An intro to the bourgeoning genre of outback noir.
If you’re a fan of crime and thrillers, you might have noticed an interesting phenomenon.
Over the past few years, countless crime novels have been set in the Australian outback, but why?
While it may seem like a coincidence, there are actually several reasons why the Australian outback has become a backdrop for crime novels. So much so, in fact, that there is an entire genre dedicated to these types of books.
Dubbed outback noir, bush noir, Aussie noir, or Australian noir, this subgenre perfectly melds landscape and plot to create a feeling of remoteness. The outback provides the perfect atmosphere for mystery and suspense with its vast expanses, extreme climate, and relatively small population.
What is Australian noir?
Before understanding Australian noir, it's necessary to first know what noir is.
A subgenre of crime fiction, noir delineates a story where
- characters might have questionable morals
- the difference between right and wrong is blurred
- the ending (usually) isn't happy.
As the name suggests, Australian noir takes these typical noir conventions and plops them down in the outback.
While Australian noir is similar to all crime fiction in that it revolves around solving a crime or mystery, the distinction of the harsh environment stretches characters and storylines to their extremes.
Each action and every line of dialogue is amplified and underscored by the setting, making Australian noir one of the most enthralling subgenres to delve into.
With several notable crime authors including Margaret Hickey, Michael Trant, Lyn Yeowart and Benjamin Stevenson setting their stories in the Australian outback, it’s safe to say that outback noir is more than a fad. The prevalence of Australian noir suggests that this setting-based subgenre is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Why is setting so important in crime fiction?
Setting is always important. When it comes to crime fiction, though, getting the setting right is abosultely essential, as it’s a huge factor in the way a shrouded plot unfolds.
Crime novels require an element of mystery, so it’s critical that the setting provides enough leeway for authors to explore plot twists while keeping the turn of events believable. Readers need to be able to immerse themselves in the drama as they accompany the book’s characters in piecing together the puzzle pieces.
In the outback, these trials and tribulations are amplified by the weather, remoteness, and sense of solitude that the landscape provides. Each of these elements heightens the stakes for characters as they work through a mystery in this trying envirnoment.
The atmosphere also gives authors an advantage while developing the story. In the outback setting, authors have a vast environment within which they can build suspense. In the wide expanse of rural Australia, it’s possible to create scenarios that wouldn’t be believable elsewhere.Characters can scream loudly without anyone hearing, they can drive for miles without ever escaping, and they can easily disappear without a trace.
Some of the best crime novels set in the Australian outback
Sound captivating? It is.
See for yourself how the outback sets the perfect stage for crime novels, and prepare to be hooked. Once you give one of these page-turners a try, you'll want to make your way through the whole list.
Dive right into one of these outback crime novels to see what all the buzz is about.
Stone Town by Margaret Hickey
Margaret Hickey fans, you’ll want to keep an eye on this one. Coming out 5 July 2022, Stone Town is a captivating drama centred around three teenagers who find a body in the bushland on a rainy Friday night. By the author of the bestselling Cutters End, this is an upcoming read worth pre-ordering.
Cutters End by Margaret Hickey
Cutters End is a supreme example of outback noir, with an atmospheric landscape that amplifies the tension of the entire plot. Following a murder case that spans thirty-two years, the book weaves an intricate plot that’s unpredictable and fast-paced.
Wild Dogs by Michael Trant
Gabe Ahern lives a solitary life in the rangelands of Western Australia, making his living trapping wild dogs for station owners. That is, until he saves a surprising stranger from execution. Now a target, Gabe gets caught up in a ruthless game of cat and mouse that will have you saying ‘just one more chapter’.
The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart
Fear, secrets and lies define Joy Henderson’s family. Even as a child, she could see her father’s two sides: a loved pillar in their rural Australian community, but a diabolical monster behind closed doors. Twenty years later, she returns to care for him in his final days. But when she decides it’s time for the truth to come out, she’s faced with the reality that things never turn out quite the way you expect them to.
Greenlight by Benjamin Stevenson
When producer Jack Quick’s true-crime documentary results in the release of a convicted murderer, things start to get grizzly. A new victim is found bearing horrifying similarities to the original murder, and Jack might be to blame. By overlooking a minor detail that may have proved his premise wrong, Jack might have helped a killer walk free. Now there’s only one option left. The truth.
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