by Jack Heath
(Allen & Unwin, $33)
Canberra-based writer Jack Heath is prolific. Before turning his hand to the thriller genre, he authored 20 YA novels and is a popular speaker, promoting reading and writing to kids. Hunter is his second adult thriller, a sequel to Hangman, which introduced Timothy Blake who has a thing for eating human flesh. There we met a protagonist who fed his strange addiction by working for the FBI, receiving the recently executed to dine on instead of a paycheque: "It's like playing hangman, but in reverse," says his handler in that book. "When you solve the puzzle, you get the guy on the gallows." The saving grace, if you will, is that Blake only eats "bad people" — and there are plenty of those in Heath's Houston. Fans of Greg Hurwitz's vigilante assassin Evan Smoak will enjoy. Others may tire of the cartoon gore.
LEAVE NO TRACE
by Mindy Mejia (Quercus, $33)
This Minnesota-based writer's debut thriller 2016's The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman was a fabulous work — moving, beautifully written and featuring a rural Midwest setting not often glimpsed in crime fiction. If Leave No Trace doesn't quite live up to its predecessor, that says more about the power of Hattie, than the failings of this rich and atmospheric thriller.
Maya Stark's a young speech therapist in a mental facility when 19-year-old Lucas Blackthorn arrives. He's been out in the wilderness of Minnesota's Boundary Waters with his father since he was a child. He comes in feral and violent. Stark's back story ("a vase glued carefully back together"), which Mejia reveals slowly, is just as turbulent and a bond forms between them. Again Mejia writes brilliantly of landscape both interior and real and while Leave No Trace is a perfectly respectable thriller, I found the mechanics of the story too far fetched to convince, especially given Maya's back story, which was perhaps worthy of a novel itself.
Read my 2017 interview with Mindy here.