Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Review: IN A HOUSE OF LIES

IN A HOUSE OF LIES by Ian Rankin (Headline, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Everyone has something to hide. A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still - both for his family and the police - is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.

Everyone has secrets. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now - after a decade without answers - it's time for the truth.

Nobody is innocent. Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead - and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

Time flies: curmudgeonly Scottish copper John Rebus has now been policing Edinburgh, on the page and on the screen, for more than thirty years. He's been the most popular character in British fiction at times (topping annual bestseller charts), and still regularly hits the #1 spot on release. Through murders and misteps, retirements and career resurrections, Rebus has continued to fascinate. Now shelved by Police Scotland (again), emphysema has finally curbed his smoking and drinking.

But not his instincts for elbowing his way into and through a troubling case.

IN A HOUSE OF LIES, the twenty-second Rebus tale, opens with the discovery of remains in the trunk of a car deep in a forest outside of Edinburgh. While the family finally get some closure, the ID of the victim is bad for everyone else: Stuart Bloom was a gay private eye who vanished a decade ago while investigating powerful figures. His family always thought the Scottish cops had badly botched the investigation, focusing more on his lifestyle than his work, and now Bloom’s body has been found somewhere already searched. With handcuffs around its ankles. Possibly police issue.

Alarm bells are ringing throughout Police Scotland as various players look to shift blame and avoid the shit-storm about to come down on them. Was it carelessness, cover-up, or something even worse?

While this is a Rebus tale, in many ways it centres most on his long-time foil DI Siobhan Clarke, who is tasked with a new inquiry entwined with past mistakes, and her old pal Rebus, who was part of the original team. Clarke has a cloudy reputation after being targeted by professional standards and is being harassed by an unknown caller. Rebus injects himself into the fray on both fronts, and locks horns once again with the likes of local gangster Big Ger Cafferty as well as some dodgy cops.

Overall Rankin keeps the revs high in this story as a web of past and present acts threaten to overwhelm beloved characters. There's nuance, there's layers, and IN THE HOUSE OF LIES is another very fine tale in a very, very fine series. While Rebus might be in decline, physically, this latest instalment shows that the Rebus series is certainly not. Recommended.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years 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 has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Review: HEAVEN SENT

HEAVEN SENT by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press, 2018)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Detective Sergeant Philip ‘Cato’ Kwong is light on sleep but high on happiness with his new wife Sharon Wang and their baby girl. But contentment is not compatible with life in the Job, and soon a series of murders of Fremantle’s homeless people gets in the way of Cato’s newfound bliss. As New Wave journalist Norman Lip flirts online with the killer, it becomes apparent that these murders are personal — every death is bringing the killer one step closer to Cato. 

Sometimes you start reading a series book about a favourite character, and really start to wonder if the author is annoyed with them, subconsciously punishing them for being too popular, or just enjoying applying the thumb screws for a change. Whatever is going on, Alan Carter isn't making it easy for the popular, easy-going, and seemingly content Philip 'Cato' Kwong in HEAVEN SENT.

Settled in his personal life with a new wife, new daughter and a tricky but improving relationship with his teenage son, Kwong's professional life is relatively stable as well - at least he's not serving his time in the remote reaches of WA on the "stock squad". He's back in Fremantle, and seconded to major crime when a series of murders of homeless people escalates. Whilst Kwong is dealing with the more traditional elements of a serial killer investigation, journalist Norman Lip is taking a more dangerous path - flirting online with the killer. Especially as it starts to look like this killer has thought this through much more carefully than Lip and has a very personal grudge against Cato Kwong.

For readers new to this series, you'll find plenty here to give you hints and tips about Cato Kwong's background - including the acquiring of his nickname. You'll find out enough about his policing past to fill in the gaps, and more than enough about his personal life to explain his satisfaction with his current circumstances, and his almost wilful blindness to some of the struggles his wife Sharon is experiencing with new motherhood. If it's any consolation his domestic blindspot also includes his teenage son who is struggling with two parents who have moved onto other partners, other kids, and other lives. There's plenty there to make the reader really want to give Kwong a good shouting at in places. Which is the great part of this series - Kwong feels like a real person, he's a good cop, who is capable of making good, inspired and profoundly daft decisions. He's a good bloke who loves his family and totally and utterly doesn't get what's happening around him all at the same time. He's caring, concerned, blithely ignorant and utterly interconnected. In other words he's real, and annoying and endearing all at the same time.

The plot here is also something that readers who are new to the series will be able to go with also, as will welded on fans (HEAVEN SENT is book number 4). As always there's a social issue at the core - in this case homelessness in a society that's seemingly well off and privileged. The sense of community is strong, with homeless support services, police and local government all too aware of the people who live rough in the place. The fact that the killer is also able to tap into that local knowledge creates a claustrophobic overlay, reminding you that few people are ever really truly under the radar.

Dotted throughout, as always, are perfect little observations, Sharon Wang in her struggles with new motherhood and isolation, is still able to summons a bit of fierce when required. Kwong's old love interest and colleague Tess, reminds us of the never-ending problem of toxic male violence that many women live with. Naomi Lip, journalist Norman's sister, wheelchair bound and physically restricted reminds us that mental acuity, wit and ability are often less visible, but much stronger.

HEAVEN SENT has been much anticipated, as it's been a bit of a gap since the last outing with Cato Kwong. Let's hope there's plenty more to come.

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. where this review was first published.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: CHARCOAL JOE

CHARCOAL JOE by Walter Mosley (Doubleday, 2016)

Reviewed by Shane Donald

Picking up where Rose Gold left off in LA in the late 1960s, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins finds his life in transition. He’s ready to - finally - propose to his girlfriend, Bonnie Shay, and start a life together. And he’s taken the money he got from the Rose Gold case and has, together with two partners, started a new detective agency. But, inevitably, a case gets in the way: Easy’s friend Mouse introduces him to Rufus Tyler, a very old man everyone calls Charcoal Joe. 

Joe’s friend’s son, Seymour (young, bright, top of his class at Stanford), has been arrested and charged with the murder of a white man from Redondo Beach. Rufus tells Easy he will pay and pay well to see his nephew exonerated, but seeing as how Seymour was literally found standing over the man’s dead body at his cabin home and the racially charged motives behind it, that might prove to be a tall order.

Between his new company, a heart that should be broken but is not, a whole raft of new bad guys on his tail, and a bad odor that surrounds Charcoal Joe, Easy has his hands full, his horizons askew, and a life in shambles on the ground around his feet.

The First Walter Mosley novel I ever read was DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS. It was 1996. I was supposed to be working on my MA dissertation, which funnily enough, was about detective fiction. I was writing about Ngaio Marsh and Walter Mosley’s 1940s Los Angeles offered a break from 1940s New Zealand. Easy Rawlins didn’t seem like a detective in that book; to me he seemed like an ordinary man caught up in events beyond his control and just trying to get out alive.

CHARCOAL JOE is the 14th book in this series. Easy’s life has moved on from a lot from DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS. It’s 1968 and he’s asked by his dangerous friend Mouse to help the son of a friend. Seymour Braithwaite, PhD, has been found standing over two dead men…which is not a good place for an African American man to be in 1960s Los Angeles.

Walter Mosley has stated in interviews that his purpose is to write stories about black male heroes. In Easy Rawlins he has done more than that – he has created a character that grows and develops as his life changes. Over the course of the series he has become a parent, fallen in and out of love and solved a number of crimes, been a private unlicensed detective, worked as a school custodian, and in this novel, a fully licensed investigator who still does favours for friends and often lives to regret it.

As is common with a Mosley novel, there are twists and turns as you (and Easy) are never sure who is lying and who isn’t. Characters here come across as real people and Easy is embedded in his community, picking his daughter up from school, giving advice to friends and being involved in the odd shootout. I’m a fan of noir and especially of Dashiell Hammett, but Mosley is more of a realist novelist than Hammett. Easy has a life beyond his job that makes you want to read more. In this novel Easy is coming to terms with the end of a relationship and to his surprise has no bitterness, just a desire to do the right thing.

The sense of time and setting here is a major part of the story. As you read you get a real feel for the 1960s. For Easy, who has spent most of his life exposed to racism, meeting people who accept him for himself is still a novelty. He navigates his way through a social world that is evolving and seeks to understand who he is as he solves crime.

Mosley is a prolific writer and CHARCOAL JOE sees Easy assisted by Fearless Jones, lead character of three other Mosley novels (the last of these appeared in 2006). A strength of Mosley is that he has a large cast of characters; each is unique and fully formed. As a prose stylist he is sparse but each sentence packs a punch.

If you’re looking for a something new to read, any detective novel by Walter Mosley is worth your time.

Shane Donald is a New Zealander living in Taiwan. An avid reader with 3,000 books in his home, he completed a dissertation on Ngaio Marsh for his MA degree, and also has a PhD in applied linguistics

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review: LAW BREAKERS & MISCHIEF MAKERS

LAW BREAKERS & MISCHIEF MAKERS: 50 NOTORIOUS NEW ZEALANDERS by Bronwyn Sell (Allen & Unwin, 2009)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

New Zealand was supposed to be a model society at the end of the world, a utopia for "men and women of good character" who were willing to work hard for a better life. And, for most, so it proved. But this book is about the others—the misfits, the swindlers, the fallen women, the love rats, the escaped convicts, the hoaxers, the charlatans, the highwaymen, the mass murderers—from the earliest days of European settlement to the present day. 

Murder and Mischief gives the scandalous details of those who've made a name for themselves in New Zealand for all the wrong reasons. Take for example, Charlotte Badger, a pistol-wielding English thief who launched a mutiny on a Tasmanian convict ship in 1806 and sailed over to hide among the Maori of the Bay of Islands; and Amy Bock, a con woman who masqueraded as a wealthy man to marry the daughter of her landlady in 1909. Some of the people featured in this book are monsters, some are merely rascals, but all make fascinating reading. A lot of the people featured in it have somewhat disappeared into the mists of time and readers will be surprised at the shady characters in this country's past. 

Our colonial forbears made long journeys across vast oceans in search of a better life. By and large they found what has been called a ‘model society at the end of the world’, but like any society, the land of the long white cloud had its underbelly.

It’s some of the people that have made up that underbelly that award-winning journalist Brownyn Sell has focused on in her latest book. Law Breakers & Mischief Makers provides short vignettes of some of the misfits, swindlers, love rats, escaped convicts, murderers, charlatans, highwaymen, dodgy politicians, and other shady characters who have speckled New Zealand’s history.

And let’s be honest, whether it’s literature, drama, or history – it’s the ‘bad guys’ that can intrigue us the most – good stories often need great villains, whether it’s Shakespeare’s Iago, Richard III and MacBeth, or Darth Vader in Star Wars.

Sell has combed historic newspaper reports to compile an interesting collection of great Kiwi ‘villains’, and Top of the South readers will find a few recognisably ‘local’ characters, such as the Burgess gang of Maungatapu Murders infamy, and visionary if tainted settlement founder Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

Sell has done a good job mixing the famous (baby farmer Minnie Dean, Aramoana gunman David Gray) with the somewhat forgotten but equally fascinating (cross-dressing swindler Amy Bock, flamboyant Otago superintendent James Macandrew who declared his own house a prison to avoid going to the real gaol for unpaid debts). However the short chapters can leave readers wanting a little more.



Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years 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 has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Note: this review was originally written for a print magazine in New Zealand on the book's release. For reasons lost to the mists of time, I didn't upload this one to my then-very-new blog at the time, so have rectified that now. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: CRISIS

CRISIS by Felix Francis (Simon & Schuster, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Harrison Foster, a crisis manager for a London firm, is summoned to Newmarket after a fire in the Chadwick Stables kills six very valuable horses, including the short-priced favorite for the Derby. There is far more to the "simple" fire than initially meets the eye... for a start, human remains are found among the equestrian ones in the burnt-out shell. All the stable staff are accounted for, so who is the mystery victim?

Harry knows very little about horses, indeed he positively dislikes them, but he is thrust unwillingly into the world of thoroughbred racing, where the standard of care of the equine stars is far higher than that of the humans who attend to them.

The Chadwick family is a dysfunctional racing dynasty. Resentment between the generations is rife and sibling rivalry bubbles away like volcanic magma beneath a thin crust of respectability.

Harry represents the Middle Eastern owner of the Derby favourite and, as he delves deeper into the unanswered questions surrounding the horse's demise, he ignites a fuse that blows the volcano sky-high. Can Harry solve the riddle before he is bumped off by the fallout?

In the six and a half decades history of the Edgar Awards given out by the Mystery Writers of America, only a rare few crime writers have won the prestigious Best Novel prize multiple times. There is only one author who’s won it thrice, and he's not even American: Dick Francis.

It’s a bit of an open secret that the legendary jockey turned thriller writer’s output was increasingly a family affair as he aged, and son Felix has fully taken the reins over the last decade.

While still sub-headed as ‘a Dick Francis novel’, these recent books are completely original tales with new characters and situations - the main continuation from father to son being the broader horse racing setting and the galloping pace set by both.

In CRISIS, Harrison Foster is a ‘fixer’ for a London consultancy firm, sent to Newmarket, a market town considered the birthplace and global heart of thoroughbred racing. A stables fire has claimed the lives of several top racehorses, including the Derby favorite owned by a powerful Middle Eastern Sheik who is a client of Foster’s firm. If that wasn’t bad enough, human remains are found among the torched ruins. News that would be considered worse, by some. Foster isn’t a horse-lover but must quickly get up to speed as he tries to navigate a world where horses are worth more than humans.

Dealing with a crumbling racing dynasty, he uncovers a dangerous maelstrom of sibling rivalry, simmering resentments, and well-guarded family secrets. CRISIS is a ripsnorter of a read, a page-whirrer that tears out of the gate and keeps a frantic pace throughout, right to the winning post.

There's a lot of different crime writing out there, that caters to a wide range of tastes and reading preferences. CRISIS probably isn't the book for readers craving huge character depth or lots of social commentary (though there is some), but it is an interesting and engaging tale. A fun read where Francis vividly plunges readers into the world of horse racing and the machinations behind the glamour. I enjoyed going behind the scenes and learning more. Like the Alistair McLean and Desmond Bagley tales I read growing up, CRISIS is the kind of book that's a good fun adventure.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years 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 has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review: NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU

NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU by Nikki Crutchley (2018)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Troubled teen Faith Marsden was one of several girls abducted from Crawton, a country town known for its picturesque lake and fertile farmland. Unlike the others, she escaped, though sixteen years on she still bears the emotional and physical scars. 

Zoe Haywood returns to Crawton to bury her estranged mother Lillian, who has taken her own life. As she and Faith rekindle their high-school friendship, they discover notes left by Lillian that point to two more young women who recently disappeared from Crawton. But Lillian’s confused ramblings leave them with more questions than answers. 

As Faith and Zoe delve deeper into the mystery, they become intent on saving the missing women, but in doing so are drawn into Auckland’s hidden world of drugs, abduction and murder. And then Faith decides to confront the mastermind – on her own. 

Small towns and close knit communities are under scrutiny again in Nikki Crutchley's second novel NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU. Not part of a series with NOTHING BAD HAPPENS HERE, this second outing is built around another interesting and complicated female character Zoe Haywood. Haywood has returned to her hometown Crawton to bury her estranged mother Lillian, who recently committed suicide. Despite the difficult circumstances of returning home to the suicide of a mother she really didn't get on with, living in her mother's house, back in the community she grew up in, Haywood finds herself drawn back into high-school friendships, and stumbling over details that make the likelihood that her mother did, indeed, suicide, less clear.

Crutchley builds an interesting story in a deliberate, slowly paced manner in NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU. Haywood has gone on from a difficult childhood of neglect and disinterest from her mother to forge a teaching career - one that's had plenty of ups and downs. Meanwhile her mother Lillian is a popular, respected counsellor of kids back at home. It seems that Lillian may also have been increasingly suffering from dementia, but not so bad yet that she's failed to notice a worrying pattern in the disappearance of some marginalised young women from the town. Unfortunately the clues she has left behind clearly indicate her struggles with memory and reasoning and the chances of Haywood and her high-school friends understanding what Lillian was trying to remind herself are difficult enough, without a series of very complicated relationship problems along the way.

The sense of small town, small community, hidden secrets, and odd goings on in picturesque places plays out well in this novel - as it did in Crutchley's debut. Here again we have somebody struggling with inner demons - Lillian seems to have had more than her fair share, and visited a lot of them on her daughter as a result. Haywood is remarkably together given her childhood, not without her own flaws and problems, regrets and mistakes, as is just about everybody in this novel. There's a sense that small town growing up can be very safe in some ways, and fraught and risky in many others. The contrast between seemingly happy families next door, and the complicated goings on in the home of Lillian and Zoe is nicely done, as is the lives of high-school friends who stayed in town, and those that tried to cut ties.

Crutchley does a particularly good job with complicated female characters. Haywood may not be the alcoholic mess that her main character in the first novel was, but she's got more than enough problems, doubts, insecurities, positives and negatives to be going on with. She's instantly sympathetic and engaging, without being straight-forward and always easy. The same could be said of Lillian who obviously wasn't a good mother, obviously had her good and bad points, and seems to have been a friend to young girls when they needed one.

The plot here is complex and intricate, although many readers may increasingly feel some confidence in the who and even the how of the ultimate solution. The why is less straight-forward and in many ways the more important question. NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU has moments of great insight and clarity into the nature of small towns, small communities, and the people who can slip under the radar in those situations.

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. where this review was first published.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Review: SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH

SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH by James Runcie (Bloomsbury, 2012)

Reviewed by Shane Donald

It is 1953, the coronation year of Queen Elizabeth II. Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester and honorary canon of Ely Cathedral, is a thirty-two-year-old bachelor. Tall, with dark brown hair, eyes the color of hazelnuts, and a reassuringly gentle manner, Sidney is an unconventional clerical detective. He can go where the police cannot.

Together with his roguish friend, inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney inquires into the suspect suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, a scandalous jewelry theft at a New Year's Eve dinner party, the unexplained death of a jazz promoter's daughter, and a shocking art forgery that puts a close friend in danger. Sidney discovers that being a detective, like being a clergyman, means that you are never off duty, but he nonetheless manages to find time for a keen interest in cricket, warm beer, and hot jazz - as well as a curious fondness for a German widow three years his junior.

Ecclesiastical detectives have a long tradition in detective fiction. GK Chesterton’s Father Brown springs to mind as one of the best-known examples of blending spiritual concerns, such as the soul of the murderer, with the need to apprehend the killer and restore society to a sense of balance. Priests who dabble as detectives have a double-duty and this sometimes means the reader can feel bogged down in the story, rather than entertained.

However, several of these types of stories have been brought to the screen. Father Brown plays on the BBC and initially remained true to Chesterton’s plots. The rival ITV has The Grantchester Mysteries. The novels, written by James Runcie, son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, feature Sidney Chambers, a young canon and World War II veteran. This first novel, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, is set in the early 1950s. Established in his parish, Sidney enjoys jazz and does not like sherry, a beverage everyone assumes a clergyman drinks. He is slightly out of keeping with those around him and has a streak of independence. His best friend is Geordie Keating, a police detective. In the evenings they like a pint and a game of dominos. When a woman comes to him with a story about the death of her married lover, Sidney feels compelled to go against his instincts and investigate this death.

This first book in the series is a collection of six stories. Each sees Sidney Chambers in a different context, investigating murders and thefts, all the while pondering if playing detective is a fitting pursuit for a member of the clergy. Given access to his inner life, the reader gets a sense of Sidney as a person and his struggle to fulfill his duties. This doesn’t mean that Sidney comes off as earnest; his struggles seem real and well-realised, especially as he confronts his own limitations as a detective and canon.

I can see why these stories have been adapted for the screen – they take a well-known trope and offer the viewer a sense of familiarity. The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency comes to mind as these novels (and the TV series) are a bit like a comforting meal. However, everyone needs a bit of comfort now and then. I’d recommend this book for those who like stories with a hint of the Golden Age about them – crimes solved, the guilty punished and things returned to normal.

Shane Donald is a New Zealander living in Taiwan. An avid reader with 3,000 books in his home, he completed a dissertation on Ngaio Marsh for his MA degree, and also has a PhD in applied linguistics

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Antarctic research and green room misogyny: an interview with LA Larkin

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 35th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 207th overall edition of our long-running author interview series.

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing  writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you.

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. If you've got a favourite writer who hasn't yet been featured yet, let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome 'British-Australian' thriller writer LA (Louisa) Larkin to Crime Watch. She is the author of several action-packed thrillers which take readers to fascinating locales. Her storytelling has been likened to Michael Crichton by The Guardian and Alistair MacLean by The Times. I grew up loving the tales of Alistair MacLean (my father recommended him to me as an adolescent), that wonderful combination of exciting, page-turning tales that took me as a reader into fascinating new-to-me worlds. Louisa is herself an adventurer at heart, and brings those sensibilities to her thriller writing. In the video below she talks about the inspiration for DEVOUR.


Born in England, Louisa studied literature at the University of London’s Royal Holloway College. Now living in Australia, she's worked in a variety of corporate careers, including for one of Australia's leading climate change consultancies. Her passion for the environment comes through in the thrillers, which are globally minded and weave in 'big issues' among the page-turning threats.

Louisa spent time in Antarctica as research for her two thrillers set there, THIRST and DEVOUR. The latter introduces journalist Oliva Wolfe, and was inspired by a real-life British Antarctic expedition that planned to drill 3km into the ice in search of ancient life that had never had any human contact. Louisa also writes humorous animal mysteries under the name Louisa Bennett.

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

9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH LA LARKIN

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I don’t have a favourite and I have a very wide taste in reading. I’ve loved James Rollins’ Sigma Force series, not just because I love adventure stories but because Commander Gray Pierce develops across the series. At the other end of the reading spectrum I have really enjoyed Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series set in and around London about a Met police officer who becomes the only apprenticed wizard in England and has to solve spiritual crime. I’m big on strong female central characters as crime fiction heroes, so of course I adore the trailblazing Jane Tennison, and more recently, Meg Gardiner’s Caitlin Hendrix character.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Famous Five and Secret Seven = adventure.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I’ve written little stories and poems since I was a child, but always kept them to myself. I once adapted Joseph Conrad’s lesser known novel, Arrow of Gold, into a play. My first manuscript was my first published novel, The Genesis Flaw.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Swimming, Pilates, Spin, Zumba, walking the dogs and traveling to remote locations like Antarctica or volunteering at a South African wildlife reserve. When I’m exhausted with all that, I read novels.

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 live in Sydney, Australia, which is an amazing place. But I think visitors should get out of Sydney and take a beach house in Jervis Bay, or enjoy the wine tasting in the Hunter Valley, or trek through the Blue Mountains.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I always did like a challenge!

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
The new one I’m working on, which I can’t tell you about. I can tell you why. Because it’s the most challenging book I’ve ever written and it touches my heart every time I sit down to write it.

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?
First question: Squeal, followed by a glass of wine.
Second question: Squeal, followed by a glass of wine.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I was on a panel at a writers’ festival and in the green room, waiting for our panel discussion to start. I went to join my fellow panellists. One of them looked around and said he wondered when L.A. Larkin would turn up. I said I was already here. He looked shocked, then proceeded to tell me that if he’d known I was female he wouldn’t have read my action thriller. Apparently, women just can’t write this kind of thriller! I couldn’t believe it.


Thank you Louisa, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can read more about LA Larkin and her books at her website, and follow her on Twitter.