Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: DEATH ON D'URVILLE

DEATH ON D'URVILLE by Penelope Haines (Ithaca Publications, 2016)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Death on D’Urville is the first novel in a new mystery series featuring Claire Hardcastle, commercial pilot and flying instructor, who operates out of Paraparaumu airport in New Zealand. 

Claire Hardcastle is fiery, clever, daring —and she’s trying to prove herself in a man's world. Recently recovered from a disastrous relationship with her ex, she’s determined from now on to live on her own terms.


When her routine flight to pick a passenger up from a remote island in the Marlborough Sounds turns into a murder investigation Claire is excited to discover she may hold a clue to the crime. 

Book One in the Claire Hardcastle series DEATH ON D'URVILLE, the second book STRAIGHT AND LEVEL was released in 2017. Operating out of Paraparaumu airport in New Zealand, Hardcastle is a commercial pilot and flying instructor, which gives the author an opportunity to play with a number of recurring themes including women working in what's traditionally been a male dominated industry, people with the sorts of nerves of steel required to fly and stick their nose into tricky investigations and the complications of dealing with (and being) an alpha personality type; as well as the freedom to move Hardcastle into different locations, and different groups of people with ease. Add to that a disastrous previous relationship and there's lots of ingredients in this debut book.

Easy reading, with a casual, almost chatty style and an engaging central character, DEATH ON D'URVILLE ticks the boxes you'd want on something that's leaning towards the romantic suspense side of the genre. There's the budding personal relationship between the two main protagonists, there's a reasonably intricate plot with heaps of local colour and flavour. And there's the nice little twist of a dead novelist at the centre of a locked room style mystery.

The only downside for this particular reader was that this agreeable romantic suspense novel got a bit melodramatic towards the end, although that could very much be an issue of personal taste. Regardless, definitely a series that romantic suspense readers may find very appealing.


Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource - please check it out. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a judge of the  Ned Kelly Awards and the Ngaio Marsh AwardsShe kindly shares some of her reviews of crime and thriller novels from Australian and New Zealand authors on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: THE TRIALS OF MINNIE DEAN

THE TRIALS OF MINNIE DEAN by Karen Zelas (Makaro Press, 2017)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Minnie Dean: the first – and only – woman to be hanged in New Zealand. Baby farmer and child murderer, or hardworking wife and mother, supporting her family by caring for unwanted children in a society that shunned her?

Karen Zelas explores the trials of Minnie Dean using a myriad of voices, including Dean’s own, from her childhood in Scotland to the gallows in Invercargill, 1895.

It is rare, but not unknown to encounter a crime fiction novel in verse. Dorothy Porter's written some of the best examples of this that I've been fortunate enough to read, but I think this might be the first biography of a true crime figure in verse I've come across. Equally beautifully written and wonderfully laid out on the page, THE TRIALS OF MINNIE DEAN is fascinating reading.

Minnie Dean 1872

an open face one

could say    dark hair

drawn back    nothing to hide

a little lace at throat & cuff

hands rest loose on bentwood back

gaze into the camera     eyes

soft & open    brow deep

sole adornment in her hair

                 poverty

not yet 

           staining face or dress

Minnie Dean, as the blurb explains, was the first and only woman to be hanged in New Zealand. Baby farmer and child murderer or hardworking wife and mother, supporting her family by caring for unwanted children in a society that shunned her?

The story of Minnie is told in a combination of verses, images, handwritten snippets, all of which have had particular attention paid to their layout on the page. It's a feast for the eyes, although given this combination it's obviously not an indepth exploration of all that could ever be said about Minnie Dean, her background and her alleged crimes. There is, however, more than enough here for the reader to consider - from Minnie's background and reactions, statements and reactions of the police involved in the investigation and trial, even a short snippet from the hangman and her descendants.

All the way through though there is Minnie's voice and it's desperately sad, and sometimes quite chilling.

that inquest made me

a social outcast    a

pariah

                     there is no law

                     to stop me taking babies

                     to my heart & home

                     I may take as many

                     as I want    charge

                     whatever fees I wish

                     & keep them

                     in the manner of my choosing

                         so long I don't neglect or mistreat

that is all

let them try and stop me

Eventually, obviously, they did stop her in the most final of ways. Not having previously heard of Minnie Dean I was interested to find a Wikipedia entry and some historical facts about her, suspicions about her activities, and the final events that lead to her trial and execution.

THE TRIALS OF MINNIE DEAN is a beautifully constructed, extremely thought-provoking and moving book. It is one that I've now revisited many times since my initial reading.

Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource - please check it out. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a judge of the  Ned Kelly Awards and the Ngaio Marsh AwardsShe kindly shares some of her reviews of crime and thriller novels from Australian and New Zealand authors on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Drug-dealing ad execs and parental fears: an interview with Rod Reynolds

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 24th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 196th overall edition of our long-running author interview series!

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had a lot of fun talking to some amazing crime writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. What a line-up. Thanks everyone.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been part of the 9mm series, please do let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. We've got several further interviews with cool writers 'already in the can' that will be published soon, so lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome British crime writer Rod Reynolds, the author of the Charlie Yates historical crime novels, to Crime Watch. Although Rod is a Londoner, he sets his crime novels in the United States close on the heels of the Second World War. Charlie Yates is a disgraced former New York journalist who gets caught up in crimes in the American Southwest.

Rod wrote his debut, THE DARK INSIDE, while completing a Masters in Crime Writing at City University. Before the course had even finished he'd nabbed an agent and a publishing deal - in fact the first student in the history of that new degree to do so. The series, which has been described by top reviewers as "pitch-perfect American noir" and "subtle, original, and enthralling", has continued with BLACK NIGHT FALLING, and Rod's new third novel, COLD DESERT SKY.

But for now, Rod Reynolds becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH ROD REYNOLDS

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Clete Purcel - the sidekick in James Lee Burke's Robicheaux novels. Robicheaux himself is a bit too much of a prig for me, but Clete wears his heart - and everything else - on his sleeve. He is a human wrecking ball, and he gets all the best lines.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I was addicted to Enid Blyton's stuff as a kid - Famous Five, Secret Seven, all of her stuff. But the first adult book that really grabbed me was THE PELICAN BRIEF by John Grisham. I hadn't seen the film and I remember just being completely gripped by the storyline and the action sequences.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
The first book I had published was the second novel I'd written. My first was a thriller about a drug-dealing advertising executive set in London. It was the first thing I'd ever written and I finished it in three months. I sent it out to loads of agents and got the requisite wall of rejections back - but a few took the time to comment and the common theme to the feedback was that although the story and the characters didn't work, I could write and should keep trying. That was encouragement enough for me at the time. Looking back now, I can see I made every mistake under the sun with that first book - but it was a hell of a lot of fun to write.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I've got two young kids, so free time is at a premium! I'm a keen runner, so I try to get out two or three times a week for 45 minutes or so. It's really important to me, especially when I'm writing, as I find it clears my head, and I usually get some good ideas while I'm doing it - how to fix a plot problem, something to add to a character, a line of description. 

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I'm from London and my top tip would be to go for a run over Hampstead Heath on a Saturday morning, ending up at the farmers market at the bottom of Parliament Hill. Then grab a sausage bap, and a doorstop wedge of cake, and take it up to the top of the hill, so you can scoff it all down with the best view in the whole of London.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
My choice: George Clooney. Most likely: one of the Chuckle Brothers.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
My new one, COLD DESERT SKY. It's my third book, and, in my mind, the end of a loose trilogy featuring Charlie Yates - so we've been on a long road together. It's also my most personal, as some of what happens was inspired by the horrible fears you get as a parent - not based on anything I've been through, more a kind of 'What the hell would I do if this happened...?'

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
When I first got the call from my agent to say she had three offers for my book, I remember a feeling of disbelief - that something I'd imagined for years, but which you never truly know if you can achieve, was going to come to pass. I was at home with my wife and one of my daughters, so I think I just had a couple of glasses of wine that night, and I was in shock the whole time - but I do remember a bit more of a rowdy curry the next night with friends.

My book came out in trade paperback first, so it wasn't widely stocked, but I made a trip to Foyles in Charing Cross Road to see it on the shelf - that was pretty surreal. I didn't want to touch it in case someone saw me and thought I was standing around trying to hand sell it!

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
At a library event in Scotland with two other authors, one guy in the crowd took issue with the fact that we were talking about the overseas research trips we'd been on for various books. The event was predominantly for sixth-formers, and he kept interrupting and saying, how was this relevant to working-class kids from Scotland, who couldn't afford to swan off around the world on a whim, and would never be able to get published because they weren't posh like us. I mentioned that I grew up on a council estate, in a single-parent family, and that none of us were from privileged backgrounds, but he wouldn't let it go. It got quite heated until the librarian in charge very deftly moved things on.

The surreal part was, talking to the kids afterwards, when I asked if he was a teacher or something from their school - and they said to me they had no idea who he was. Shortly after, he came up to us, all smiles, thanked us for a great event and asked if he could take some pictures of us! We left there bemused...


Thank you Rod. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The verdicts are in: revealing the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists




The verdicts are in: female storytellers dominate this year’s Ngaios finalists

Decades after Ngaio Marsh ruled as a ‘Queen of Crime’ on the global stage, her literary heirs are laying siege to the local throne with the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists named today.

Now in their ninth year, the Ngaio Marsh Awards celebrate the best New Zealand crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing. “It’s been a year of record-breaking numbers of entries, and our judges were faced with tough decisions among a really diverse array of tales spread across varying styles, settings, and sub-genres,” says awards founder Craig Sisterson.

“Some books our judges loved missed out, which underlines the growing strength and depth of our local writing. Kiwi readers devour tales of crime, thrills, and mystery. They’ve got lots of great choices here to encourage them to give our own storytellers more of a try.”

And after Fiona Sussman became the first woman to win the Ngaio Marsh Award last year, this year sees a significant majority of female finalists for the first time in Ngaios history.

The finalists for the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards are:

BEST CRIME NOVEL

  • Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)
  • See You in September by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin)
  • Tess by Kirsten McDougall (VUP)
  • The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
  • A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
  • The Hidden Room by Stella Duffy (Virago)

BEST FIRST NOVEL

  • The Floating Basin by Carolyn Hawes
  • Broken Silence by Helen Vivienne Fletcher (HVF Publishing)
  • All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)
  • The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
  • Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)


The finalists will be celebrated and winners announced at special events on 1 September as part of the 2018 Word Christchurch Festival. “We’re really looking forward to this year’s festival, and are grateful to Rachael King, Marianne Hargreaves and their team for their ongoing support of the Ngaios,” says Sisterson. “It’s lovely to be able to celebrate our best crime, mystery, and thriller writers in Dame Ngaio’s hometown.”

Recent Ngaios winners Fiona Sussman, Paul Cleave, and Liam McIlvanney will also be appearing at the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling, Scotland later in September, thanks in part to a crime writing  exchange established with WORD Christchurch.

For more information on the Ngaio Marsh Awards, check out the Facebook page or Twitter account



Sunday, July 8, 2018

Review: LIFTING

LIFTING by Damien Wilkins (VUP, 2017)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Amy is a store detective at Cutty’s, the oldest and grandest department store in the country. She’s good at her job. She can read people and catch them. But Cutty’s is closing down. Amy has a young baby, an ailing mother, and a large mortgage. She also has a past as an activist.

This compelling novel opens in a police interview room, with Amy narrating the weeks leading up to the chaotic close of Cutty’s, a time when the store moves from permanent feature to ruin and when people under stress do strange things. An intense exploration of the moment when the solid ground of a life is taken away, this swiftly told novel shows again how unerringly and vividly Damien Wilkins traces the stress fractures of contemporary living.

LIFTING is one of those books that is charming, slightly eccentric, sad, happy, and wonderfully engaging. Set primarily within the walls of the oldest department store in New Zealand, Wellington's Cutty's is an institution that's been marked for closure. Non-New Zealander / Wellington readers will be forgiven if you can't help but feel this is a real place, renamed for the purposes of fiction, as there is so much about the store and it's history, and the affection that the staff and customers have for it that feels real, and very heart-felt. For those on this side of the ditch there's something vaguely Georges about the place - right down to the staircase, and if they didn't have a piano being played in the foyer, than they jolly well should have. But marked for closure Cutty's is, and the staff who work there are confronted with the short lead in time of a couple of months to get used to the idea.

The story evolves from the point of view of Amy, store detective, her four years at the store is nothing compared to the life long service of many employees. But she really likes the job, loves the store and she's pretty good at what she does. On the home front she's married, recently had a child and only just gone back to work. With a very ill mother and all the problems of balancing child care, home life and work, Amy's voice is beautifully done in this novel. She's got more than enough to deal with, without throwing in, very late in the stage, a surprise dead body.

But really, LIFTING isn't about crime. It's about people, and lives lived, and pasts, presents and futures. It's about disruption and change, and slipping standards, and chaos. At work, at home, and in small ways as well as major. Losing your job is chaotic, especially through no fault of your own. Losing your job when getting it in the first place was a minor miracle is even more unsettling, and Amy's background as an activist means her boss really took a chance on her as a detective. The fallout through family, relationships and everything is hard to avoid, as is the loss of friendships and working relationships established.

For something that's addressing chaos, LIFTING has a gentle, laid back, soft styling. Which makes some of the revelations even more elegantly done. From activist to store detective, from young single woman to mother, wife and worker, Amy's journey is laid out in a most engaging manner. Surrounding her with some wonderfully colourful characters made it even better, and frankly, some of the revelations into how people go about shoplifting were staggering - international cabin crew uniforms and all.


A little on the eccentric side, LIFTING is a really lovely little novel full of great insight, humour, sadness and joy. I'm not 100% sure I'd call it crime fiction but it's certainly entertaining fiction.


Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource - please check it out. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a Judge of the Ned Kelly Awards in Australia and Ngaio Marsh Awards in New Zealand. She kindly shares her reviews of crime and thriller novels written by New Zealanders on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

Review: THIS MORTAL BOY

THIS MORTAL BOY by Fiona Kidman (Vintage, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

An utterly compelling recreation of the events that led to one of the last executions in New Zealand.

Albert Black, known as the 'jukebox killer', was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand.

But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society's reaction to outsiders?

When Dame Fiona Kidman was fifteen years old, a young immigrant from Belfast had his life ended at the gallows within the volcanic rock walls of Mt Eden prison in Auckland. Albert "Paddy" Black had only just farewelled the teenage years himself. He'd come to New Zealand as an eighteen-year-old, a 'ten pound Pom' aboard a steamship searching for a better life. He had no inkling then that his life had barely two years left to run, or that his death would play a key part in New Zealand finally abolishing the death penalty, despite political infighting.

The case stuck with Kidman, who in the six decades since has become a doyenne of the New Zealand storytelling scene as an award-winning novelist, poet, short story writer, and scriptwriter. She's also produced journalism and non-fiction books, and explored real-life personalities and events through her novels. That's the case with her latest book, THIS MORTAL BOY, which is also something of a departure for Kidman in that the majority of her very fine oeuvre has focused on the lives of women.

But what THIS MORTAL BOY does share with Kidman's past novels is, as the New Zealand Book Council has said, a focus "on how outsiders navigate their way in narrowly conformist society".

As Kidman eloquently shows throughout, mid 1950s New Zealand was a politic conservative place,  a country still recovering in a way from the losses and scars of the Second World War. Onscreen James Dean is rebelling without a cause, and teenagers are looking for excitement and fun in a way that worries those in authority. Mickey Spillane's books, considered indecent by some due to their unabashed portrayal of sex and violence, are hugely popular with the younger generation. Politicians are worried about the rise of bodgie and widgie culture, about teenager's sexual escapades outside the capital, and the violence and lawlessness they associated with teenagers.

It is against this backdrop that young Paddy Black from Belfast is trying to find his way in a new land. A young man considered British in his homeland, Irish in his new home, who grew up with the 'us and them' of sectarian divides, and now faces both welcome and discrimination as an immigrant.

Many things change, many stay the same.

Kidman delivers rich characterisation, not just from the viewpoint of Paddy Black, but of many others associated with his short life and sudden end. Why did this rather gentle young man who loved to sing and dance thrust a knife into the neck of Alan Jacques beside a jukebox in a downtown cafe? Had he gone off the rails as he'd come of age and embraced the bodgie lifestyle? Was it a callous murder by a young delinquent, more evidence of an epidemic the Mazengarb Report said was sweeping the nation? Or was the story more complex than what was published in the newspapers?

THIS MORTAL BOY doesn't just take us into the courtroom, or recreate the main events that led to two deaths, but goes much broader and deeper. Kidman gives us a textured, holistic view on a life that was more than a symbol, or an entry in a history book. We get a flavour for Black's childhood in Belfast, his earliest experiences working in the Hutt Valley, a peek into the jury room and the political chamber. We experience the grief of a family getting the most traumatic news by telegram from a half a world away. We see the differing effect on everyone at a prison as the gallows are readying for use.

While we're taken through varying times and perspectives, Kidman keeps everything flowing beautifully. It never feels 'jumpy' or disjointed, instead it's a story that builds in depth and texture. A harrowing and haunting tale that is full of humanity. Kidman raises plenty of questions about the conviction of Paddy Black. There's no doubt he stabbed Jacques, a violent youth who'd adopted the name of a Mickey Spillane character as his identity, but was it really murder? The dice seemed loaded against Black from the start, regardless of the real circumstances. Where does justice lie?

This is an exquisitely written novel from a master storyteller; an important and fascinating read.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He's been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter

Review: LAST TIME I LIED

LAST TIME I LIED by Riley Sager (Ebury, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

She says she's innocent. But everyone lies...

It was Emma’s first summer away from home. She made friends. She played games. She learned how to lie. But then three of her friends went into the woods and never returned…

Now, fifteen years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She likes to think she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime… 

Fifteen years ago, nervous thirteen-year-old Emma Davis went to summer camp for the very first time. It would be her last time. It was a summer she’d never forget, as she was plunked in a cabin alongside three older girls: Vivian, Natalie, and Allison. Three girls who alternately teased and befriended her.

Three girls who vanished one night, never to return.

Now Emma is a young artist-on-the-rise in New York City, her motif large canvasses full of tangled branches and dark leaves. Evocative and creepy  imagery that viewers find hypnotic.

Few know that beneath the layers of painted forest, three figures lie. Over and over Emma paints the missing girls, only to obliterate them from her sight. She’s been unable to paint anything else. Is her creativity blocked? Or is the mysterious disappearance the only artistic inspiration she'll ever haver?

When the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, Francesca Harris-White, buys one of Emma’s pieces then asks for a meeting, Emma's shocked by an offer: the camp is being reopened for the first time since that fateful summer, and ‘Franny’ wants Emma to return as a painting instructor. It would be healing for everyone, she implores. Emma is reluctant, especially as it was her adolescent accusations against Franny’s son that made an awful situation even more painful. But she goes.

Is she looking for closure, or atonement, or justice? Or some mix of them all.

Sager keeps the tension high as the narrative switches between past and present, revealing more of the truths and lies told by all involved. Emma is an engaging narrator of questionable reliability. How much can we trust her, how much can she trust herself? There's a lot hidden and unsaid.

The writing is pretty unobtrusive, flowing along in an easy-reading, page-turning style.

While there's something noticeably architectural about the book, and the occasional dropped note, overall Sager delivers a troubled and interesting narrator, a really good sense of the American summer camp setting, and a creepy thriller that is easy to get sucked into.

This is a ‘just one more chapter’ kind of tale that could have you up all night.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He's been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter

Review: STAY HIDDEN

STAY HIDDEN by Paul Doiron (Minotaur, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

A woman has been shot to death by a deer hunter on an island off the coast of Maine. To newly promoted Warden Investigator Mike Bowditch, the case seems open and shut. But as soon as he arrives on remote Maquoit Island he discovers mysteries piling up one on top of the other. 

The hunter now claims he didn’t fire the fatal shot and the ballistic evidence proves he’s telling the truth. Bowditch begins to suspect the secretive community might be covering up the identity of whoever killed Ariel Evans. The controversial author was supposedly writing a book about the island's notorious hermit. So why are there no notes in her rented cottage? 

The biggest blow comes the next day when the weekly ferry arrives and off steps the dead woman herself ...

Among a seemingly skyrocketing trend of domestic noir, unreliable narrators, and unlikable characters, Maine author Paul Doiron offers something rather timeless: an engaging series centred on an honourable and interesting detective operating in a distinct and well-evoked setting.

STAY HIDDEN is the ninth Mike Bowditch mystery, and it sees the Maine game warden finding his feet in his new role of Warden Investigator. Doiron, who was a longtime magazine editor in Maine and is a keen outdoorsman (fisherman) himself, has a really great touch for the rural and wilderness setting of his home state. This is not your fictional Maine of Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote fame - it is wilder, grittier, filled with more struggle among some spectacular scenery.

Bowditch is flown to remote Maquoit Island off the Maine coast following the fatal shooting of a controversial journalist during hunting season. He's still dealing with debris from a broken relationship, making the journey tougher given his ex's father is also on board. What Bowditch and his superiors first think is an open-and-shut hunting accident turns into anything but, especially when the purported culprit turns out to just be a witness. So a killer is still at large. Things get even more complicated when the dead woman later arrives on the island ferry, planning to interview a notorious hermit who fled his Hollywood lifestyle many years ago following his wife's suspicious death.

So who pulled the trigger and killed the victim, and who was the victim?

Hemmed in by feuding islanders and a building media furore - not to mention his bosses back on the mainland who are keen for a quick resolution that doesn't create too much hassle - Bowditch struggles to prove himself in his new role, stumbling through the fog, figuratively and literally.

This is an intriguing and clever mystery that flows along wonderfully. Throughout the unfolding story, Doiron fashions a really exquisite portrait of isolated communities on the Atlantic seaboard, island towns full of lobstering families and traditions who face many challenges while leading a modern frontier lifestyle. You can feel the salt spray, the ruggedness of the landscapes and the people who populate them. Strong and nuanced characterisation blends with a striking sense of place.

This is the first Mike Bowditch mystery I've read, but it certainly won't be the last. Doiron is a great storyteller, and this is astute and multifaceted crime writing. Recommended.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He's been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter