Last year was a big year in New Zealand crime writing, with more than 35 new titles being released by publishers large, small, and independent. We have 29 different books entered in this year's Ngaio Marsh Awards - more than double any previous year. And that's without many crime stalwarts of previous years - Paul Thomas, Paddy Richardson, Neil Cross, Liam McIlvanney, Alix Bosco and others - releasing a book in 2015.
So I'm excited to see what's to come this year and beyond, as more and more talented New Zealand authors choose to write thrilling tales of murder, mystery, and mayhem. I'll update this list of 2016 crime novels as new books are released (or as I learn of them). Here is where we stand now.
Ex-undercover cop Marshall Grade is hiding out in California when he learns that federal agent Lucas Cohen has survived a kidnapping. Cohen was Marshall's ticket into witness protection, and his captors have a simple question: where's Marshall now?
Marshall's undercover work gave him a long list of enemies, and the enemy in this case is a corrupt businessman named Dexter Vine. Vine's almost broke, in debt to people even worse than himself, and he wants to settle old scores while he has time. He's hired Ludo Coltrane - a nonchalant psychopath and part-time bar manager - to find Marshall at any cost. Ludo's no stranger to killing, but his associate, the cash-strapped ex-con Perry Rhodes, may prove more of a liability than an asset.
The question is: what has Marshall done to make Dexter want him dead? And are the contacts from his old life - ex-colleague Lana, and the heroin dealer Henry Lee - prepared to help him, or will they just sell him out?
To be published by Allen & Unwin on 14 December 2016
When the body of a schoolgirl is found in the bushes on Auckland’s West Coast, the shock sends a community reeling. Who would want to hurt this popular high-achiever?
Nick Knight, a week into his role as newly promoted Detective Sergeant at Henderson Police Station is tasked with leading the Suspects Team.Nick – who turned his back on a lucrative career as a lawyer - is well versed in dealing with the dark side of human nature.
Setting a cracking pace on the trail of the murderer, and grappling his own demons along the way he is determined to find justice and nail the culprit.
This authentic police procedural thrusts the reader into the machinations of Auckland’s working police force, school politics, the city’s legal profession and gang culture, in a tragedy triggered by lust and obsession.
To be published on 26 October by Mary Egan Press
A false accusation. A brutal murder. Can Ngaire find a killer before he finds her?
Ngaire Blakes is trying to put her life back together. The ex-cop resigned from the police after a vicious assault left her battling PTSD. Dragged into a murder investigation, she’s shocked to discover that all the evidence points to her.
When the body count climbs, Ngaire flees to the cold comfort of her estranged father’s hometown. In danger and not knowing who to trust, she severs contact with her closest allies and must learn to rely on herself if she’s going to catch the killer before it’s too late.
The Second Stage of Grief is the second book in a series of mystery novels set in the dark shadows of New Zealand. If you enjoy gritty mysteries, strong women who rise to the challenge, and thrilling psychological suspense, then you’ll love Katherine Hayton’s latest installment in the Ngaire Blakes trilogy.
To be published 4 October 2016 by Kindle Press.
Chinese commandos in a lightning raid have seized the vast, under-populated, resource-rich lands of Northern Australia. Thousands of Australian soldiers are held hostage. International realpolitik has left Australia abandoned by its supposed allies and its brittle social fabric is rapidly unwinding as the people panic.
A Chinese ultimatum demands the annexation of the country’s top half in ten days, or face a full scale invasion.
As other politicians clamour to sue for peace, Prime Minister, Gary Stone, in a desperate race against time and impossible military and political odds must commit to a risky and controversial plan to try and free the country …
To be published 26 September 2016.
A small community, broken families, a bloody murder, and an ending you won’t see coming
When Frida Delaney returns home to New Zealand after a self-imposed exile the last thing she expects to find is her neighbour’s bloody body and to be caught up in a murder inquiry. An inquiry that reaches into the darkest side of politics, financial conspiracy and families.
She just wants to sort out her own life after her mother’s death, but can’t stand by and let someone she thinks is innocent be unjustly accused. But the closer she gets to the truth the more dangerous she is to the murderer. But is there one killer or a conspiracy?
Her ex-policeman father, Jack, had often told her that people and places were irretrievably broken after the crime squad came through. Secrets were unearthed and lies exposed. Lives dismembered. Would the sleepy seaside village of Kawa Bay ever be the same again?
Published September 2016.
Murder, political intrigue, bent cops and the fate of a nation - a thriller set in the murky underworld of 1951 New Zealand. A man overboard, a murder and a lot of loose ends ...
In Auckland 1951 the workers and the government are heading for bloody confrontation and the waterfront is the frontline. But this is a war with more than two sides and nothing is what it seems. Into the secret world of rival union politics, dark political agendas and worldwide anti-communist hysteria steps Johnny Molloy, a private detective with secrets of his own. Caitlin O'Carolan, a feisty young reporter, is following her own leads. Together they begin to uncover a conspiracy that goes to the heart of the Establishment - and which will threaten their own lives in the process.
Filled with memorable characters, including many colourful real-life figures from recent New Zealand history, Red Herring is the stunning debut from a vibrant new voice in New Zealand fiction.
Published in September 2016 by HarperCollins.
It's November 29, 2016 and the Republicans have won the US election. An owl flies at the President-Elect's head and explodes: a singularly unique assassination method designed to shock as much as kill. New York detectives Kasia Pasternak and Martin King work alongside their FBI, CIA and US Secret Service colleague to solve the case. This is confounded by political machinations as both parties sense opportunity in chaos and attempt to manipulate events in their favour.
As the investigation proceeds, nothing is as it first seemed. Layers upon layers of intrigue peel away, colleagues become suspects, suspects become distractions and leads turn into dead ends. Only when someone opens Schrödinger’s Cabinet does the dilemma become resolved.
Published August 2016.
Set against a backdrop of actual events in 1995, Martyn Percival, a middle-aged New Zealander, seeks adventure on his first OE to the United Kingdom. A chance sighting, providing a possible link between an explosion that has rocked the nation and the whereabouts of a renegade IRA operative, has Martyn reporting his suspicions to an attractive police sergeant in the Cotswolds.
Scotland Yard becomes involved when the bomber is identified as a serial killer, who then embarks on a mission seeking revenge on the tourist who “shopped him”.
Martyn’s burgeoning feelings for the sergeant have him agreeing to participate in a planned trap for his nemesis. When this backfires, Martyn returns to New Zealand. His stalker follows.
Faced with fear for his own survival, Martyn has no alternative but to turn the tables and stalk the stalker. Thus setting up a face-to-face finale in New Zealand’s North Island wintry landscape.
Published August 2016 by Mary Egan Publishing
Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence.
Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach.
Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice
Published August 2016.
A beautiful New Zealand summer.
An ugly past that won’t stay buried.
Paediatric surgeon Claire Bowerman has reluctantly returned to Auckland from London. Calm, rational and in control, she loves delicately repairing her small patients’ wounds. Tragically, wounds sometimes made by the children’s own families.
Yossi wants to marry Claire. He thinks they’ve come to the safest place on earth, worlds away from the violence he knew growing up. He revels in the glorious summer, the idyllic islands of the gulf. But Roimata, Claire’s fifteen-year-old daughter, is full of questions. Why is Claire so secretive about her past? Why won’t she talk to the man who could solve the mystery that dominated her childhood? All Claire wants to do is run.
This is a novel about a woman caught between the past and the present. And about her need to keep everybody safe. Especially herself.
Published in August 2016 by Pan Macmillan. Read an extract here.
Lindsay’s life is turned upside down when MIND GAMES and evidence drag her into a murder case - as a suspect. A cosy mystery that will entertain and keep you guessing.
Set against the beautiful backdrop of Christchurch - the Garden City of New Zealand, the story is full of twists and turns. Can you spot the clues and identify the murderer?
Published July 2016.
Detective Inspector Leah McCarthy is given the worse case possible after her predecessor suffers a massive heart attack - to catch the New Zealand serial killer dubbed by the press as John . . . The Baptist. Having killed two people already, Leah joins the case just as a third murder is committed.
The killer is meticulous - organized and elusive, leaving no clues. Leah and her close associate, Detective Sergeant Andrew Woodyard, are left chasing shadows. The killer, gaining increasing confidence slaughters three more victims simultaneously, that threatens to completely unravel the frazzled nerves of Leah and her team. Will they be able to catch the murderer before he strikes again or will he continue to tease and taunt the authorities?
Published July 2016
After seven years living as Alexandra Gastone, Milena Rokva is now free to be her true self, if only she knew who that was or had time to find out. Milena is in a race against time to bring down Perun, the very organization that trained her as a spy. Perun, no longer content to use their network of sleeper agents to protect Olissa, is maneuvered to take control of the world’s energy markets sending the globe into chaos.
Working with her surrogate grandfather, Albert Gastone, his CIA friend, Brad, and her old handler, Varos, Milena finds herself embroiled in an epic spy game teamed with friends whose endgames do not necessarily align with her own. The only person Milena can truly trust is herself.
Can Milena take down Perun, protect her fellow cadets and make a life for herself with the friends and family she has come to love as Alexandra Gastone?
Published July 2016. Read my review of the first book in the series, THEY CALL ME ALEXANDRA GASTONE, here.
Another day, another death, might not be unusual in FBI Agent Ellie Conway’s world but a baffling series of naked, bloodless, blondes in pristine showers makes her wonder if she is dealing with a genuine vampire.
Investigating the deaths of these women, Ellie is surprised when clairsentience is added to her remarkable armory of psycho-prophetic talents. Secrets emerge as she races to find a killer with a particular and gruesome agenda. Mounting bodies, escalating pressure, a sinister connection between the art world, the Darknet and the FBI, an impending wedding, peculiar liaisons, and a personal shock challenge Ellie and the Delta A team.
Published July 2016. Read Margot Kinberg's review of KILLERBYTE, an earlier book in the Ellie Conway series, here.
OVERCAST SUNDAY by Christodoulos Moisa
Overcast Sunday is set in April 1950 in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. It describes events that occur over a twenty-four-hour period after a young woman is discovered murdered in an inner city alley outside the Greek Club. The police, already having a similar unsolved murder on their books are keen to make quick progress and apprehend the killer to avoid panic.
The prime suspect is Jimmy, a veteran of Abyssinia, Dunkirk, Greece, and Crete, who works as a chef in a local hotel. He is also a champion ballroom dancer and has a reputation as a ladies man. Jimmy's friend Hari, who is also a veteran of some of the same battlefields, is also implicated. Hari has been trying hard to find some semblance of balance to give meaning to his life in his new homeland. He is working at a tailor's to put himself through university, simultaneously trying to cope with the demons bequeathed to him by the war.
With the murder, tensions arrive in the Greek community, who value their special immigrant status in the city. The novel explores the lives of an immigrant community in Wellington after the Second World War, and through it, society as a whole. It explores a clash of mores as outer and inner communities try to adjust to a violent near past and a prospering post-war economy.
Published June 2016.
Dan Calder is an ex Brit and ex policeman looking for a fresh start in a new country but still carrying the baggage of failed relationships and a depressed, repressed past. He chose New Zealand because it was as far as he could get from his old life but did not take into account the universal six degrees of separation is no more than two or three in the land of the long white cloud.
The Agency provides a service like no other and New Zealand is the ideal location to find a new client. When Calder first encounters it by sheer chance, his life instantly changes and before long others are depending on him too. Engaged in a deadly game with an unknown foe; this was not the new life Dan Calder planned for himself but now at stake is the ultimate reward; his own salvation.
Published June 2016.
A returning hero. A desolate valley. A missing mathematician. A glamorous and beguiling council bureaucrat with a hidden past. A cryptic map leading to an impossible labyrinth. An ancient conspiracy; an ancient evil. A housing development without proper planning permission. All leading to the most mysterious mystery of all.
Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley is a dark and forbidding new comic farce by the author of Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley. "Aro Comic Noir just may become a literary cult of its own." (David Hill, New Zealand Herald).
Published June 2016
Rafe Angelito thought he was done with the demons from his past—until his son is kidnapped. Blackmailed into abducting an American heiress, the legionnaire soon finds himself trapped in paradise with a fiery, daring beauty who’s nothing he expects…and everything he desires. But when he uncovers her own dark secret, Rafe realizes he’s made a critical mistake—one that could cost him everything.
Playing body double for a spoiled socialite was supposed to be Holly Ryan’s ticket to freedom. But when she’s snatched off her yacht by a tall, dark and dangerous stranger, the not-quite-reformed con artist will make a desperate play to turn her captor from enemy to ally, by any means necessary.
Yet as scorching days melt into sultry nights, Holly is drawn to the mysterious capitaine, with his unexpected sense of honor and his searing touch. When they’re double-crossed, they’ll have to risk trusting each other in ways they never imagined…because in this deadly game of deception, it’s their lives—and hearts—on the line.
Published May 2016.
Detective Jim Kelleher's daughter Annie is a teenage prostitute who's addicted to crystal meth but in his eyes she's still a lamb being preyed upon by wolves.
He feels she's far too close to her Polynesian gangster boyfriend and the motorcycle gang and the triads he deals drugs with... and is there even some more forbidden cargo?
Meanwhile, Jim's new partner Stuart has the unenviable task of trying to stop Jim from falling victim to the same temptations he's trying to save his daughter from.
Published May 2016
Nick Adamson is back in Thailand where psychopathic serial killers are murdering women unchecked and in cold blood in the Bangkok night. Nick is set up by one killer to bring down another but when he is framed for the death of a high profile socialite he must balance the need to clear his name with the need for revenge. With the help of friends, old and new, he plots a series of brutal showdowns to seek justice… for all the victims and most of all, for himself.
Published May 2016. You can read a recent interview with John Daysh here.
"This trade is the third-largest criminal business in the world, right up there behind illegal weapons and illegal drugs. But no one ever talks about it.”
Solikha Duong lives the carefree life of a village girl in northern Cambodia until her world is torn apart by "truck men" from the south. But Solikha is tough, resourceful, and won't give up without a fight ... Alice Kwann is on vacation in northern Nevada when she's set upon by thugs. But Alice too is tough, resourceful, and won't give up without a fight ... '
What binds these women together is a shocking secret and a desire for revenge. Because sometimes your past won't let you go. Published May 2016
A STRAITS SETTLEMENT by Brian Stoddart
In the third installment of the Le Fanu Mystery series, the intrepid superintendent is promoted to Inspector-General of Police in 1920s Madras, which proves to be more boring than he had envisaged. Instead of pushing papers across his desk, Le Fanu focuses on the disappearance of a senior Indian Civil Service officer and an apparently unrelated murder. As the two incidents intertwine, the world-weary detective is drawn into the worlds of indentured labour recruitment and antiquities theft.
Published May 2016. Read Karen Chisholm's review of the first Le Fanu book, A MADRAS MIASMA, here. You can also read Karen's review of the second book, THE PALLAMPUR PREDICAMENT, here.
On the night that Carla Reid plans on celebrating her wedding anniversary with her husband Kevin and their grown son Jack, their New Zealand farmstead has never felt more like home.
But when Ben Toroa and another aspiring gang member brutally force their way into the house with robbery and more on their minds the night and the rest of both their lives take a radically different direction.
As Carla struggles to come to terms with the aftermath and bereavement of different kinds, and Ben faces the consequences in prison, their stories continue to interweave. Published April 2016.
A brand-new novel tie-in to the popular Elementary TV series. The CFO of a secretive NYC hedge fund is found murdered—stabbed through the eye with an expensive fountain pen. Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson discover a link between the victim and a charismatic touring management guru with a doubtful past. But is the solution so clear-cut or is the guru being framed?
As secrets are revealed and another victim is found murdered in the same grisly fashion, Holmes and Watson begin to uncover a murky world of money and deceit...
Published April 2016.
SPARE ME THE TRUTH by CJ Carver
Dan Forrester, piecing his life back together after the tragic death of his son, is approached in a supermarket by a woman who tells him everything he remembers about his life - and his son - is a lie. Grace Reavey, stricken by grief, is accosted at her mother's funeral. The threat is simple: pay the staggering sum her mother allegedly owed, or lose everything. Lucy Davies has been forced from the Met by her own maverick behaviour. Desperate to prove herself in her new rural post, she's on the hunt for a killer - but this is no small town criminal.
Plunged into a conspiracy that will test each of them to their limits, these three strangers are brought together in their hunt for the truth, whatever it costs. And as their respective investigations become further and further entwined, it becomes clear that at the centre of this tangled web is a threat more explosive than any of them could have imagined.
Published April 2016.
Lyn McConchie transports us to Victorian London, where Sherlock Holmes and John Watson must solve two cases involving Poisonous People. Maid and occasional cook Mary Fellowes has been accused of attempting to poison her employers and the evidence against her is damning-or is it? Is she the scheming and vengeful woman that others describe? Or is she innocent, caught in a web of deceit? Holmes and Watson must follow the evidence, exposing long-buried family secrets and hidden conflict, in order to discover the truth and prevent a deadly injustice. Who murdered successful businessman Gerald Barnes Wimbledon, and why? Stymied by the case, Scotland Yard calls in Holmes and Watson. Their investigations unearth a hidden diary-a journal whose pages provide motives for several business rivals, as well as for the woman he loved and who spurned him publicly. As Holmes and Watson dig deeper into Wimbledon's past, they must question everything they have learned about the man calling himself Gerald Barnes Wimbledon, including how he died.
Published April 2016.
Forty years ago Magdalene Lynton drowned in a slurry. She choked to death as her hands scrabbled for purchase on the smooth concrete walls. A farmhand discovered her bloated body three days later.
Or she didn't. Paul Worthington just confessed to her murder. Forty years ago Magdalene Lynton died in a dirty shed. He smothered her life along with her cries for help and tossed her defiled corpse into a river when he was done. Or he didn't.
As Detective Ngaire Blakes investigates the death, she discovers clues that won't piece together with either version. Gaps, inconsistencies, lies. And forty years have eroded more than memories.Is it possible to uncover the third death of Magdalene Lynton when time has eaten away at the evidence? And will the person responsible let Ngaire live long enough to try.
Published March 2016. Winner of the Kindle Scout contest.
The summer of 1976 in Auckland, New Zealand. There is a severe marijuana drought. Two couples; a gynaecologist and a physicist, together with a violinist and an actress meet by accident in a pub and help a Maori evade the police.
A group of Maori plans to deliver a truckload of cannabis to Auckland. A Chinese family has harvested four greenhouses of enhanced sensimilla. A criminal mastermind plots to start a drug war. A police Inspector hunts a fugitive Maori. The war on drugs starts in New Zealand. Published March 2016. Read Karen Chisholm's review here.
144 civilians were slaughtered when a Serbian unit wiped out their village 20 years ago, in a dirty war where brutality was the norm. The Serb commander of the dreaded Red Wolves escaped from The Hague and has been hunted ever since. Now a single slip of the tongue has set off alarm bells. Could Josef Durakovic, wanted war criminal, really be hiding out in Auckland?
Charlie Nickals of the Security Intelligence Service is handed the reins for his first big op, and with promotion on the cards, the pressure is on to pull off a major coup. With unwanted assistance from Special Forces, and utilising all their skills at covert surveillance, Charlie leads a small team of spies to recapture one of the most wanted mass murderers on the globe.
Charlie knows that if a monster is living among the innocent, then he needs to be fast, accurate and ruthless. One wrong step and blood will be spilled. He can't afford to screw this up, or more innocents will die. The SIS team have one focus: identify and neutralise war criminal Josef Durakovic. Code name, Warlock. Published March 2016.
Bradley Cain is a family man living an ordinary life in a peaceful town in New Zealand. In one short moment his world and everything in it changes life as he knows it. Waking up confused and in pain, Brad soon is caught up in a desperate fight to regain his family and reputation.
In fast paced action, Brad is launched into a war with some of New Zealand´s most violent criminals. There is just one way for him to win, and to regain his family. All will taste the fear as Brad is tainted by fire and wallows deep in the mind of the psychopath. How much of Brad will be left if he is to regain what has been stolen from him. Published March 2016.
When a woman's body is discovered frozen in the ice of a river near the alpine resort of Queenstown, Detective Sergeant Malcolm Buchan faces both a mystery and a moral dilemma. The identity of the nude woman is critical to the motives and manner of her murder, and Buchan is personally involved. So are a number of locals, from ski bums to multi-millionaire businessman.
Newly appointed to head CIB in the Southern Lakes district, Buchan hunts the killer through the entanglements of corruption and abuse that lie barely below the surface of the tourist towns. The assistance of a woman traffic sergeant is critical to the hunt but she brings her own dilemmas. The community is practised at keeping its secrets, and finding the truth comes at a price.
Published March 2016.
Garry is the enigmatic and popular host of a talkback radio show who is continually battling with his boss over his style. Outside of work, he loves to take his crazy Jack Russell Terrier, Spot, to the park where they regularly meet up with a group of friends, both canine and human. But for two of those friends, what starts as a walk in the park turns sinister with the gruesome discovery of a body. Soon, talkback radio gets involved and things get totally out of hand.
Garry is drawn into a plot that threatens his close friend. Meanwhile secret meetings and plans are made and loyal listeners take sides as more and more people ring in to the radio station. But a common thread begins to emerge as Spot becomes enmeshed in the story. Talk to Me is a cynical, funny and, at times, dark exposé of the talkback radio industry, all wrapped up in an amateur sleuth whodunnit that will keep you guessing to the end. Published March 2016.
The New Zealand government – led by autocratic Prime Minister Wynyard Nairn – approves the establishment of a USA naval facility, and in the middle of Wellington’s pristine harbour. Given the anti-nuclear stance in the country, all hell breaks out! Daily protests and rallies occur and threats of mayhem are made. Within days anarchy rules; Parliament is occupied, the US Embassy is attacked and two die, a major TV communications tower is destroyed and central Wellington is blockaded. But when the International Airport is forced to close, the situation reaches crisis point. The Prime Minister – under increasing pressure from the scale of continuing protests – attacks the Police, threatening to remove their independence and bring in the army. Will Nairn change his mind, is he even listening? … or will it be up to the people? Published February 2016.
List updated as of Tuesday 20 September 2016.
If you are aware of any other new New Zealand novels that would fall within the broad crime, mystery, or thriller genre, please do leave a comment or send me a message. Thanks!