Tuesday, May 16, 2023

7+ Fresh Antipodean Crime Voices

Queen of Crime Val McDermid showcasing terrific debut crime writers onstage: Stacy Willingham (USA), Emma Styles (Australia), and Michael Bennett (NZ)

Craig, every second Tuesday. 

Kia ora and gidday everyone.

As my fellow antipodeans head into winter and the weather warms here in the UK, the season of great writers and readers festivals is really kicking into gear - including some fantastic events for crime fiction fans.  Plenty of my mystery and thriller loving pals gathered in Bristol over the weekend for Crimefest, a long-running annual event that was originally spawned in 2006 as a trans-Atlantic visit of Left Coast Crime, before becoming its own ongoing thing.

I was looking on enviously; my much-extended New Zealand trip to end last year had put the kibosh on a few things early in 2023, though I hope/intend to get myself along to the likes of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July, along with Bute Noir, Capital Crime, and Bloody Scotland in August, and September. 

Back 'home', readers and writers can head along to the Auckland Writers Festival, which has sprinklings of crime throughout a cornucopia of bookish goodness, and look forward to the likes of the Mystery in the Library series in New Zealand in May and June, and Terror Australis and Bad Sydney crime writing festivals in Australia in October and November. In the States, there's Thrillerfest to end May and Bouchercon San Diego to begin September. 

Among many other fabulous events connecting crime and mystery readers and writers.

Everybody Counts: hanging with the maestro
Michael Connelly in Harrogate last year

I've had a lot of fun at festivals over the years, and look forward to getting out and about here over summer. Last year, before heading back to New Zealand for a fortnight that turned into three plus months, one of my favourite moments was seeing Queen of Crime Val McDermid showcasing some fantastic debut crime writers onstage at the fantastic Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. It was great to see Australian and New Zealand crime writing (or 'Southern Cross Crime' as its collectively known) well represented in front of a sold-out crowd by Emma Styles and Michael Bennett, alongside bestselling American author Stacy Willingham. 

Val also took the time to discuss the rise of ANZ crime fiction, and the treasure trove of authors and stories we have.

I've been thinking about this again this week, with Emma being announced at Crimefest over the weekend as a shortlistee for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger for her book NO COUNTRY FOR GIRLS, and Michael making history by being shortlisted for the prestigious Acorn Prize for Fiction for BETTER THE BLOOD - a literary award that previously hasn't really recognised crime/thriller books, no matter how well written. As far as I'm aware this is the first time a 'detective novel' has been longlisted, let alone shortlisted like BETTER THE BLOOD. 

Also, Emma was one of three female Australian crime writers shortlisted for the New Blood Dagger, alongside Hayley Scrivenor for DIRT TOWN (DIRT CREEK in the US),  and Patricia WOLF for OUTBACK.

This is an award that's been won the likes of 'Outback Noir' author Chris Hammer (SCRUBLANDS) in recent years, while other superb antipodean writers, eg Vanda Symon (OVERKILL) have also been shortlisted. Further rivulets in a growing river of fresh and exciting Australian and New Zealand crime writing voices elevating our genre. 

Back in late 2019 I wrote a book, SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, about this treasure trove of Down Under crime - with 250+ authors showcased from the past 25 years, along with 100+ films and TV shows. Even since that was published in late 2020 (side note: still weird to have released my first book/s during the pandemic, an atypical author experience, for sure), there's been such a remarkable rise in Aussie & Kiwi crime I've already had several people suggest I need to do a new, updated edition of SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME soon, rather than in 10+ years!!

Antipodeans in Harrogate: Chris Hammer, Anna Downes, and myself

So today, in honour of Emma and Michael's well-deserved accolades (and Hayley and Patricia too), I thought I'd share here a wee showcase of seven cool Aussie and Kiwi crime writers who have debuted in the past 2-3 years. 

Some of these books are readily available in the northern hemisphere, others may be more ANZ-based publishing wise, but it's worth ordering in whatever format you can get your hands on (print, e-book, audiobook, etc). 

is a Sri Lanka-born writer whose family emigrated to New South Wales when she was young. Before her first nove, THE TORRENT (2022) was published, Aussie Queen of Crime Emma Viskic had already told me to keep an eye on Dinuka as an up-and-coming local talent. THE TORRENT introduced DS Kate Miles, a refreshing investigator who shares Dinuka's Sri Lankan-Australian heritage, and won the Banjo Prize as an unpublished manuscript. As I said in a review for Good Reading, "as Miles juggles pregnancy anxieties with two cases that prove more than they seem, McKenzie takes readers on an engaging journey that’s full of small-town colour, great plotting, and a fascinating cast of characters". Earlier this year the sequel TAKEN was published, and Dinuka also wrote an intriguing Kate Miles prequel short story for DARK DEEDS DOWN UNDER.

EMMA STYLES is a London-based author who grew up in Whadjuk Noongar Country in Perth, Western Australia. A long-time vet in rural and coastal Australia and the UK, Emma's first novel - like Dinuka's - won an unpublished manuscript prize (the Little, Brown UEA Crime Fiction Award), and garnered great reviews and awards acclaim following its publication in 2022. As I said in a Listener review, in NO COUNTRY FOR GIRLS "the vast expanses of Western Australia provide the backdrop for an exciting tale of two young women from messy family situations unexpectedly thrust together. Shades of Thelma and Louise, but with Aboriginal law student Nao and quick-fisted high schooler Charlie at the wheel of a dead man’s twin-cab ute ... An intense, fascinating, female-centred read."

is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival who grew up in rural Australia and has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong. She lives in Dharawal country on Australia's east coast, and her first novel DIRT TOWN (aka DIRT CREEK in USA) was published in 2022. A rural mystery with a kaleidoscopic narrative about a missing girl, Hayley's debut has gone on to be shortlisted for nine different book awards in Australia, the UK, and the United States. As I said in a review for Mystery Scene in the United States, "Scrivenor deftly brings a variety of townsfolk to vivid life, along with the intricate tapestry of their connections, secrets, feuds, prejudices, and (mis)perception ... juggles her multiple narrators, building tension and her piercing portrait of the town. A character-centric crime novel imbued with humanity and hurt."

is a New Zealand " writer, feminist, and arachnophobe" who's spent much of the past two decades living in Melbourne but recently moved back to Aotearoa. Her debut literary mystery BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME was inspired by a short stint in New York City several years ago and takes the 'jogger finds the body of a dead woman, police investigate' trope in a new direction. It's won several awards including General Fiction Book of the Year in Australia, two Davitt Awards, and the Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel and Best Novel, along with being the only debut (and only female author) shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger last year. From my Mystery Scene review: "Bublitz delivers a beguiling, astonishing tale that deep dives into the victim and the witness and who they are or were; this time it’s the cops who are bit players. There’s an enchanting warmth to this tale sparked by a horrifying deed. Rich characterization of female lives and fears and desires."

KYLE PERRY is a Tasmanian author who works as a drug and alcohol counselor and grew up among the Tasmanian bushland and coastlines, with these rugged local landscapes a big part of his real life and his writing. His first novel, THE BLUFFS (2020) was translated into several languages and shortlisted for a variety of awards in Australia and the USA including Dymocks Book of the Year, Ned Kelly Awards (Best Debut), and ITW Thriller Awards. Kyle's second novel, THE DEEP, was also set among the wild Tasmanian landscapes and was again shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Awards (this time Best Crime Fiction). As AUstralian reviewer Karen Robinson noted: "Perry is well on his way to being mentioned in the same breath as Jane Harper, Peter Temple and other brilliant Australian crime writers. Tense, complex and atmospheric characters and settings are clearly his forte."

is an award-winning Māori filmmaker and author who won a Ngaio Marsh Award (Best Non-Fiction) for his first book, a stunning exploration of the Teina Pora miscarriage of justice, IN DARK PLACES. A long-time fan of crime fiction, Michael's first novel, BETTER THE BLOOD, introduces talented indigenous detective Hana Westerman to our genre, and may be the first novel starring a Māori detective to be written by a Māori author. This extraordinary thriller entwines pacy serial killer tale with an exploration of the impact of colonisation, has been listed for major prizes including CWA Daggers and Ockham NZ Book Awards, and is being translated into several languages. On its US hardcover release, Kirkus called it "A striking debut and a significant addition to Indigenous literature" while Oprah Daily called it a stunning debut that "commands attention from start to spectacular finish".

is a Canberra writer who works in environmental policy. Her debut rural mystery WAKE won the CWA Debut Dagger for unpublished novels in 2019, and was published last year to rave reviews. It's the story of Mina McCreery, who lives on a remote NSW property and whose twin Evelyn vanished twenty years ago. Now private investigator Lane Holland is digging into the case, while having a dangerous agenda of his own. As I said for a wee review for the Listener, where it was selected as one of the Best Books of 2022, WAKE is "a beautifully written debut that meshes true crime obsession with Outback Noir and is its own vivid and atmospheric story despite the growing prevalence of both. New investigations of a 19-year-old cold case of a vanished child upturn the lives of family and the small farming community. Tense and emotional." Shelley's second novel, RIPPER, is out in August.

The seven authors highlighted above are all highly recommended if you're a keen crime fiction fan, with their work ranging across rural communities to the dark side of cities, and offering a variety of perspectives, voices, and styles. Of course, they're only the crest of the wave, when it comes to #SouthernCrossCrime. Along with some of our Australian and New Zealand stalwarts, of course, here's some other relatively new ANZ voices to try: 
  • Allie Reynolds (SHIVER, THE BAY)
  • Claire Baylis (DICE)
  • Gabriel Bergmoser (THE HUNTED, THE INHERITANCE)
  • Josh Kemp (BANJAWARN)
  • Karina Kilmore (WHERE THE TRUTH LIES)
  • Margaret Hickey (CUTTER'S END, BROKEN BAY)
  • Matthew Spencer (BLACK RIVER)
  • Michael Burge (TANK WATER)
  • Michael Trant (WILD DOGS, NO TRACE)
  • Patricia Wolf (OUTBACK, PARADISE)
  • Simon Lendrum (THE SLOW ROLL)
  • Vikki Petraitis (THE UNBELIEVED)
Phew! I could go on and on, but this post is already longer than planned. Thanks for reading. I sincerely hope you'll try some of the authors mentioned here - many of their books have brought me a lot of reading pleasure during the pandemic, and there's a lot there to love for crime readers, no matter what sub-genres you prefer. 

Have you read any Australian or New Zealand crime fiction lately? I'd love for you to leave a comment sharing your thoughts on any of favourite books or authors. 

Until next time. Ka kite anō. 

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 

Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I'll be ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari kē he toa takitini

(Success is not the work of an individual, but the work of many)


  1. Hi Craig, don't know how I missed this blog earlier in the week (put it down to post CrimeFest brain fade). What a great round-up of Southern Cross Crime, and what a wonderful title of the Emma Styles' book. I can feel my TBR pile already starting to grow!

    1. ah, i had a tech glitch so while it was there in draft format, i don't think it actually published until Wednesday - so that's on me not you Zoe, though i fully understand the post Crimefest brain fade. Sounds like a full-on weekend, largely fun, with unfortunately some fall-out the past couple of days.

  2. Every time I read one of your posts, Craig, my bookshelves begin to sag at the thought of what's about to befall them in new additions. With this list, I think even the floor boards will sigh. THANKS!!!!

  3. Craig-- I am so grateful for these recommendations, tons of great sounding stuff here!

  4. Appreciate the mention in the listing, Craig. Thanks from down here.

  5. This is a lovely post and so many books I now want to/ need to/ have to read!