The crime fiction community knows Craig Sisterson for his excellent book reviews, his stellar panel moderation, and his overall extensive background knowledge of the genre itself, but being unable to sit back and rest, Sisterson is also the editor of two excellent short story anthologies. The second of which, Dark Deeds Down Under: A Crime and Thriller Anthology, was released in 2022 and will be a revelation for many readers who are unfamiliar with the crime fiction output from Australia and New Zealand.
Dark Deeds Down Under: A Crime and Thriller Anthology contains nineteen stories from some of the best practitioners of crime writing from that region of the world. Some names like Kerry Greenwood, Aoife Clifford, R. W. R. McDonald, and Sulari Gentill may be familiar to the most well-read among us, but the vast majority are likely to be new discoveries.
Several of the authors use their most famous fictional characters as the centerpiece of their story. Admittedly, this can at times be challenging for new readers as it seems part of the puzzle is missing—all that foreknowledge of a character that comes with following them through a series of novels. However, by and large, even readers completely unfamiliar with those authors (and/or characters) will find the resulting stories enjoyable in their own right.
A few of my favorites include:
“Nancys Undercover” by R. W. R. McDonald featuring Tippy Chan and her gay Uncles, Pike and Devon, once again getting caught up in another crazy crime caper. Fans of vintage Nancy Drew mysteries will find much to love about this band of outcasts saving the day.
Narrelle M. Harris’ “Observations on a Tragedy” which serves as a guidepost through the collection, with each of the Three Acts appearing randomly between other stories. This one hit both my love of mystery and my love of theater and most certainly left me wanting more from this author and her clever (both in mind and in creation) narrator.
In Dinuka McKenzie’s “Skin Deep,” the author crafts a backstory for her series character—Detective Sergeant Kate Miles—providing the perfect launching pad for new readers to discover how this biracial character came to be the loyal and trustworthy beacon of hope readers of her debut have come to love.
And I can’t not mention Kerry Greenwood. In “The Rooming House,” baker and part-time sleuth Corinna Chapman is once again on the case in a cozy-ish mystery that uses layers to build depth—to both characters and plot.
Speaking of which, the stories in Down Under: A Crime and Thriller Anthology cover the vast breadth of sub-genres which the crime fiction moniker incorporates. There are true mysteries, some suspense tales, a few that more closely resemble thrillers, set in both contemporary and in “other” times. Some take themselves very seriously, while others acknowledge how much fun it can be to solve a crime—while trying to stay alive.
All in all, Dark Deeds Down Under: A Crime and Thriller Anthology is a great collection to add to your personal library shelves. It is sure to expand your horizons as it provides stories by authors from distant lands, sometimes with different sensibilities, but always with the same aim of providing some justice in our chaotic world.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.