Four Crime Novels with KILLER Settings

Shelley Burr's debut thriller Wake just launched this week. Today she is on the site with a list of four of her favorite crime novels that feature unforgettably dangerous settings.

Setting has always been an important component of the crime genre. From rainswept city streets to country manors, crumbling sidewalks to pristine beaches, setting can enhance the sense of danger, or provide a beautiful contrast to the grim events of the story. 

In recent years there has been a wealth of stories that use harsh Australian conditions as a backdrop, such as Chris Hammer’s Scrublands, Peter Papathanasiou’s The Stoning, and Anna Snoekstra’s Out of Breath. Oppressive heat, remote roads and the ever-present fire risk lend further tension to the story. 

In my debut novel Wake, I explore how a harsh setting adds an extra layer of danger. In the fictional central New South Wales town of Nannine, help is never close at hand. Characters need to be self sufficient and prepared. They need to consider how much water they have left in the tank, how much food is in the pantry, when they will next go into town and whether they have enough fuel to get there. 

Wake is the story of Mina McCreery, whose twin sister Evelyn disappeared from their shared bedroom when they were nine years old. Now a reclusive and anxious adult, Mina continues to live on the family’s de-stocked sheep farm, finding a sense of comfort and safety in her isolation. But that isolation can go from a comfort to a threat in an instant. 

The four books listed below take that threat one step further and use the weather and elements as a weapon. In some, these devices are used to trap and confine victims; in others, the detective investigates whether a victim has truly died of natural causes or met with foul play. In all of these books, the setting is killer.  


The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Jane Harper’s third novel opens with one of the most striking opening images in crime fiction today: a historic gravestone, a corpse, and a circle gouged into the earth left by the titular lost man as he desperately followed the shade cast by the gravestone, before finally succumbing to death by exposure. 


Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Allie Reynold’s debut has a set up likely to thrill fans of the golden age mystery: a group of estranged friends are lured to a ski dormitory at the peak of a glacier, then trapped when the ski lift shuts down and their phones disappear. Someone torments them with messages, phantom perfume and clues to the secrets they are all hiding. They are faced with the choice to stay put with this malevolent figure and dwindling supplies, or risk escaping down the mountain under threat of avalanches and deadly hidden crevasses. 


The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzie

Inspired by real catastrophic flooding in Queensland and northern New South Wales, Dinuka McKenzie’s assured debut follows pregnant detective Kate Miles as she attempts to untangle whether the tragic death of a local man in a flooded river was an accident, or something more sinister. The Torrent is a perfect example of this kind of mystery, where the question is not just whodunnit, but whether a crime occurred at all. 


All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Evie Wyld won the Miles Franklin Award, one of Australia’s most prestigious literary awards, for the story of sheep farmer Jake Whyte. In the present she believes she and her flock are being attacked and menaced by an unidentified creature or monster. Alternating chapters tell the story of how she came to be imprisoned on a remote outback farm, and how she escaped. All the Birds, Singing belongs on this list for more than one reason, but giving too many details why would rob the reader of Wyld’s perfectly paced reveals.



About Wake by Shelley Burr:

The tiny outback town of Nannine lies in the harsh red interior of Australia. Once a thriving center of stockyards and sheep stations, years of punishing drought have petrified the land and Nannine has been whittled down to no more than a stoplight, a couple bars, and a police stationAnd it has another, more sinister claim to fame: the still-unsolved disappearance of young Evelyn McCreery nineteen years ago.

Mina McCreery’s life has been defined by the intense public interest in her sister’s case—which is still a hot topic in true-crime chat rooms and on social media. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, Mina lives alone on her family’s sunbaked destocked sheep farm.

Enter Lane Holland, a young private investigator who dropped out of the police academy to earn a living cracking cold cases. Before she died, Mina’s mother funded a million-dollar reward for anyone who could explain how Evelyn vanished from her bed in the family’s farmhouse. The lure of cash has only increased public obsession with Evelyn and Mina—but yielded no answers.

Lane wins Mina’s trust when some of his more unconventional methods show promise. But Lane also has darker motivations, and his obsession with the search will ultimately risk both their lives—and yield shocking results.

Learn More Or Order A Copy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *