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Desert Island Crime with Michael Robotham

Desert Island Crime


Welcome to Desert Island Crime, where each month a well-known Crime and Thriller writer will reveal the 8 chilling titles that they’d take with them if stranded on a desert Island.


This month we welcome Michael Robotham, author of Good Girl, Bad Girl and When She Was Good, to reveal all… Over to you Michael!



Long before Lisbeth Salander, Harry Hole and Kurt Wallander emerged from the snows of Scandinavia, another giant stepped from the ice. Her name was Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen, but she’s best known as ‘Miss Smilla’, a heroine with an unforgettable voice and a feeling for snow.

Some characters in crime fiction are heart stopping and others are heart breaking, but occasionally one emerges who is both. Smilla is a loner caught between two worlds – the rich, privileged life of her father, a celebrated surgeon, and the poverty but joy of her Inuit childhood in Greenland. Now middle-aged, she is drawn out of her seclusion by the death of a young boy, who falls from the roof of her apartment block.

The ending might be slightly underwhelming, but I don’t care. I’m in love with Smilla. I wish I’d written her. I wish I knew her.



Part psychological thriller and part chronicle of debauched, wasted youth, this stunning novel is proof positive that there is no demarcation between genre fiction and literary fiction – a novel can be both. The Secret History tells the story of a group of eccentric students, who let normal morality slip and fall into a world of betrayal and corruption, that will alter their lives forever.


THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple

We lost Peter Temple last year, which saddens me more each time I glance at my bookshelf. He was truly one of Australia’s great writers, who never sacrificed the nuances of character, setting, or back story for the sake of plot or pace, giving equal care and attention to even minor players.

The Broken Shore deservedly won the CWA Gold Dagger in 2007. It’s a terrific story full of simmering corruption and prejudice, full of glorious observations and some of the best writing in the genre.



I could have chosen any one of a dozen books by James Lee Burke for this list, but this one has stayed with me the longest. Set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, a disaster of Biblical proportions, Burke’s writing suits such a setting because he has always been fascinated by good and evil, revenge and forgiveness.

Although it features his usual detective, Dave Robicheaux, the smaller characters are even more interesting, including two looters and a junkie priest. This is a book that will make you angry and make you cry, but more importantly it will make you think.



Another writer who rarely disappoints, this novel won over a new generation of readers. It tells the story of Justin Quayle, a middling British diplomat posted to Kenya, who begins to investigate the gruesome murder of his young adventurous wife, who dies while investigating the dark side of unbridled capitalism.



In a long and prize-studded career, this is Val McDermid’s finest novel – a Greek tragedy set in 1963 on the streets of Manchester when two children have disappeared off the streets and the infamous careers of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady are just beginning. This is a tense, taut psychological thriller told from multiple viewpoints where expectations are constantly subverted and the greatest deception is how we deceive ourselves.



It’s more than thirty years since Presumed Innocent was published, but it continues to shape the literary world that we live in, influencing novels like Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train and a slew of fiction that utilises the technique of the unreliable narrator. It tells the story of a Rusty Savage, a man whose fatal attraction for a colleague who turns up dead puts everything he loves and values on trial, including his own life. Yet again it proves that highbrow literature and middlebrow entertainment are not mutually exclusive.


GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

Clever, compelling and ingenuous, Gone Girl is full of wonderful writing and clever social commentary, but more than anything else, it subverts the crime genre in a spectacular way. Neither of the two main characters Nick or Amy are particular likeable and readers don’t know who to hate most as they each narrate the story of Amy’s disappearance and possible murder.  Both are victims. Both are aggressors. Both deserve each other.