Thursday, September 11, 2014


SEX CRIMES by Paul Thomas (Random House, 2003)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

The things we do for sex - lie, cheat, scheme, kill ... SEX CRIMES is seven delicious helpings of irony, intrigue and full-on entertainment from the writer who the celebrated Australian author Marele Day described as 'a master of plot, pace and the killer one-liner'.

I'm more than a bit of a fan of books by Paul Thomas.  I'm more than a bit of a fan of his short stories now as well.  SEX CRIMES is a series of fantastic short stories themed around sex.  As the blurb puts it "exploring the unpredictable and sometimes fatal consequences that can occur when sex rears its not-so-uly head."  (To say nothing of the odd looks you get when you're sat in public places, with a book which declares it's title obviously on the cover, and you, the reader, are snickering and outright laughing at points).  Needless to say - this book quickly became a home based guilty pleasure.

Universally these stories are incredibly clever in the way that they build up the scenario quickly, create strong plots and/or strong characterisations, and deliver the resolution in such a short, sharp burst of words.  The only story that perhaps doesn't work as well is, strangely, the longest one - revenge being a fantastic subject to explore, unfortunately this vehicle may have just simply been a bit too long at the end of a book that delivered so many other short, sharp, elegantly composed offerings.

I really do wonder why it is that short story collections have been so rare at points.  They are the perfect fodder for busy readers, they work as a quick read before turning off the light, they are perfect for the time spent waiting in the car for whoever it is that's running late from wherever, they are particularly perfect for that "sitting around" waiting time that seems to go with all appointment based services these days. Although, given that you're not going to be able to get through this entire book without collapsing with laughter at some point, it might be best to wrap SEX CRIMES in a plain paper cover - you might find the area around you clears a bit and people start crossing the road to avoid you otherwise.

Karen Chisholm is one of the most respected crime fiction reviewers in Australia. She has been running her Aust Crime Fiction website since 2006, highlighting a plethora of authors and titles from this part of the world, to the wider world online. It is a terrific resource - please check it out. 

Karen also reviews for the Newtown Review of Books, and since 2014 has been a Judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel - the New Zealand crime writing award. Her reviews of New Zealand crime novels will now be shared here on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

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