A Selection of Crime Stories set in Unusual Places

Recommendations of Australian Crime Novels published in the last 50 years

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month the theme was anything to do with seasons.  We have a great selection from the group.  Here they are in random order:


Snowdrop by A.D. Miller

Snowdrop was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2011, but our reader says don't let that fool you.  It is not a book you really want to read.  It is written as a letter from a man to his fiance.  The man is a westerner who lived and worked in Moscow during the beginning of Putin's Russia.  This narrative device is clunky as you do not understand how someone thinks telling his fiance about his past sexual conduct, in detail, as well as his shady dealings will make him attractive to her.  And that is basically the problem, as the reader you dislike the morally corrupt hero and start to find the story just a little bit seedy.  Even if it does give you a sense of what the wild times of a decaying Russia must be like.   Incidentally, snowdrops is the nickname for the dead bodies that turn up in public places during the spring thaw in Russia.  It could be a homeless person who died of exposure or, in the case of the book, someone who has been killed.

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Seasons of Death by M.K. Wren

This is the fifth Conan Flagg novel  from M.K. Wren set in a Silver City, Idaho, a ghost town that began to die in the 1940s.  Flagg is a private investigator and book store owner who lives in Seattle and his stories are usually in the Pacific Northwest.  This book was written in the 1980s and it is a bit dated. It is slow moving and peels away the layers as Flagg investigates a 40 year old murder.  The body is discovered in an abandoned silver mine and evidence points to the dead man's partner, who unfortunately died in the 1950s. What is missing though, is $10,000 payroll that disappeared the same day as the dead man.  That is the plot.  If you like to spend some time in the past with a traditional straightforward PI, this is your book.


Winter of Discontent by Jeanne M. Dams

This is a cosy mystery set in 1990s in Sherebury, England.  It is the ninth story in the Dorothy Martin novels. An American amongst the English, Dorothy and her closet friend Jane Langland discover Jane's latest fling, Bill Fanshawe is missing just before Christmas.  Within a day his body is discovered in the tunnel under the town museum.  Dorothy begins to investigate with the help of her husband Alan, a retired police officer.  They follow the trail that leads back to World War Two and stories told from that time.  This is as fast paced as two 80 year olds in a small town are allowed.  Cosy and fun.


Rumpole at Christmas by John Mortimer

Horace Rumpole began life in a Play for Today, a British television anthology drama series, produced by the BBC, in 1975.  Since then he became a household name through the subsequent TV series starring Leo McKern and a book series both created and written by John Mortimer. Rumpole at Christmas is a collection of seven short stories set around the holiday, all previously published across a range of English publications, including the Strand Magazine, Woman's Weekly, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Express. They are typical Rumpole stories, if not a bit slight. But if you are reading them, you are a fan of the character and are indulging yourself.

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The Holiday Murders by Robert Gott

This is a historical crime story set in Melbourne in 1943.  The story starts when the newly formed local homicide squad is called in to investigate a gruesome double murder of a son and his father.  The novel explores the early years of World War Two in a country that was physically far away from the war, but politically and socially entwined with the issues that lead to it in the first place.  This book is a police procedural centred around Inspector Lambert, who has a refreshingly happy family life, Detective Joe Sable, who is of Jewish heritage and unable to go to war due to a health condition, and finally Constable Helen Lord, who is very intelligent and not used to the chances Inspector Lambert gives her.  Understandable, as at that time, and I guess sometimes even now, a woman is usually sidelined in the Australian police force.  The book is well written with great characters and a well put together plot.

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Blood on The Harvest Moon by David Anthony

The book was published in 1972 and is the second story featuring ex-Marine Captain and ex-Private Investigator, Morgan Butler. Butler is now retired from investigating to be a farmer.  In an act of reparations to his former wife Elaine, Butler tries to find out just why her current husband is absent. It's a long revenge extending from here to there with some twists and turns.  The characters are a bit cliched and stereotyped, and the novel comes cross a bit dated.  It is basically a novel that you could have picked up in the airport gift shop, in 1972.

Next month the theme is debut novels.