Put down that damn Jodi Picoult novel because we’ve dug up the best Aussie true crime books on the market just in time for Christmas, and Jodi’s latest heartbreaking courtroom drama is going to have to wait. Hours of bookshop research have told us that Australia is home to some pretty insane, real-life murder mysteries, and paired with a hot cup of tea and a few choccie bikkies, they make for a delicious night in this festive season.
Here are the best Aussie true crime novels to binge read these holidays.
1. Tall Man: The Death Of Doomadgee
This little number is based on the suspicious death of an imprisoned indigenous man in 2004. Set in the deep north of Australia, on Palm Island, middle-aged man Cameron Doomadgee is arrested for being a potty mouth in front of a white police officer. Less than an hour later, he turns up dead in the jailhouse as a result of ‘tripping over’, except according to the autopsy - that makes no sense. Commissioned by the pro bono lawyer who represented Doomadgee’s family, this is an unforgettable read about power struggles, revenge and justice.
2. Huckstepp: A Dangerous Life
This Australian story is a true crime classic and a must-read for anyone interested in real-life Aussie murder mysteries. In it, Huckstepp investigates the murder of a sprightly young lady who caught the country’s attention from the first moment she appeared on television, accusing New South Wales detectives of murdering her boyfriend. This is a fantastically written true story of a gutsy gal who paid the ultimate price on her quest for justice. Bum-bum-boooooow.
3. Joe Cinque’s Consolation
The description of this page-turning puzzler makes about as much sense as pineapple on pizza, but for that reason it’ll take you only half an afternoon to demolish. In 1997, a young ANU law student apparently makes a plan to slaughter her beloved boyfriend upon the conclusion of a dinner party she’s hosting at her house. Disturbingly, several of the dinner guests are aware of it, however none of them thought to warn old mate Joe who dies in his own bed of a massive dose of Rohypnol and heroin. I dare you NOT to go and buy this book now.
4. Snowtown: The Bodies In Barrels Murders
Some call the Snowtown murders Australia’s most notorious criminal case, and for good reason. In 1999, bodies were discovered in barrels inside at bank vault in the South Australian destination of Snowtown. One of the first reporters on the scene was former police reporter, Jeremy Pudney, who pieces all the bits of the puzzle together in order to get to the bottom of the Snowtown murders. The book covers not only the lives of the victims, but of those convicted and the strange circumstances that led them to get away with such violent crimes for so long. It’s tantalisingly spooky and equally horrifying.
5. Tamam Shud: The Somerton Man Mystery
The Somerton Man case remains one of Australia’s most well-known mysteries. In 1948, a body is discovered on a beach in Adelaide, well-dressed and unscathed, and with only a half-smoked cigarette by his side. Due to the fact that he had no identification with him, we still don’t know who he was or how he died these six decades later, what we do know is it was turned into a bloody good book that explores the ins and outs of how the mystery man could have turned up dead on the beach, and why the crime was never solved.
6. The Killing Of Caroline Byrne: A Journey To Justice
One night, during the mid-nineties, stunning Sydney model Caroline Byrne dies after she lands head-first into a crevice at the bottom of The Gap in the Sydney Harbour entrance (fecking ouch!). Was it suicide? Was it murder? All we know is it’s the story of Tony Byrne’s determination to find out the truth of his daughter’s death that hooks us in and leaves us wanting more. More well written crime fic, not unjust murder that is.
7. Gun Alley
Gun Alley is an enthralling story of how botched police work, trial by media and lynch-law hysteria led to the conviction and subsequent hanging of an innocent Australian man. The pages in this cracking book delve into the reasons why this confronting conspiracy was targeted towards an innocent person, and reveals vital and never-before-seen clues that, after eighty years, point to the real killer. Phwoar.
8. Searching For The Beaumont Children
Probably don’t pick this one up if you’re a parent yourself because the Beaumont Children mystery is one of the saddest and devastating of its kind in Australia. On January 26 1966, three siblings left their Adelaide home and set off for the beach. By the end of the day, none of the children had returned home and the ‘Beaumont Children Case’ remains Australia’s most famous (and gut-wrenching) unsolved mysteries. This book will have you burrowing down conspiracy rabbit holes all over the internet for days.
Prefer to listen over reading? Here are the best true crime podcasts you should be throwing into your ears.
Image: Snowtown culprits