Monday, March 7, 2011

My crime picks for the Herald on Sunday

As I said last month, this year I've been asked to provide a monthly crime fiction round-up for the Herald on Sunday, one of New Zealand's most well-read newspapers. It's terrific to see some of New Zealand's larger media (big newspapers, magazines, TV shows etc) starting to include a little bit more crime fiction in their review pages. I'm very pleased to be able to contribute in my small way as well.

My second 'column', so to speak, was published on Sunday 26 February - see above - in the 'Detours' lifestyle magazine, and now I can share it here with you. Each month I will pick 2-3 books that I have read in the past month (usually new or recent releases, but not always), and talk a little about them. Due to space constraints I don't have a lot of words to play with, but I'll be doing my best to highlight some good and great crime fiction, that could be enjoyable for some of the Herald on Sunday readers to try, as best I can.

Here's the second instalment of the monthly series (note - the HOS subeditors made a couple of minor tweaks/word count cuts to my submission, so I’ve republishing here what was actually printed in the HOS, rather than my slightly longer draft, with one exception - they changed ‘caper-esque’ in the Wambaugh review to Capraesque - not at all what I meant, so I’ve corrected it back to caper here):

Still Missing
By Chevy Stevens (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)
A searing debut from Canadian writer Stevens, Still Missing consists of a series of sessions Annie O’Sullivan has with her psychiatrist, during which she reveals what happened during the year she spent imprisoned in a remote mountain cabin, and in the aftermath, while she struggles to piece her life back together and uncover the truth behind her abduction. It’s a flashback structure that could backfire, but Stevens utilises it with aplomb, ratcheting up the tension, and building empathy for O’Sullivan as the horror of what she went through is revealed.

By Vanda Symon (Penguin, $30.00)
A leading light amongst the recent surge in quality Kiwi crime fiction, Vanda Symon kick-starts her latest thrilling tale with a brutal home invasion; a dodgy businessman is shot gunned, his wife nearly chokes to death on a gag. Feisty heroine Sam Shephard’s Dunedin CID colleagues zero in on two lowlifes suspected of an earlier cop killing, but she’s uneasy, and keeps investigating. Excellent storytelling with real verve and energy, starring one of the most enjoyably readable heroines on the crime fiction scene.

Hollywood Hills
By Joseph Wambaugh (Corvus, $39.99)
An influential icon of the ‘police procedural’ sub-genre, former LAPD detective Wambaugh returns with another raucous ensemble tale, filled with a cast of memorable characters, layered with caper-esque plotlines and quirky vignettes of Hollywood life. A veteran cop and wannabe actor agrees to watch a B-list director’s home, an art dealer has an audacious plan to overcome his financial struggles, and a couple of junkies dream of the big score. There’s no central hero or singular investigation to power the plot, but it comes together to make an enjoyable read.

Craig Sisterson was one of the judges of the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel last year. He blogs about crime and thriller fiction at


This column was first published in the Sunday 26 February 2011 issue of the Herald on Sunday, and is reprinted here with permission.

What do you think of my mini-reviews? Of having such a regular column in one of New Zealand's major newspapers? Have you read (or do you intend to) any of these titles? What are some of the upcoming titles I should definitely include in future columns? What should I review for March? Comments welcome.


  1. Craig - I'm so happy for you that you've got that regular column!! What a good thing for crime fiction! That's terrific :-). And I actually like the idea of mini-reviews. That whets the reader's appetite just enough without making the reader feel obliged to read a long column if she or he doesn't have time. Great news :-).

  2. Still Missing is awesome I totally recommend it also. Ummm Paul Cleave giveaway ??? Just dropping subtle hints :)

  3. Hey Jessica - I postponed the Paul Cleave giveaway, since he's had a bit to deal with in Chch lately (and I'm going to get him to sign the winner's book)...