Cool stuff from the Selectors: Fiction news

Who isn’t writing crime and mystery novels these days? If Dickens, Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope were around now, they’d be making sure that murder and detection was the place to be.


Interesting authors in this field doing the murder route include Jessica Fellowes, (niece of the man who gave the world Downton Abbey), with The Mitford murders,  John Gordon Sinclair (the actor from the much loved comedy Gregory’s girl), has a mystery coming up called Walk in silence and Lottie Moggach, daughter of Deborah, has Under the sun.

Aside from promising crime there is a new novel by Salman Rushdie, The golden house, which deals with Obama and Trump America.

A former Booker winner Roddy Doyle has a new novel called Smile.

And don’t forget the Film Festival coming up. One of the most interesting films is an adaptation of the Thomas Cullinan novel The beguiled. Originally made as a vehicle for Clint Eastwood, the novel now gets a feminist makeover by Sofia Coppola with Nicole Kidman leading the cast. We have the reprint of the novel on order.

Ngaio Marsh – Crime writer now in eBooks

Ngaio Marsh was so much more than a crime writer. But remember we have over 30 of her crime novels as eBooks.

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If you enjoy crime fiction consider crossing the ditch this Christmas holidays.

Due to the popularity of recent Australian TV series Underbelly one could say Kiwis have a penchant for Australian crime stories and the colourful characters portrayed in them.

If you are into crime fiction may I suggest reading some of the excellent writing by Australian authors.

One of the things I enjoy about these reads is the authenticity of the dialogue.
Having lived for many years in various parts of Australia I find I can pick up the State or area that is being written about depending on the particular vernacular being used.

If you are looking for a good plot, and strong main characters try Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore with the interesting character Joe Cashin or any of his Jack Irish novels.
Garry Disher provides all the ingredients to make a good read in his novels. Try his latest novel Bitter Wash Road and I suggest you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for something along the lines of Femme Fatale try author Tara Moss.

We also have a If you like…Australian crime fiction list of recommended authors which serves up more lively suggestions.
I hope you find these reads as engaging as I have.

Seasons greetings

The joy of noir

Cover of The spies of WarsawI’m  happy. This week the television adaptation of The spies of Warsaw started screening. I’m a long time fan of the author  Alan Furst who has written a number of fascinating novels set in pre-WWII and wartime Europe featuring spies and resistants. His heroes are often sophisticated denizens of major capitals like Paris, Warsaw and Vienna and move easily between high and low life. It’s all very noirish – a phrase much abused I suspect.

I looked up noir in Wikipedia and came up with Film noir:

Film noir (/fɪlm nwɑr/; French pronunciation: ​[film nwaʁ]) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.

Some key words jump out: cynical attitudes, sexual motivations and crime. That pretty much describes a noir novel I think. The world weary hero is sexually sophisticated and operating in a criminal milieu. (Note how writing about noir leads you to throw around those fancy French words).

If reading noirish novels is your thing we have a good list of suggestions called Europe Noir and featuring classics: Le Carre, Philip Kerr, Eric Ambler as well as current writers in that area. Happy noir reading and viewing.

Ihaka’s back

Cover of Death on DemandIt’s been a decade-long wait, but rogue detective Tito Ihaka is back solving murders and really annoying his superiors in Death on demand, Paul Thomas‘s latest novel.

An award-winning, internationally published New Zealand author whose work has been translated into several languages, Thomas is a journalist and has written several sports biographies, however he’s best known for the three popular thrillers that make up the Ihaka trilogy.

Out of condition, insubordinate in the extreme but unstoppable in his pursuit of the bad guys, Ihaka is a great character, and Thomas’s ear for New Zealand speech, his humour and his deft plots make these books a pleasure to wolf down in one sitting.

When hCover of The Ihaka Trilogye appeared at Writers and Readers Week in the 2012 International Arts Festival, the brochure said Thomas had “dragged local murder mysteries into modernity”. Fresh from his appearance with other New Zealand crime writers in Wellington, he will be appearing at Tommy Chang’s in Lyttelton on Wednesday 21st March from 5.30 – 7pm as part of New Zealand Book Month.

Don’t miss out – book now!

P.S. And there’s another treat in store: Devilish Mary & the Holy Rollers will provide the music.

“Dark places” leads reader to aim for the light!

I have to confess I am not really a “who dunnit” reader.  I  blame watching one to many mind numbing crime programmes on television. I now pretty much don’t care  about these imaginary victims with their corpses displayed for my viewing pleasure (they are getting more and more graphic have you noticed?)  nor can I be  bothered waiting to see who did what to whom and why (their mother was too clingy, they are greedy or just plain psychopaths ). But I do have to confess that Gillian Flynn’s “Dark Places” has managed to change that.

None of the main players in this book are likable. There is no truely innocent victim nor some hardened but likable local cop.  The main protagonists in this book is the greasy haired angry and depressed Libby Day, who lives off the proceeds of her dwindling trust fund, set up for her when as a child her mother and two sisters were slaughtered in the family’s Kansas farmhouse.  It was a seven-year-old Libby’s testimony that sent her then 15-year-old brother, Ben, to prison for life for the murders. Ben, who we also get to know well in the book as an awkward and angry manchild, yearning for a father-figure while being raised in a poverty-stricken household by a single overwhelmed mother.

We meet Libby twenty odd years latter after the murders, when desperate for cash she reluctantly agrees to meet members of the Kill Club, true crime enthusiasts who bicker over famous cases. She’s shocked to learn most of them believe Ben is innocent and the real killer is still on the loose. Though initially interested only in making a quick buck Libby  soon begins to question what exactly she saw—or didn’t see—the night of the tragedy.

The book is told in an interesting flashback format, with Libby, tough and damaged  narrating the present-day chapters in first-person, while the flashback chapters, told in third-person, describe the actions of several key characters including Ben on one winter’s day in 1985.

Trust me – you will never guess what happened in that farmhouse in 1985  and I challenge you not to have your mouth agape at the end when you find out!    

Italian noir

My colleague Mark was complaining in a previous blog about the lack of gritty crime novels. I think he should try Italian crime novels, part of a genre termed “Mediterranean noir” by those who write about books. I’ve long been a fan of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti, but feel that she has “gone off” lately (another highly technical term used by librarians), so I went looking for some more in a similar vein.

I think I found an arterial supply of gritty stuff. Here are some names; Andrea Camilleri, whose Detective Montalbano is refreshingly sardonic. Carlo Lucarelli’s trilogy of crime novels Carte blanche, The damned season, and Via delle Oche feature De Luca, a police officer who changes sides from fascist to whatever will keep his skin in one piece, whilst preserving his passion for the truth in forensics. Ottavio Cappellani’s two novels Who is Lou Sciortino? and Sicilian tragedee (sic) are the Sopranos as filmed by Fellini. I could go on, but discover Italian noir (should that be nero?) for yourselves.

Monday night murders

Dexter in the dark by Jeff LindsayIt’s a worrying thing when you find yourself rooting for the main character in a television show…and the character in question is a psychopathic serial killer.  Let’s just say it gives one pause, but such moral quandaries are par for the course when watching TV3 crime show with a difference, Dexter.  Monday nights on TV3 are very much a smorgasbord of blood splatter and forensics with first Bones and then the aforementioned Dexter.

If, like me you’ve been enjoying a regular Monday night dose of crime and punishment then you might like to consider digging a little deeper and checking out some of the crime fiction that’s inspired the shows.

Dexter is based on the novels by crime novelist Jeff Lindsay while Bones is based on the well known series of books by Kathy Reichs.

Exit Music and End Games

Excellent Scottish writer Ian Rankin is due to visit Christchurch tomorrow. I’ve always been a fan – he is one of the few writers for whom I’ll happily yield up an outrageous amount of money for a large format paperback just to read his newest offering as soon as possible. Sadly Ian has retired his Inspector Rebus and the latest novel Exit Music will be the last in the series. I’m a fan of crime fiction as long it is not in the gruesome serial killer formula and anything with good characterisation, plotting and good writing will get my attention, so learning that one of the best will be no more is rather sad.Book cover: Exit Music

2007 has seen another favourite crime writer Michael Dibdin write his last Inspector Zen novel. In this case it was because Dibdin died. Read Michael Dibdin’s obituary in the Guardian. Both Rankin and Dibdin are fine writers by any standard and the word “formula” does not really apply.

A visit to Ian Rankin’s official website is an interesting one. There is lots of good fan stuff – lists of all his books, a map of Edinburgh, quizzes, video clips of interviews with the author and so on.

Some of my other favourite crime writers seem to still be going strong – Lawrence Block (Bernie Rhodenbarr), Tony Hillerman (Joe Leaphorn), Walter Mosley (Easy Rawlins), Donna Leon (Inspector Brunetti), Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch), Ruth Rendell (Inspector Wexford) and Peter Robinson (Inspector Banks) – but new suggestions are always welcome.