Reading Australian Crime Fiction

The Stella Bruno Investigates series is set in and around Adelaide, South Australia.

A few things to bear in mind when reading Australian crime fiction.

Australia converted to the metric system in 1975, so the units of measurement are the same as the ones you’d encounter in Europe. Distance is expressed in kilometres (and we spell it that way too), temperature in degrees Celsius, weight in kilograms, and height in metres or centimetres.

Some older Australians still think in terms of feet and inches, so you might come across a phrase like ‘She was five foot nothing!’ – meaning she was short, or ‘He was about six foot four.’ – meaning he was tall, in the dialogue of an Australian crime novel.

Australians don’t think it’s hot until the mercury is pushing 35C (95F) and they start to slow down when it hits 40C (104F). On the other hand, Aussies think 10C (50F) is cold, unless they live in Canberra, where it does get down to 0C and below.

In Stella Bruno’s home state, a north wind during the summer months is hot, as it’s travelled a long way overland before it hits Adelaide, where most South Australians live. In the winter months, the south wind blows in from Antarctica. It’s frigid – but nothing like the freezing north winds that sweep down across Canada into the USA from the Arctic – since there’s a fair bit of ocean between Australia and Antarctica, which makes all the difference.

Although numerous Americanisms have crept into everyday Australian speech, there are still many peculiarly Aussie terms like bloke (man/guy) and mate (buddy/friend) in common use. The infamous ‘G’Day, mate!’ is still common, and it’s used with both friends and strangers alike. In fact, mate is often used as a form of address with strangers, as in ‘Listen, mate!’ or ‘Can I help you, mate?’

Australia is a multi-cultural society where you’ll find a mix of people from all parts of Europe, India, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, and Oceania, especially in the cities, so it’s not unusual for a character like Stella Bruno, with her extended Italian family, to be a police officer.

While we’re talking police officers, Australians use that term but the ranks used in our police forces mirror the ranks used in British police forces, so we have Chief Inspectors and Inspectors and not Captains and Lieutenants, and an officer is known as a Constable. And, the only place you’ll find a Sheriff is in a Court.

All police officers in Australia are highly trained professionals. There are no political positions, like Sheriff, to be elected into as you find in the USA.

Each Australian state has its own police force and we have a federal force known as the Australian Federal Police. Although we have state limited jurisdictions, we don’t have to worry about county lines or city limits, and our forces cooperate across state borders.

From a crime writer’s perspective, Australia’s a rich source of ideas for stories set in a unique landscape. I hope you enjoy them.