6 new crime & thriller reads we loved!

by |February 22, 2018

6 new crime & thriller reads we loved!

This month we have a bunch of amazing new releases from some of the biggest crime writers in the business, as well as some truly stunning debuts from talented new authors.

Our crime fiction book of the month is one such debut. The Rúin by Dervla McTiernan is definitely one of the best crime reads of 2018 so far and the beginning of what I’m sure will be a long and popular new series.

Our true crime Book of the month is I’ll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by the late Michelle McNamara – an absolute must-read for true crime fans.

There’s so much on offer this month for crime and thriller readers, the only real question is which book to start reading first? Good luck making that decision … it’s a tough call!

Reviews by Sarah McDuling

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernanThe Rúin
by Dervla McTiernan

The Rúin is an absolutely stunning debut from a fresh new talent. Dervla McTiernan is a brilliant author who has secured a place alongside Jane Harper, Sarah Bailey and Candice Fox on my list of favourite crime writers at the moment. (And can we just take a moment to appreciate how much Australian based female crime writers are killing it right now? Eeeeeeeeeeee!)

Set in Ireland, The Rúin is a highly atmospheric and utterly chilling mystery that ties an old suicide case from twenty years earlier to a present-day murder. Our leading man is Cormac Reilly – perhaps the nicest, most likable, most normal crime-solving protagonist I have ever encountered. I’m used to reading about world-weary, weathered, deeply damaged detectives with dark pasts and boatloads of emotional baggage. And don’t get me wrong, I love them all! In fact that sentence describes most of my favourite fictional people!!

And yet, along comes Cormac Reilly – a character who doesn’t fit this mould at all. He’s not an alcoholic. He doesn’t have any anger management issues. On the contrary, he is a sensible and level headed guy and a supportive husband. He isn’t haunted by any traumatic memories. He remains calm under pressure (even when faced with bureaucratic nonsense from truly infuriating coworkers). He’s a nice, normal guy with a good heart, a happy home and a strong work ethic. Imagine that!?

The mystery at the heart of the The Rúin is intricate and multi-layered. It’s also quite dark and deeply upsetting. I won’t lie – there were moments during this book where I had to put it down, take a few deep breaths and blink away some tears. Dervla McTiernan has a deft way of creating characters that ring very true to life. Flawed, complicated and wonderfully human, I felt very deeply for the characters of this story.

The title of this book works on multiple levels. In English, the word ruin means devastation and downfall. The Irish meaning of the word rúin is “something hidden”. Both words apply to this craftily constructed mystery full of old secrets, compelling character development and riveting suspense. I’m completely blown away by the fact that this is the author’s first novel and to say that I’m looking forward to the next Cormac Reilly book would be a vast understatement. This is an author to watch and a book to grab and devour as quickly as possible!

Perfect for fans of Jane Harper, Sarah Bailey, Candice Fox, Tana French, Val McDermid and basically anyone who likes a complex, character-driven mystery virtually dripping in blood-chilling atmosphere! Learn More.

I'll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamaraI’ll be Gone in the Dark:
One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

by Michelle McNamara

This was a very emotional and bittersweet read. We know, going into this book, that the case of the Golden State Killer remains unsolved. Furthermore, the knowledge of the author’s untimely death makes this all the more poignant.

I’ll be Gone in the Dark is an incredibly in-depth, utterly compelling investigation of the serial rapist and murderer who has become known as the Golden State Killer (also known as the Original Night Stalker, the East Area Rapist and the Diamond Knot Killer). Active from the mid 1970s till the mid 1980s, he committed fifty sexual assaults and at least ten murders. He has never been apprehended.

Thirty years after the last murder, journalist Michelle McNamara (creator of the website TrueCrimeDiary.com) decided to immerse herself in the case of The Golden State Killer and do everything possible to finally uncover his identity. Sadly, the case remains unsolved and Michelle tragically passed away in 2016. Her book was finished with help from her colleagues.

True crime can be difficult to read. Everything in me revolts from the subject matter and yet I am often drawn to these books, almost against my will. That said, I will stop reading a true crime book at the very first hint of exploitative or salacious writing. When I read these books, I really need the author to approach the subject with deference and care and I want to feel as though the victims are treated with utmost respect and empathy. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be Gone in the Dark is a perfect example of how true crime books should be written.

I have not been this engrossed, or as emotionally invested, in a true crime novel since I read The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Of course this is partly due to the detailed research… but I think the true emotional impact of I’ll be Gone in the Dark is owed to the author’s deeply personal writing style. In many ways this book is a memoir as much as a true crime account.

Michelle McNamara is so present in this book – her unwavering dedication to the case and her deep empathy for the victims is palpable on every page. So much heart and humanity went into the research and writing of this book.

With a foreword from bestselling author Gillian Flynn and a heartfelt afterward from actor Patton Oswalt (Michelle McNamara’s husband) this is a very powerful book. I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed reading it – one doesn’t really enjoy this kind of book – but I’m very glad to have read it and feel as though it’s a book that needed to be written. It’s books like this one that keep interest in unsolved cases alive so that one day the truth may be brought to light. Learn More.

Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. OwenEgyptian Enigma
Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth Series: Book 3
by L.J.M. Owen

Egyptian Enigma marks the third installment of the Dr Pimms series and if my love for Dr Elizabeth Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth, was not already firmly established it is now thoroughly set in stone. Every book in this series is better than the last, and each one manages to leave me desperate for the next!

For those unfamiliar with this delightful series, allow me to introduce you to your next obsession! It’s part cosy crime, part contemporary thriller and part historical crime. L.J.M. Owens has a marvellous talent for writing compelling stories interwoven with fascinating historical facts and packed full of likable characters. These books are brimming with suspense, mystery and loads of interesting information about archaeology and ancient history. Try to imagine a version of Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series in which the protagonist is an archaeologist and the crimes are thousands of years old and this will give you a good idea what to expect from Dr Elizabeth Pimms!

This third installment in the series has a strong feminist plot which examines the way women are so often overlooked and written out of history. I learned a lot while reading this book- especially about Twosret, the female Pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt – and found myself hungry for more information. A number of times while reading Egyptian Enigma I was compelled to put the book down briefly in order to hit Wikipedia for more information.

I love the vivid glimpses into ancient Egypt depicted in this book. The descriptions of the royal family and the intrigue of the royal court really brought the past to life. I also adore the way this series perfectly blends the feel of an old fashioned detective novel with a modern forensic mystery. It takes all of my favourite things and mashes them together!

Perfect for cosy crime addicts and ancient history buffs… plus anyone who ever secretly dreamed of being a crime solving archaeologist! Learn More.

The Portrait of Molly Dean by Katherine KovacicThe Portrait of Molly Dean
by Katherine Kovacic

The Portrait of Molly Dean is one of my favourite kind of books – a dual timeline historical mystery. And even better… it’s Australian! I wish there were more books like this. I love reading about people in the contemporary world (or in this case the late nineties) who become obsessed by events in history and determine to solve an old mystery. It’s a special treat when the setting is Australian.

Based on a true unsolved murder case, the story switches back and forth through time following Alex, an art dealer in 1999 and Mary “Molly” Dean in 1930.

When Alex purchases a painting of of the tragically murdered Molly Dean, her curiosity is piqued and she slowly becomes obsessed by the details of the case, determined to uncover the identity of Molly’s murderer.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, 1930, Molly Dean is an aspiring writer who works as a teacher and is in love with an artist. She is a modern woman full of ambition, doing her best to put her difficult past behind her and pursue her dreams.

The great thing about this book is that so often in dual timeline narratives I find myself more interested in one of the timelines while the other one is comparatively less intriguing. In The Portrait of Molly Dean I did not have this problem. On the contrary, I felt a strong affinity for both Alex and Molly and found myself equally spellbound by both timelines.

And can I just take a moment to mention Alex’s dog, Hogarth, who is possibly my favourite character of all? You’ve gotta love a book with a strong supporting canine character!!

The Portrait of Molly Dean is an utterly enthralling and captivating read that will appeal to fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Kate Mosse. Also the perfect read for anyone, like me, with an interest in Australian historical crime. I am already looking forward to Katherine Kovacic’s next book! Learn More.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah PekkanenThe Wife Between Us
by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

Oh lordy! This is definitely one of those “twisty” thrillers that gives your brain a good work out. When I’m reading psychological thrillers like this one, I can never just sit back and enjoy the ride. My thoughts are always leaping ahead of me, trying to catch all the clues and guess the ending. Sometimes it’s great to be taken totally by surprise but for the most part, I much prefer the lovely smug feeling I get when I have accurately anticipated the plot twists ahead of time. It makes me feel like a master detective!

I’m pleased to report that The Wife Between Us gave me the best of both worlds. I did manage to guess the first major twist but it was only the first in a succession of daringly executed twists and turns. This is really the perfect situation as I get to pat myself on the back for being a clever detective while still getting a nice “AHA!” moment.

Told in alternative perspectives, this is one of those books where you don’t know who to trust and cannot make any assumptions. Vanessa’s life is left in ruins after her divorce from her ex-husband, Richard. Penniless and broken, she is full of bitter regret. Richard left her with nothing and now he is replacing her with a younger woman. Poor unfortunate Vanessa is surely the victim in all this… or is she?

Nellie is engaged to Richard and thinks the world of him. Haunted by the past, she finally feels safe now that she is with Richard. He loves her, he takes care of her, he is the solution to all her problems. And yet… is it possible her fiance might not be as perfect as he seems?

There is a lot going on in this book. The plot builds to a crescendo with a series of tricky twists and turns. It’s full of mind-bending revelations. Even the plot twists you see coming do not unfold exactly as you anticipated. I fully expect that readers everywhere are going to gobble this one up and start screaming for more!

Perfect for fans of domestic noir thrillers like The Girl on the Train, The Woman in the Window and The Secrets She Keeps. Learn More.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen HamiltonThe Perfect Girlfriend
by Karen Hamilton

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t … make them.”

How good is that line!? This book is so awesome – I can already see the trailer in my head for the movie adaptation. I was honestly stunned to realise this is the author’s first book. As soon as I finished I jumped online in search of more books by Karen Hamilton only to find this is her debut novel!

The concept here is not overly complex. Girl loves boy. Boy dumps girl. Girl schemes to win boy back. A whole lot of craziness ensues!

It may sound like a familiar story but the reason this book works so well is because it’s just so well written! The language is so rich and descriptive, the characters virtually jump off the page to slap you in the face. The whole book is like a giant roller-coaster ride into certain doom, and every second is wildly entertaining.

The protagonist, Juliette, could very easily fall into the crazy ex-girlfriend cliche and yet this never really happens. Despite being a certified looney-tunes psycho, Juliette is actually oddly likable. It’s hard to explain because obviously I didn’t want her to succeed in her evil plans but also… a part of me kind of wanted her to succeed in her evil plans. I just couldn’t help cheering her on. She’s bold and smart and sarcastic – not to mention extremely goal oriented. You have to respect a woman who knows what she wants! And while I feel the stereotype of the “crazy ex-girlfriend” should be avoided, in this case Juliette is so brilliantly written that I see her more as a great example of the archetypal “Woman Scorned”.

Perfect for fans of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson and Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. Learn More.

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About the Contributor

Sarah is the Editor of The Booktopian Blog and Senior Content Producer at Booktopia, where she enjoys unleashing the full capacity of her bookish obsession. She enjoys sword-fighting, time-travel, rare jewel collecting and competitive yodeling. She also leads a very rich fantasy life. An avid reader and book reviewer, Sarah is filled with boundless enthusiasm for the written word! She also has a slight tendency to overuse exclamation points!!!!!

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