From 'Big Little Lies' to Outback-noir, Australian Crime Novels Have a Moment

Posted by Cybil on July 12, 2019

Australian author Megan Goldin is a former journalist whose thriller The Escape Room is about four colleagues who get trapped in an office elevator and find themselves pulled into a high-stakes game of survival as they discover there is a killer among them. Goldin lives with her husband and three sons in Melbourne, Australia, which is fast becoming a hotbed for crime writers.

Here she explains why your next crime novel may come from the land down under...


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Australia is having a moment right now as a crime-writing mecca.

For those familiar with Australian history, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Crime is woven deep into the fabric of Australia going back to the late 18th century when the British established penal colonies 'down under' as dumping grounds for convicts. The British sent around 160,000 convicts to Australia for committing crimes as petty as stealing sugar, pickpocketing, and setting fire to haystacks. Many Australians are the descendants of these convicts and their jailers.

There is a long tradition of crime-influenced Australian literature inspired by such characters as Ned Kelly, a bank-robbing bushranger who was the subject of Peter Carey's Booker Prize winning novel The True History of the Kelly Gang and a string of movies, including one starring Mick Jagger.

More recently, Jane Harper's novel The Dry and her new release, The Lost Man, both of which are set against the parched drought-ridden Australian landscape, have spurred the popularity of Outback-noir thrillers.

However, it's not all dusty red Australian deserts and blow flies. Sydney-based author Liane Moriarty enjoyed international success abroad even before her novel Big Little Lies was turned into a popular TV series. Australian crime writers are also writing novels set in far-flung places such as Ireland, Iceland, and New York, which is the setting of my novel, The Escape Room.

Aside from Jane Harper and Liane Moriarty, here are six other Australian crime writers to watch out for:




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"Born in Sydney, Candice Fox writes the Harriet Blue series with James Patterson as well as her own novels including Crimson Lake which is set among the crocodile infested rivers of tropical Queensland in Australia's north."


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"Brandi is an Italian-born former political adviser who grew up in a small town in Victoria. His debut, Wimmera, delves into the dark undercurrents of an Australian country town after a body is found in a river."


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"Jack Heath is a prolific young adult writer who lives in the Australian capital, Canberra. Heath has just published his second adult crime novel about Timothy Blake, a cannibal with an uncanny ability to solve crimes. Think of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Hannibal Lecter."


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"Australian journalist Chris Hammer's outback novel Scrublands is an evocative crime thriller that draws on the reporting he did when traveling through Australia to cover the worst drought in Australian history about a decade ago."


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"This corporate lawyer turned truffle farmer lives in the Snowy Mountains in southeastern Australia. She is the writer of The Rowland Sinclair series, a historical crime series about a gentleman artist and amateur sleuth who solves crimes in 1930s Australia."


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"White is a screenwriter from the picturesque Mornington Peninsula district near Melbourne. His novel The Nowhere Child is about a school teacher who is told that she may have been a child who disappeared decades earlier."




Who are some of your favorite Australian crime writers? Share your recommendations in the comments!

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Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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message 1: by Zena (new)

Zena Bethune Garry Disher


message 2: by Philip (new)

Philip I didn't see A. B. Patterson on this list


message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim "Outback Noir"?
that's funny!


message 4: by Sue (new)

Sue Michael Robotham!!!


message 5: by Elinor (new)

Elinor Emma Viskic


message 6: by Julianne (new)

Julianne Lynch It's a crime that Garry Disher is not on that list.


message 7: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Stewart Sue wrote: "Michael Robotham!!!"

While I love Robotham’s writing this list is about novels set in Australia. I’m unaware of any that are.


message 8: by Philip (new)

Philip Joshua wrote: "Sue wrote: "Michael Robotham!!!"

While I love Robotham’s writing this list is about novels set in Australia. I’m unaware of any that are."


I didn't really get the feeling that this list is exclusively limited to books set in Australia. INMHO this quote from the preamble of this article kind of implies differently " Australian crime writers are also writing novels set in far-flung places such as Ireland, Iceland, and New York, which is the setting of my novel, The Escape Room. " I primarily read Canadian authors but I have some Australians (And New Zealanders, too) that I have read and I'll try some more, too!


message 9: by Jan (new)

Jan O'connell Peter Temple and Peter Corris - both sadly no longer with us.


message 10: by Clare (new)

Clare Blazey Thank you, Megan, and congrats on THE ESCAPE ROOM! How about Sarah Barrie's Tas trilogy, BLOODTREE RIVER & DEVIL'S LAIR (just out); Aoife Clifford SECOND SIGHT (PW Pick of the Week!); J M Green's comic noir Stella Hardy series with new one SHOOT THROUGH; Jaye Ford's classic BEYOND FEAR & SCARED YET?; Susan Hurley's science thriller EIGHT LIVES; everything by Bronwyn Parry, Helene Young, and newcomer Benjamin Stevenson with GREENLIGHT...


message 11: by Cassie (new)

Cassie The Dry by Jane Harper... awesome, can't wait to read more of her books. It was the first book in our book club that everyone liked (we've been going for more than 6 years and reading a book a month).


message 12: by Ann-Mason (new)

Ann-Mason Furmage Jane Harper


message 13: by Leone (new)

Leone Congratulations Megan Goldin on “The Escape Room”. It kept me enthralled over a cold and miserable weekend recently. Look forward to reading your next book !


message 14: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Peter Temple, Chris Womersely, Adrian Hyland, Gary Disher, Helen Firzgerald and Jock Serong,


message 15: by Natalie (new)

Natalie “Crime is woven deep into the fabric of Australia going back to the late 18th century when the British established penal colonies 'down under' as dumping grounds for convicts.”

Crime is definitely woven deep into the fabric of Australia, but not from bringing in convicts, but stealing the very land off Aboriginal people and then declaring it Australia. Crime pre-dates the colonies. The very act of colonisation and formation of the country known as Australia is the crime!


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