Big effort combined with big schlep culminates in a rewarding experience: Current Trends in Mystery Fiction

October 4, 2019 at 5:07 pm (books, Mystery fiction)

This was a program I presented to some members of The Village in Howard, a fine local organization (with a national affiliation) which I have the privilege to belong to.

I prefaced my remarks by saying that this was a subjective assessment – by me – of how things currently stand in the field of crime fiction. I had written this reminder at the top of my notes:

Enthusiasm does not equal Expertise!

Evidence of the Big Schlep:

Thank goodness for the capacious trunk of our beloved 2019 Camry XLE V6

Thus began the program, guided by this reading list:

The return of the private eye:

No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Dead Man’s Mistress by David Housewright
Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
The Last Good Guy by T. Jefferson Parker
     Case Histories and Big Sky by Kate Atkinson
The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz

Kate Atkinson

Domestic / psychological suspense:

You Will Know Me and Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

Megan Abbott

Classic of the genre:

 A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell
Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey

Rediscoveries: three anthologies edited by Sarah Weinman:

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense
Women crime writers : four suspense novels of the 1940s:

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. More about this novel to come. Let me just say right now that I thought it was absolutey terrific!

Women crime writers : four suspense novels of the 1950s

Classic reissues and rediscoveries

Otto Penzler’s American Mystery Classics

The Case of the Careless Kitten (Perry Mason) by Erle Stanley Gardner

The D.A. Calls It Murder (Doug Selby) by Erle Stanley Gardner

British Library Crime Classics:

Mystery in White: A Christmas Crime Story by J Jefferson Farjeon
Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne
Capital Crimes: London Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

Novels in which the crime has its basis in historical fact:

Snap by Belinda Bauer
What the Dead Know and Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman

Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller

Classic of the (sub)genre:

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
“The Mystery of Marie Roget” by Edgar Allan Poe

 Edge of your seat page-turner:

The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
November Road by Lou Berney

International authors and settings:

Don’t Look Back, and He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum (Norway)
The Demon of Dakar and The Stone Coffin by Kjell Eriksson (Sweden)
The Department of Sensitive Cases by Alexander McCall Smith (Sweden)
The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon (Italy)
Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio (Italy)
Bruno Chief of Police by Martin Walker (France)
The Lost Man and The Dry by Jane Harper
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (India)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (India)
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan (India). Be sure to watch the delightful video embedded in this post!

Alexander McCall Smith

Jane Harper

Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny (Quebec)

 


Ah, Louise Penny, and her quaint little village of Three Pines filled with lovable eccentrics….At least, most of them are endearing. Elderly poet Ruth Zardo and her pet duck Rosa are anything but! Ruth spews profanity at every opportunity, and the villagers just grin and take it in stride. I, on the other hand, have a different reaction to her. But credit where it’s due: Several members of the group began praising this series as soon as I mentioned it. I personally blow hot and cold on this subject. I found A Beautiful Mystery, which many reader loved, impossibly inert. I couldn’t finish it. The series entry I like best is still Bury Your Dead, which brought Quebec City wonderfully to life.

USA

Maine: Paul Doiron
Vermont: Archer Mayor
Wyoming: Craig Johnson, C.J. Box
Minnesota: John Sandford, Vidar Sundstol, William Kent Krueger,
P.J. Tracy

Historical mysteries:

The Apothecary Rose by Candace Robb
A Famine of Horses by PF Chisholm
A Dark Anatomy by Robin Blake
The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor
The Face of a Stranger and Sins of the Wolf by Anne Perry

Legal thrillers:

David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series (with Tara the Golden Retriever)

Police procedurals – authors and their protagonists:

Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch   (I Gotta Brag department: A slightly altered version of this article appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Mystery Readers Journal.)
Archer Mayor: Joe Gunther   Mention of the  excellent Mr. Mayor gives me the chance to review several occasions on which my friends and I have encountered our favorite authors in the flesh! Marge has met numerous writers on her British Mystery Trip excursions, the writing team of Charles Todd, mother and  son, among them; Jean encountered Donna Leon in Florence – though at the time, Ms Leon failed to acknowledge her identity; I stood next to Archer Mayor at BWI Airport, meeting confirmed subsequently via email.

Archer Mayor

Meanwhile I’d like to congratulate Mr. Mayor on his thirtieth Joe Gunther novel, Bomber’s Moon. Rarely has a series maintained such consistent high quality as this one has.
Peter Robinson: Alan Banks
Val McDermid: Karen Pirie (Just reread Broken Ground for a book discussion and enjoyed it even more the second time around.)
Alexander McCall Smith: Inspector Varg
Jussi Adler-Olsen: Carl Mork, Department Q
Ann Cleeves: Vera Stanhope  I love this series, both the books and the television series.


Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad

Georges Simenon: Inspector Maigret

Regional/local:

Lady in the Lake and Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

Comments in passing:

One person in the group – so sorry, I can’t recall just who – said that in the works of Donna Leon and Louise Penny, she found a certain philosophical bent – “almost existential.”

Jean recommended the mysteries of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels. (These were originally written using the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.) Her protagonist has  the memorable first name of Cormoran Strike. I read the first one, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and enjoyed it.

Jean also recommended – very highly –  The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. This book has been getting great reviews. I impatiently await the arrival of my library reserve copy.

Someone recommended the novels of Charles Todd, commenting that the books had given her insight into what life was like for veterans of the First World War who were psychically damaged by the experience of serving in that horrendous conflict. Marge is also an enthusiastic reader of this author’s works.

There were other insightful questions and comments offered by the participants in this session. It made for a stimulating and enjoyable morning.

Rewarding indeed!

It’s about crime:

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, by Martin Edwards

Books To Die For: The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels, ed. By John Connolly and Declan Burke

The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, by Barry Forshaw

The Black Mask Boys: Masters of the Hard-Boiled School of Detective Fiction, by William F. Nolan (1985) From William Nolan’s introduction:

Black Mask, and the fiction it printed, grew directly out of the era between the two wars, when machine guns flashed fire from low-slung black limousines, when the corner speakeasy served rotgut gin, when swift rum-runners made night drops in dark coastal waters, when police and politicians were as corrupt as the gangsters they protected, when cons and crooks prowled New York alleys and lurked in trackside hobo jungles, when Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd and Al Capone made daily headlines and terrorized a nation….

The elegant, deductive sleuth, the calm, calculating sifter of clues, gave way to a new breed–the wary, wisecracking knight of the .45, an often violent, always unpredictable urban vigilante fashioned in the rugged frontier tradition of the western gunfighter.

In the pages of Black Mask, the private eye was born.

www.stopyourekillingme.com,

The Crimereads Brief

Periodicals:

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine – George Easter, editor
Mystery Scene Magazine
Mystery Readers Journal – Janet Rudolph, editor

We lovers of crime fiction owe a debt of gratitude to these three scholars of the field:

 

Martin Edwards

 

Sarah Weinman

 

3 Comments

  1. pamkirst2014 said,

    You’ve included some of my favorites, and I’ve noted some others to investigate!

  2. candacerobbbooks said,

    Honored to be mentioned here!

    • Roberta Rood said,

      What a gracious comment! I’ve enjoyed your novels and look forward to reading more in the future.

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