyer television series, which is due a second season later this year.  I am very interested to see what new case Connelly has planned with Resurrection Walk, and it sounds like it is going to be another fun read.

Plot Synopsis:

Defence attorney Mickey Haller is back, taking the long shot cases, where the chances of winning are one in a million. He agrees to represent a woman in prison for killing her husband, a sheriff’s deputy. Despite her conviction four years earlier, she still maintains her innocence. Haller enlists his half brother, retired LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, as investigator. Reviewing the case, Bosch sees something that doesn’t add up, and a sheriff’s department intent on bringing a quick search for justice in the killing of one of its own.

The path to justice for both the lawyer and his investigator is fraught with danger from those who don’t want the case reopened. And they will stop at nothing to keep the Haller-Bosch dream team from uncovering what the deputy’s killing was really about.

Resurrection Walk
is shaping up to be another pretty cool Connelly novel, especially with the focus on the Lincoln Lawyer and his impossible defence cases.  Seeing Mickey attempt to free a potentially innocent women from prison is going to be really awesome, and I have a lot of love for the fun and unconventional courtroom scenes that this series is known for.  The focus on a deputy’s wife who was put away by her murdered husband’s colleagues is also a great scenario that opens so many intriguing story avenues, whether it be corrupt cops, incompetence or just plain old vengeance, that is going to add some awesome elements to the plot that I can’t wait to see.  Plus, it looks like there is the good old storyline of the police, and other interested parties, trying to sabotage Haller’s case before he can uncover anything damaging.

While the above all sounds cool, one of the most intriguing elements of Resurrection Walk is in the inclusion of Harry Bosch as a supporting character.  Bosch is Connelly’s longest running and most iconic protagonist for a reason and is always good to see this grizzled cop in action, especially after the revelations from the previous novel about his health.  Bosch has a very complicated relationship with Haller, his half-brother, and watching them team up always results in some great and emotionally charged scenes.  This is going to be in overdrive in Resurrection Walk as Bosch is dying of cancer and doesn’t have too much longer to live.  Resurrection Walk could possibly be Bosch’s last book and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up dying at some point in the story, either after some emotional goodbye to his brother or some heroic sacrifice.  This ensures that Resurrection Walk is a particularly interesting Connelly novel to check out, and if something big happens I want to find out pretty damn soon.

Overall, I have to say I am very excited to get my hands on the next upcoming Michael Connelly book.  Resurrection Walk sounds like it is going to be an outstanding read and I always love the exceedingly entertaining Lincoln Lawyer plots.  Resurrection Walk’s story sounds particularly interesting and I cannot wait to see how everything unfolds, especially if this is the book where Bosch finally dies.  This is easily one of my most anticipated reads of 2023 and I look forward to diving into it the second I get my hands on a copy.

Judgement Day by Mali Waugh

Judgement Day Cover

Publisher: MacMillan (Trade Paperback – 28 February 2023)

Series: Standalone/Book One

Length: 327 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Fantastic new author Mali Waugh presents her excellent and memorable debut with the Australian crime fiction read, Judgement Day.

Family law judge Kaye Bailey is a woman on the rise.  An honest and determined member of Melbourne’s Federal Circuit Court, Kaye is set to be the next chief judge, allowing her to make the changes she’s always dreamed about to make a real difference.  However, hours after finding out about her promotion, Kaye is brutally murdered in her chambers.

Detective Jillian Basset has just returned from maternity leave and is having trouble balancing motherhood with her complicated career.  Brought in with an arrogant partner to investigate the killing at the courthouse, Jillian hopes to crack the biggest case of her career.  However, the murder of Judge Bailey is far more complicated than anyone anticipated, as the victim was a fierce and honest woman whose determination caused her to get on the wrong side of many of her colleagues and the people she ruled on.

As the detectives dive deeper into the judge’s life, they soon find themselves surrounded by potential suspects, from jealous judges to dangerous individuals with grudges against the entire family law system.  As they attempt to understand who wanted to kill their victim, Jillian also finds her own life getting even messier, as her return to work raises problems she has been trying to avoid.  Can Jillian crack the case before her own life spirals out of control?

Judgement Day was an amazing and captivating Australian novel that got my attention early on.  Waugh pulls together a powerful and intense narrative that combines a brilliant murder mystery storyline with some fascinating legal thriller elements to produce a particularly impressive debut.

Waugh has come up with an excellent crime fiction narrative for her debut novel, and I liked the fantastic blend themes and story elements that she introduced throughout the book.  Judgement Day starts off with an extended prologue that quickly and effectively sets the scene for the plot, introduces the victim and other key suspects, and showcases the events that led up to her murder.  From there, the book primarily focuses on the main character of Detective Jillian Basset, a recent mother who is going through various personal issues as she tries to get back into her career.  Forced to work with a new, glory-seeking partner, Jillian finds the journey back into the detective groove hard, but she is soon diving into the complex case before her.  Waugh sets up an outstanding police procedural storyline here, as the character being their careful dive into the victim’s life, trying to identify who would have wanted to kill her.

The story moves along at a steady pace and the reader really gets drawn into learning about who the victim is and who might have wanted to kill her.  Waugh loads up the story with a ton of great suspects and potential motives at this point, as the protagonists find out about all the drama that occurs behind the scenes of the court system.  This takes the story in several intriguing directions, and you are soon hooked on the various leads that are presented to you.  At the same time, Waugh paints a very complex and heartbreaking tale about the main character’s personal life, which I found to be just as interesting and moving as the tragic murder of the main plotline.  The rest of the story moves very swiftly, especially as you are pretty invested in solving the case, and I personally managed to knock the second half of the book off in a single night.  Several intriguing plot points from earlier in the book, including an infamous divorce case, jealousy from other judges, a kidnapping, and some intriguing character history, are brought together in a very clever way as the solution to the murder presents itself.  Waugh set everything up extremely well, and I really liked the clever clues and hints that she had scattered through the rest of the book.  The final resolution of the case, as well as the reveal of the murderer’s motivation and methods, was handled well, and I really liked how Waugh brought everything together and left the reader with a very satisfying conclusion.

While the story itself is very strong, I also liked some of the clever and compelling elements that Waugh added in to make it even more complex and emotionally powerful.  The most prominent of these is the inclusion of some fascinating legal thriller elements that enhanced Judgment Day’s police procedural storyline and really helped to book stand out to me.  Waugh uses all her experiences as a lawyer to paint an intriguing picture of the family court system in Melbourne, and the struggles and work of its judges become a key part of the plot.  This leads to several other intriguing elements, such as domestic violence and the issues that professional women face in the workforce, especially when it comes to balancing family and the opinions of their male colleagues with a successful career.  These elements are blended into the narrative in a smart and thoughtful way, and I liked how it forced the protagonists to examine the case from several different angles.  While these intriguing elements are great, the focus on classic police work is still very strong, and I really enjoyed the impressive mystery that Waugh wove together in Judgement Day.  The author’s focus on the character development and personal issues added a great deal to the overall story, and this ended up being quite a powerful read.

The characters that Waugh chose to focus the story on are a particular strength of Judgement Day, and I deeply appreciated some of the emotionally rich personal storylines that developed around them.  In particular, Detective Jillian Basset was a brilliant lead, and you can tell that Waugh really poured her heart into her development.  Not only was she everything you want in a police detective protagonist, smart, determined and empathetic to the victim, but she is also dealing with some deeper issues related to her recent maternity leave.  While this initially shows itself to be her struggling to return to the office and fearing losing her place on the team, Waugh slowly reveals that her issues are much more concerning as she is suffering from postnatal depression.  Feeling unable to connect with her new child, Jillian instead focuses on her work and neglects her family, leading to strain and conflict in her personal life.  Waugh does an excellent job of examining her protagonist’s personal issues throughout Judgement Day, and the frank and powerful look at her mental health concerns was a key part of the book.

I also need to highlight Jillian’s new partner, Sergeant John McClintock, who was brought in as her temporary replacement while she was on leave.  Now working together, McClintock initially comes across as an arrogant and ambitious male figure trying to overshadow the main protagonist, and the two have trouble working together.  However, rather than stick with this cliche, Waugh provides a deeper look into McClintock and you realise that a lot of his attitudes are a façade brought on by his own issues.  Waugh works these into the story really well, and Jillian and McClintock soon grow to understand each other and are able to help each other in their own ways.  This partnership becomes a great part of the book, and I enjoyed these two main characters, as well as the intriguing supporting cast of suspects, witnesses and Jillian’s family, which add a great deal to story as a whole.

Overall, Judgement Day was an impressive Australian crime fiction debut from Mali Waugh and one that I am very glad I got the chance to check out.  The outstanding story with its complex mystery, intriguing elements and fantastic characters ensured that I had an excellent time reading Judgement Day.  I think that Waugh really showcased her writing ability with her first book and I think this is the start of an amazing new talent.


Waiting on Wednesday – The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  In my latest Waiting on Wednesday I highlight the next epic entry in one of my favourite series at the moment with the upcoming fourth Thursday Murder Club novel by Richard Osman, The Last Devil to Die.

The Last Devil to Die Cover


Over few years, me, and many other book reviewers, have fallen in love with one of the most addictive, funniest, and heartfelt murder mystery series out there, the Thursday Murder Club books by British comedian Richard Osman.  I have been in love with the series since it first came out, and Osman’s debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club, was an exceptional five-star read.  This unique series follows four complex and entertaining retirees living in an English retirement village, who entertain themselves by solving murders, known as the Thursday Murder Club.  This first awesome novel had absolutely everything, including a brilliant mystery, amazing characters, and great British humour, all brought together by some dark and emotionally powerful moments.  This first novel ended up being one of my favourite books, debuts, and audiobooks of 2020, and I cannot recommend it enough.

After having so much fun with The Thursday Murder Club, there was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to follow it up and luckily Osman made sure to release a cool sequel in 2021 with The Man Who Died Twice.  This was an outstanding follow-up to the first book that did a good job of continuing several of the storylines and character arcs, while also introducing another great mystery.  This ended up being another amazing novel, and it was one of my top books and audiobooks of 2021.  The series continued to gain a ton of steam last year with the third exceptional novel, The Bullet That Missed.  This third book was just as good, if not better, than the original The Thursday Murder Club, and I once again fell in love with the epic writing and loveable characters.  As such, I had no choice but to give it another five-star rating and it was easily one of the best books and audiobooks I enjoyed in 2022.

Naturally, after having so many amazing experiences with this series, continuing it is a major reading priority for me.  I have kept a close eye out for details about the next entry, and I they just released the cover and a basic plot synopsis for the upcoming fourth book, The Last Devil to Die.  Set for release in September 2023, The Last Devil to Die, sounds really awesome (especially that title) and I am very excited to get my hands on it.

Plot synopsis:

You’d think you would be allowed to relax over Christmas, but not in the world of the Thursday Murder Club.

On Boxing Day, a dangerous package is smuggled across the English coast. When it goes missing, chaos is unleashed. The body count starts to rise – including someone close to the Thursday Murder Club – as our gang face an impossible search and their most deadly opponents yet.

With the clock ticking down and a killer heading to Cooper’s Chase, has their luck finally run out? And who will be ‘The Last Devil To Die’?

So, if my rant above wasn’t clear, I am going to get The Last Devil to Die come hell or high water, but it is always fun to find out some plot details in advance.  While the synopsis above isn’t too detailed, it does have some intriguing points that is making me even more excited for this upcoming book.  Firstly, I like the sound of a Christmas theme for this latest novel, and I imagine that is going to fit the fun British aesthetic of the series extremely well.  Next, the idea of a mysterious package arriving and leading to several murders, is pretty cool, and it will be interesting to see how that unfolds, especially with how it connects to the main characters.  Finally, the revelation that someone close to them is possibly going to die is pretty concerning, especially as Osman has done such a good job of building up an enjoyable supporting cast over the last three books.  As such, I am even more eager for The Last Devil to Die than I was before seeing this synopsis, which I didn’t think would be possible.

In addition to some of the details contained in the synopsis above, there are a lot of other cool things that I am very excited to see in The Last Devil to Die.  I am particularly keen for the unique and captivating main characters, especially as Osman writes all four of these hilarious retirees perfectly, and they serve as an excellent and funny bunch of narrators.  I love the way these four play off each other, and it will be great to see more of their specific character arcs, especially as some of them can be quite emotional or tragic at times.  It will be interesting to see who gets more of a focus in this novel, although I assume with the mysterious international package it will probably be another Elizabeth-heavy book, which I’m honestly fine with.  I also cannot wait to get more of Osman’s dry, British, and hilarious comedy, which as really made the last three books stand out.  I have such an amusing time reading through them, and it is particularly fun when the older characters manage to confound the younger characters who are constantly underestimating them.  If Osman brings all this, and more, into his next book, than I know I am going to absolutely love The Last Devil to Die.

Look, I don’t think I can be any clearer with the fact that I am deeply excited for this next Thursday Murder Club book.  Richard Osman can frankly do no wrong in my opinion, and I already know that The Last Devil to Die is going to top all my best-of lists for 2023.  I cannot wait till September to get The Last Devil to Die and I am very, very keen to see how the entire elaborate story unfolds.  I will probably try and get the audiobook version The Last Devil to Die, as the other Thursday Murder Club have been pretty exceptional in this format, and it will be interesting to see who the get as a narrator this time.  Overall, this is easily one my most anticipated books of 2023 and it is going to be magical.


Unnatural History by Jonathan Kellerman

Unnatural History Cover 2

Publisher: Century (Trade Paperback – 28 February 2023)

Series: Alex Delaware – Book 38

Length: 303 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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A shocking murder, a mysterious motive, and two intriguing investigators on the case, it sounds like it’s time for another Alex Delaware novel from bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman with Unnatural History.

For the last few years one of my favourite long-running crime fiction series has to be the Alex Delaware books from the always impressive Jonathan Kellerman.  Set in Los Angeles, this excellent series follows the exploits of psychologist Alex Delaware and his best friend, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, as they investigate strange murders throughout the city.  This is a very solid and captivating series, and I personally love all the clever and distinctive mysteries that Kellerman keeps coming up with.  All the Alex Delaware novels I have so far read, including The Wedding Guest, The Museum of Desire, Serpentine and City of Dead, have been just outstanding, and the complex and fascinating murder investigations have all been very strongly written and particularly compelling to follow.  As such, the Alex Delaware books are one series that I will always make sure to grab as soon as it is out, and this includes the latest entry, Unnatural History.  The 38th book in this long-running series, Unnatural History was another exceptional read with a fantastic case behind it.

When the body of a photographer is found murdered in his studio, brutally shot to death, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis is quick to bring in his friend and consultant, psychologist Alex Delaware, to help with the investigation.  The victim, Donny Klement, was a controversial photographer whose latest project saw him photographing members of the local homeless population as they pretend to achieve their greatest dreams.  To complicate matters even further, Donny was the son a mysterious and elusive billionaire whose family members have a habit of dying young.

Diving into the case, Alex and Milo soon discover that their victim was a curious figure.  Damaged by a neglectful father, a scattered family, and a dead mother, Donny’s life was anything but easy, even with his vast family fortune.  His latest photographic vision looked set to make him a major star in the arts scene, but was his death related to his seemingly disrespectful photos or to his family and their wealth?

As Alex and Milo attempt to find a motive for Donny’s killing, a second body is found that appears connected to their first case, suggesting that their killer is taking out all the potential witnesses.  It soon becomes apparent that Alex and Milo are dealing with a deranged serial killer whose anger lies somewhere in Donny’s life.  To solve the case, Alex and Milo need to uncover all the victim’s secrets and use them to catch the killer before he strikes again.

This was another excellent and captivating novel from Kellerman, who presents the reader with an impressive and well-set-out mystery that really draws you in and keeps you hooked.  Like most of the Alex Delaware novels, Unnatural History quickly works to set the scene for the case, with the reader immediately introduced to the murder victim, Donny Klement, and his unfortunate circumstances.  The story moves into the investigative stage with Alex and Milo beginning the task of identifying the relevant people associated with Donny’s life, including his family, his girlfriend, and the people he interacted through with through his photography.  This raises quite a few interesting avenues of inquiry as the victim was both the scion of a mysterious billionaire whose family has already suffered multiple deaths, and an idealistic artist who showed great naivety in dealing with the city’s homeless population.  This leads to quite a deep dive into the victim’s life, and you soon build up a quite an intensive view at who Donny was and the many problems he faced in life.

Kellerman keeps the investigation going strong the entire way through Unnatural History, and the reader is directed along many interesting plot threads as the author lays down false trails and red herrings.  There are some great alternative theories and potential motives spread out for much of the book, and the case gets even more complicated when additional bodies are found throughout the city, all of them connected to Donny in some way.  This really throttles up the pacing of the book, and the reader is gifted with some intriguing revelations as Kellerman revisits details that previously seemed unimportant and cleverly fits them even further into his case.  The eventual reveal about the killer is pretty brilliant, and I liked how Kellerman was able to tie the motivation into several existing different story threads, which allowed for a complex and intense picture of who they are and what evils they committed.  This ended up being a very strong mystery, and I honestly did not see the full extent of the motivations coming.  Everything leads up to a big confrontation which doesn’t go how you’d expect, and which results in some very dark moments.  I did like how this confrontation revisited events from several books ago and it helped some of the characters gain a measure of closure.  I ended up being really impressed with how the author managed to bring everything together in his story, and I was firmly hooked the entire way through.

As always, I really enjoy Kellerman’s unique style when it comes to his compelling murder mysteries, and this helped me power through Unnatural History.  I love the sharp pacing and focus on the characters, both the protagonists, and the victim, that occurred throughout Unnatural History and you are swiftly drawn into their unique lives and the process of their investigation.  The blend of solid investigative focus, character moments, and major twists is pretty spot on, and there honestly aren’t any slow moments at any point of this book, as the reader is constantly learning more interesting bits of information about the case.  All his characters have a very distinctive way of talking/interacting with each other, and it is something that always drags me in, especially with the fun banter.  I did find a few of these conversations, especially with deliberately annoying witnesses, to be a little odd, but they all added to the general theme and feel of the book.  Like all the Alex Delaware novels, Unnatural History is fairly accessible to new readers, and anyone interested in this book who hasn’t read anything from Kellerman can easily dive in here without any issues.  While there are references to prior events scattered throughout Unnatural History, none of them are too relevant to the plot, and Kellerman always does a good job of making his novels almost feel standalone in nature, as he recaptures the series’ unique feel each time.  That being said, fans of some of his last few books will no doubt enjoy some of the story elements between Alex and one of the supporting characters that come full circle after several books, and it was something I was very happy to see.

One of the things that I always particularly enjoyed about the Alex Delaware novels is the way that Kellerman presents a more grounded style when it comes to how his detectives solve the crime.  Unlike in some of the flashier crime fiction novels out there, Kellerman’s characters are more realistic in their investigative approach, and each Alex Delaware novel has a major focus on talking to witnesses, doing research, hammering out theories and doing the legwork to find out everything you can about the victim and the various suspects.  The protagonists are constantly following up leads and talking to multiple people associated with the case, even if they only tangentially knew the victim, to find out every fact or theory that they can.  This leads to a much more comprehensive examination of the murder, which allows the reader to build up a captivating picture of everything that led up to the killing.  This more methodical and realistic method of investigation always really works for me, and I love seeing the protagonists earning their solve and battling through all manner of obstacles.  I felt that the investigation in Unnatural History was particularly good, especially when they combine multiple cases from across the city to get the full picture, and the way that they efficiently weed out the unlikely scenarios and find the truth was deeply addictive and really worth checking out.

I also need to highlight the impressive characters who are the focus of Unnatural History, especially when it comes to the two protagonists, Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis.  These two protagonists, the calm psychologist and the veteran detective, complement each other perfectly when it comes to their skill set, and you can see why they are such an effective team.  At the same time, Kellerman has really built up their relationship over the series, so the two are good friends, which results in some fantastic dynamics and interactions between the two.  The banter and discussions fly thick and fast between them, and you really appreciate just how close they are as they solve the crimes together.  There is a pretty major moment that occurs between these friends at the end of Unnatural History that I felt was handled extremely well and which is likely to impact their dynamic going forward.  I am very intrigued to see how Kellerman handles that, and I am sure it will make his next novel even more interesting.

The other character that gets quite a lot of focus in Unnatural History is the main murder victim, Donny Klement.  As with most of Alex Delaware novels, Kellerman’s ensures that the story spends substantial time diving into the victim’s life, as the police try to find out why he is murdered.  This allows the reader to get a fascinating, outsiders perspective of who Donny was, which proves to be quite fascinating and compelling.  Kellerman’s portrayal of Donny as a lonely man trying to escape his father’s shadow while also dealing with other family trauma allows the reader to get very attached to the victim and you become even more invested in solving the case.  This post-mortem portrayal of Donny was excellent, and I loved how effectively Kellerman showed his complex and unusual life.  Throw in a very fascinating and complex murderer, a good collection of unique witnesses, and the usual supporting detectives in Milo’s squad, and Unnatural History has a great collection of characters who add a lot to the overall story.

Jonathan Kellerman once again delivers an amazing and compelling murder mystery with his latest Alex Delaware novel, Unnatural History.  This fantastic novel features another brilliant mystery that dives deep into the life of a complex victim and paints a powerful picture around him.  This was a deeply entertaining and captivating read, and I loved every second I spent getting through Unnatural History.  I cannot wait to see what happens next in the Alex Delaware series, one of the strongest, long-running crime fiction series currently out there.

Unnatural History Cover

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Quick Review – Red Dirt Road by S. R. White

Red Dirt Road Cover

Publisher: Headline (Trade Paperback – 10 January 2023)

Series: Detective Dana Russo – Book Three

Length: 307 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Impressive author S. R. White continues to lead the Australian outback murder mystery scene with his new and compelling release, Red Dirt Road, the third book in his Detective Dana Russo series.  I had the great pleasure of reading the second book in this series, Prisoner, back in 2021 and I really enjoyed his unique take on the outback detective novel.  As such, I have been rather excited to read his new book, Red Dirt Road, especially as it featured a particularly enthralling mystery.

Plot synopsis:

One outback town. Two puzzling murders. Fifty suspects.

In Unamurra, a drought-scarred, one-pub town deep in the outback, two men are savagely murdered a month apart – their bodies elaborately arranged like angels.

With no witnesses, no obvious motives and no apparent connections between the killings, how can lone police officer Detective Dana Russo – flown in from hundreds of kilometres away – possibly solve such a baffling, brutal case?

Met with silence and suspicion from locals who live by their own set of rules, Dana must take over a stalled investigation with only a week to make progress.

But with a murderer hiding in plain sight, and the parched days rapidly passing, Dana is determined to uncover the shocking secrets of this forgotten town – a place where anyone could be a killer.

Red Dirt Road
ended up being a very fun and captivating murder mystery novel and one I had a wonderful time getting through.  I really enjoyed White’s cool and clever plot scenario and the entire concept of a cop attempting to solve a mystery in a small town with limited suspects is a fun idea that harkens back to classic whodunits.

Red Dirt Road’s story itself hits the ground running quickly, as complex protagonist Dana Russo is forced to travel to the small town for the investigation and soon becomes wrapped up in its many foibles.  This includes the sheer isolation, the lack of modern comforts and the unusual locals, many of whom are hiding from the outside world.  There is also a set of creepy angel-themed statues that mysteriously move around town, the work of a guerrilla artist who has remained hidden since the murders began.  With time restrictions on her investigation and with minimal help from the local police, Dana initiates an unconventional investigation that focuses on understanding Unamurra’s society and its people to solve the crime.  After getting to grips with the various people living there, as well examining other clues and evidence, she is able to figure out which one of the town’s residents is the most likely killer and confronts them in a particularly fascinating reveal sequence.  The full explanation for why the crime was committed, as well as the ingenious and very distinctive motivation of the murderer, was exceedingly clever, and I felt that White set everything up perfectly.  While certain elements of the conclusion were a bit over-the-top, (a very unrealistic elite government SWAT team comes to town), I felt that the story was pretty damn impressive and I was absolutely blown away with the elaborate motivation that the author came up with.  The plot of Red Dirt Road also simultaneously continues some of the series’ ongoing storylines, such as Dana’s personal relationship with her co-worker and the internal police politics that are impacting her career, and this ended up being quite a gripping read as a result.

One of the most noticeable things about Red Dirt Road was the unique, society-orientated investigation method that the protagonist used to understand the people of Unamurra and find out who the killer was.  I personally thought that this was a very smart and intriguing way to frame a murder investigation that worked extremely well in the context of the setting and the series.  When I reviewed Prisoner I noted that White likes to highlight the interrogation side of policing with his writing and this was once again in full display when it came to how Dana gathers information in Unamurra.  The flurry of casual conversation she engages in ensures she picks up all the knowledge about the town and people she needs, while also putting the potential suspects at ease as they don’t understand her style or the subtle reasons behind her lines of inquiry.  This information, when combined with some observations and additional background she gets from headquarters, allows her to pull together a full mental picture of the town and by understanding them and their needs she finally gets the insight she needs to understand the entire situation.  This results in a very unique case, and I found myself getting really wrapped up in both the characters and the setting while trying to wrap the clues together in my head.  While this style of investigation probably isn’t going to fit every murder mystery fan’s taste, I felt that it worked extremely well and I loved how the elaborate motivation was teased out through these discussions.  The final confrontation with the killer and the various revelations it contained really ties all these previous discussions together perfectly and you quickly realise just how cleverly White structured his entire mystery.

On top of the cool investigation method, I also deeply enjoyed the dusty and desolate setting of Unamurra that served as the backdrop to the murders.  White really tries to show the reader the full experience of such a lonely and decaying town, and thanks to the excellent descriptive writing you can absolutely picture every cloud of dust, quiet night, and the lack of movement.  At the same time, the protagonist begins talking to each of the residents of Unamurra and you really get to understand the sort of people that would live in such a place, whether they are desperate, trapped, or have their own strange motivations.  This excellent use of setting and compelling supporting characters greatly enhances the book’s already complex murder investigation, and I felt that White did an amazing job of working it into the larger narrative and mystery.  The sheer isolation impacts every decision and insight that Dana has and you really come away trying to imagine what life in such a location would be like.  While White does overgeneralise some areas of rural Australia in his book, especially as he makes the location of these crimes geographically vague, this setting added a great deal to the impact of Red Dirt Road and I deeply enjoyed my time in the elaborate setting of Unamurra.

Overall, Red Dirt Road was an outstanding new book from S. R. White that perfectly highlighted his distinctive take on a murder mystery investigation.  Combining another outstanding outback setting with a unique case, Red Dirt Road will have you hooked all the way to the fantastic finale.  I cannot wait to see what complex stories White comes up with in the future, but if they are anywhere near as clever and enthralling as Red Dirt Road, I know I am going to love them.

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