May 1, 2017 Booklist 7 #mysterymonth
kind of which-way-is-up sense of the police force that recalls early
James Ellroy. Moody, inventive, and extremely hard to put down.
Crucifixion Creek. By Barry Maitland. 2015. Minotaur, $25.95
Sydney homicide detective Harry Belltree is as hard-boiled as
they come, a kind of Australian Dirty Harry with a little of Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder, who once said to a killer he was about
to dispatch, “I just don’t want you to be alive anymore.” This installment in Maitland’s unsparingly dark series provides backstory,
explaining how Harry got to be Harry and how he developed his
investigative style: shake the tree, see who falls out, and
kill them. So old school you can smell the cordite.
Gunshot Road. By Adrian Hyland. 2010.
Soho, $15.95 (9781569479421).
Hyland’s second Emily Tempest
mystery finds the half-white,
half-Aboriginal police officer on
the beat in a remote northern Australia town, where
she serves as liaison to the
Emily knows that an old
prospector she knew as
a child wasn’t killed accidentally and sets out to
find the real killer. Like
Caroline Carver, Hyland
expertly matches the grit of
her story and the toughness
of her heroine to the hardscrabble landscape.
Wyatt. By Gary Disher. 2011.
Soho, $25 (9781569479629).
Wyatt Wareen has been away for a
while, but he’s back in Melbourne and
looking for a score. Disher’s series about the
taciturn, unsentimental thief took its own hiatus,
as the author concentrated on his Inspector Hal Challis novels
(see above), making his return to the mean streets all the more
welcome, especially since Wyatt senses his time may be about up:
“He was an old-style hold-up man: cash, jewellery, paintings. . . .
The trouble was, technology had outstripped him.” Wyatt may be
a man out of time, but crime fiction like this is timeless.
CAMBODIA, LAOS, AND VIE TNAM
Cambodia Noir. By Nick Seeley. 2016. Scribner, $26
International journalist Seeley’s debut puts the traditional noir
on steroids. Will Keller, a once-great war photographer who now
careens from drug to drug, works for a small paper in Phnom
Penh and doubles at finding missing persons. In a fast-moving nar-
rative that makes us feel like we’re riding through traffic-jammed
streets on a motorcycle, Seeley delivers an up-close, jarring look
at a city rocked with unrest and an atmospheric take on that en-
during noir protagonist, the dissolute foreign correspondent. A
sinuous, shattering thriller.
A Good Death. By Christopher Cox. 2013. Minotaur, $24.99
Cox’s debut begins with PI Sebastian Damon investigating the
death in Bangkok of a Laotian refugee, but quickly the sleuth
and an American expat are venturing far into the remote
mountains of Laos. So begins a story that channels
Conrad, Kipling, and Francis Ford Coppola,
as Cox creates a vivid sense of place, ties
his characters’ rich backstories to the
Vietnam War, and illuminates
the current plight of Laotian
hill tribes. A unique blend
of hard-boiled PI novel and
transcendent adventure tale.
I Shot the Buddha.
By Colin Cotterill.
2016. Soho, $26.95
Cotterill plunges read-
ers into the percolating
atmosphere of Laos in the
mightily to clamp down
on people’s beliefs and the
increasing tendency of
Laotians to flee to Thailand.
In this, the eleventh in
cal-humorous mystery series, Dr. Siri Paiboun, who
has been retired twice as the national coroner of Laos, continues to
fight his boredom and party rulers by solving mysteries on his own.
The Ghost Shift. By John Gapper. 2015. Ballantine, $26
At 23, Song Mei is pleasing party officials with her work on
the Guangdong Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Matters get complicated when she’s asked to investigate the murder of a woman who could be her twin and finds herself working
in tandem with an ex-CIA agent employed by an Apple-like
company. Gapper, who has made multiple visits to China and