Originally published in the Canberra Weekly on 28 July 2022.
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Publisher: Allen & Unwin Australia (Trade Paperback – 5 July 2022)
Series: Standalone/Book One
Length: 354 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Australian crime fiction debut hits keep on coming with the excellent and highly exciting first novel from Frank Chalmers, Conviction, with takes the reader on an amazing journey back into 1970s rural Australia.
A town ruled by fear. A cop who won’t be broken. A pulse-pounding debut thriller that pulls no punches.
A STUNNING NEW VOICE IN CRIME FICTION
Queensland in 1976 churns with corruption. When Detective Ray Windsor defies it, he is exiled deep into the state’s west. It’s easy out there to feel alien in your own country.
Royalton is a town on its knees, stricken by drought, riven by prejudice, and plagued by crimes left largely uninvestigated by the local police chief, Kennedy, and his elusive boss.
Mutual dislike between Kennedy and Ray gradually turns ugly as Ray and his new partner, Arshag, uncover a pattern of crimes that no one seems concerned about solving. But when two girls from local immigrant families are found dead and another disappears, Ray and Arshag are forced to take the law into their own hands. Not knowing who to trust, nor how deep the corruption runs, how long will it be before their lives are also threatened?
A spare and uncompromising crime thriller that pulls no punches.
Conviction is a compelling and fun crime fiction thriller that sets a bold protagonist against a brace of criminals and dirty cops in a remote and hopeless town. Essentially reading like a contemporary Australian western, with protagonist Detective Ray Windsor acting as the new sheriff in town, Chalmers crafts together a compelling read that is very easy to get through.
Conviction has a very interesting and complex story to it that sees the new cop arrive in the remote town of Royalton and get caught up in a series of crimes. Not only is he forced to deal with the corruption of his peers and a local crime ring that has been stealing stock and damaging the local farms, but he is also investigating two recent violent deaths of young immigrant women. This results in quite a fantastic series of investigation elements, as Detective Windsor attempts to solve these crimes while being constantly hampered by his colleagues. The novel also deals with Ray’s attempt to integrate into the Royalton community, and he soon finds some unexpected connections and friends which draw him in. Taking place over the course of several months, Conviction’s plot goes in some exciting and intense directions, and the reader is provided with intriguing plotlines that are loaded with action and excitement. The eventual reveals lead to some big moments, and while the identity of the book’s villains is well-foreshadowed and not especially surprising, watching the protagonist attempt to overcome them is fun. This ended up being a great and enjoyable piece of Australian fiction, and I had a good time getting through this awesome debut.
Like many impressive Australian crime fiction novels, one of the best things about Conviction is its excellent setting in a rural Australian town. Royalton is a compelling location, which even in the 1970s, is starting to fall apart and feel the strain as more and more people left the country to live in the big cities. Royalton has many of the best features that make up a small-town setting, from the sunburned countryside, the various surrounding farms, the neglected buildings within the town itself, as well as a colourful cast of people living in it. I felt that Royalton in Conviction was a pretty good example of this compelling Australian setting, and the intriguing historical context makes it stand out from other recent Australian crime fiction books. I particularly liked how Chalmers depicted the town as having a large migrant population, which is an accurate representation of most of Australia, and the stratification of classes that resulted based on nationality and culture gave the story another fascinating dimension that I felt added a lot to the story. The farms surrounding the town are also under siege by an organised group of criminals who are working to bankrupt them for their own nefarious reasons, and this adds to the tension in Royalton. All this proves to be rich ground for the intense and compelling crime fiction narrative that Chalmers crafted together, and I felt that this was an amazing setting for Conviction.
However, the best thing about Conviction was the eclectic and troubled group of characters who can be found within. The author comes up with some great and flawed figures throughout Conviction, and the reader soon gets some intriguing views of the sort of people who would live in such a remote and troubled town. Naturally most of the focus is on Detective Ray Windsor, who immediately finds himself in all manner of trouble once he arrives in Royalton. Now, I must admit that I had a hard time liking Windsor in this book, as he is a bit of an over-the-top hero who is prone to violence at a drop of hat. While this attribute does help him out in some of the situations, I was never too attached to him as a character, especially when he flew off the handle. Still, I liked the compelling background that Chalmers attributed to Windsor, especially his dark childhood, and the portrayal of an honest cop sent out to the country as a punishment was well explored. There are some great moments with Windsor in the book, and I did enjoy seeing his take on the case and the corruption going on around town. The author also did a good job setting up Windsor’s growing attachment to Royalton, especially once he gets to know the people within. This, as well as his commitment to getting the job done, eventually win the reader over, and you are rooting for him to succeed as the story continues. The rest of the cast are also really good, and I deeply enjoyed some of the other characters featured within Conviction. I felt that Chalmers did a particularly good job with the villains of this book, and it was satisfying to see Windsor standing up to them and finally bringing them to justice. An awesome group of characters that Chalmers did a good job bringing to life.
Overall, I felt that Conviction was a pretty awesome novel that the debuting Frank Chalmers should be proud of. This fantastic novel has a great crime fiction narrative that not only crosses into historical fiction territory but which works as an exceptional example of a rural Australian story. All these elements work extremely well together, and I had a blast getting through Conviction, which is really worth checking out.
WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
So, let’s get to it.
The Lawless Land by Boyd and Beth Morrison (Trade Paperback)
I just started reading this impressive new historical fiction novel from the excellent team of Boyd and Beth Morrison. Set in 1351, The Lawless Land follows an honourable and skilled knight who finds himself dragged into a massive conspiracy that seeks to engulf all of Europe. I am already a major fan of this intense and captivating novel, and it is proving to be an excellent overall read.
I have also just started listening to the new Steve Berry novel, The Omega Factor. Berry, who has previously impressed me with his Cotton Malone novels (including The Malta Exchange, The Warsaw Protocols and The Kaiser’s Web), has returned with another intriguing modern thriller focused on historical events that follows a new protagonist who gets caught in a war between two ancient and secret religious orders. I haven’t gotten too far into The Omega Factor yet, but it is shaping up to be a very interesting and fun book.
Conviction by Frank Chalmers (Trade Paperback)
The Law by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)
The Crimson Thread by Kate Forsyth (Trade Paperback)
Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor
That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.
I have been having an absolutely fantastic couple of week for books, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers. These novels include some truly awesome new releases, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time. I am extremely keen to check out all of the books below and they should make for some amazing reads.
I made sure to grab a copy of that latest Raymond E Feist novel, Master of Furies, the day it came out. This awesome fantasy novel is the third and final novel in the Firemane Saga, following on from King of Ashes and Queen of Storms. I’ve actually already read Master of Furies (review to follow soon) and it is very good, ending the trilogy well and featuring some very intriguing elements.
I also received a copy of the interesting debut novel Conviction by Frank Chalmers. This cool Australian thriller is set in the 1970s and follows a banished cop as he attempts to solve a series of murders in a remote, outback town. I have been really enjoying all the recent Australian debut fiction and I cannot wait to see what happens in this awesome sounding book.
Another great debut I recently received was Essex Dogs by Dan Jones. Jones, a well-known historian, is making his fictional debut here with a very impressive sounding plot. Essentially a medieval Band of Brothers, Essex Dogs will follow a small group of English soldiers as they fight in the Hundred Years’ War (one of my favourite historical wars). This is a very cool concept and I cannot wait to see how Jones’ first novel turns out.
I was very excited to get a copy of this fantastic thriller Airside by James Swallow. Swallow is an author I have been meaning to read for a while, mainly because he has written some awesome Warhammer novels. However, I am also rather excited to read this excellent thriller that sees an ordinary man make a big mistake when he steals some money in an airport. I like the concept surrounding this novel and I am curious to see what happens.
Neal Asher is another highly acclaimed author that I have been meaning to read for a while. It looks like I am going to get the chance soon as I just received a copy of Weaponized. A standalone novel set in one of his established universes, Weaponized has a great plot about a technologically enhanced soldier who finds trouble out in the wider universe. I am very interested in seeing if I liked Asher’s storytelling and writing style and this could lead to me reading more of his fantastic novels.
A debut young adult fantasy novel with an excellent story to it. The Darkening by Sunya Mara sounds like an awesome novel about duty, revenge, family and betrayal and I am very curious to try it out.
I was also very happy to receive a copy of Wrong Time Wrong Place by established thriller author Gillian McAllister. This novel will see a mother going back in time to prevent her son becoming a murderer. I love the concept behind this book and I will hopefully start reading Wrong Time Wrong Place this week.
The final book I recently received was The Ghosts of Paris by Australian author Tara Moss. Set in 1947, this novel will follow a reporter as she attempts to find several missing men in the post-war Paris. Appearing to be part thriller and part historical drama, The Ghosts of Paris should be right up my alley and I look forward to reading it.
Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post. As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in. Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.