Whodunit heaven, that is. I like them hard-boiled and full of creeps, weirdos, and cruds, and Crimson Lake, by Candice Fox, is the ideal pick. Ted Conkaffey, a former cop, accused but not convicted of the brutal rape and attempted murder of a young girl, has been released from prison due to insufficient evidence. Broken and haunted by the knowledge that he could be retried at any time, he leaves Sydney, Australia to hide out in Crimson Lake, a shabby little town in Queensland. Even with a name change, there’s no respite from suspicion and recrimination from vengeful cops and local vigilantes. When his lawyer pushes him into taking on a missing-persons case with an eccentric private eye, Amanda Pharrell, who happens to be a convicted murderer, Conkaffey agrees. A friendship slowly grows between them, and Amanda’s history gradually emerges. Weird, vulnerable but tough, and with every inch of exposed skin tattooed, Amanda is an inspired and insightful character. Together, she and Conkaffey look into the disappearance of a local author and find boozy wives, disgruntled teenagers, rabid fanboys, evil good girls, and lethal crocodiles. Reminiscent of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, this is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time, with its sense of menace and its surprising conclusion making it an exciting read.