What Got You Hooked on a Life of Crime, Margot Kinberg?

Good morning, everyone, and hope all of you had a good Easter (if you were celebrating) and at least enjoyed a bit of a longer weekend even if you were not! I am delighted to be back with a new feature. As we were discussing Flavia de Luce last week at the web-based Crime Book Club, the brainchild of the delightful and energetic Rebecca Bradley, it suddenly occurred to me:  I would like to find out more about my fellow crime fiction lovers, what got them interested in this genre and what other books they like to read in their ‘spare’ time. So every fortnight or so I will interview one of my online friends and bloggers about their reading preferences.

Margot Kinberg by www.studiocarre.com
Margot Kinberg by http://www.studiocarre.com

I am starting today with someone whom many mystery fans will know, for she is a walking encyclopaedia of crime fiction lore, a mystery author in her own right, an indefatigable blogger and one of the nicest, most supportive people I’ve met online. I give you the one and only: Margot Kinberg.

How did you get hooked on crime fiction?

It all started innocently enough. Some Sherlock Holmes stories in elementary school (I blame my Language Arts teacher), and a few Nancy Drews. What harm could that do? But then I started reading some other mystery series and I was in trouble. The turning point came when I received some Agatha Christie novels as a gift. After that, there was no hope for me. I don’t think there’s a recovery program for crime fiction addicts… 😉

Are there any particular types of crime fiction or subgenres that you prefer to read and why?

I’m actually pretty eclectic. To tell you the truth, it’s probably easier to ask which ones I don’t prefer. I really don’t like reading truly brutal serial-killer novels. There are a few I’ve read that are good, but in general, something really gory  is likely to put me off. The same is true at the other end of the spectrum. I don’t care much for ‘happy, frothy’ kinds of cosy mysteries, particularly if there’s too much emphasis on a romance and not much on the mystery plot. Other than that, I’m usually willing to try a wide variety of crime fiction. 

What is the most memorable book you’ve read recently?

That would be Paddy Richardson’s Swimming in the Dark. I’m still reflecting on it even a week after I finished reading it. She is one of my favourite authors, and her work always has a profound effect. This one is no different. It’s a novel of psychological suspense as much as it is a crime novel, and explores several other aspects of human life too. Highly recommended.
If you had to choose only one series or only one author to take with you to a deserted island, whom would you choose?
 Oh, that is such a difficult question! There is far, far too much crime fiction that I would hate to part with. If forced to, though, I would probably choose Agatha Christie. Her work has inspired me, and she wrote such a diversity of different kinds of stories. But I would have to insist on the entire collection of all of her work, including her novels as Mary Westmacott. And unless I was caught, I’d probably sneak some other books along too, wherever I could hide them.
What are you looking forward to reading in the near future?
Coming up soon is Geoffrey McGeachin’s St. Kilda Blues, the third in his Charlie Berlin series. I’m very much looking forward to reading that. I’m also looking forward to reading Ann Cleeves’ new Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez novels. Oh, and there’s Mari Strachan’s second novel Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers. That’s also on my must-read list. So is Michael Connelly’s The Gods of Guilt (I’m a Connelly fan). There are a lot of others, too, but that’s a partial list anyway.
Outside your criminal reading pursuits, what author/series/book/genre do you find yourself regularly recommending to your friends?
I like historical fiction, and in that genre, I always recommend Edward Rutherfurd. James Michener too, for those who haven’t read his work. Kate Grenville’s historical fiction is also terrific. As far as non-fiction goes, I’m a fan of the work of Jonathan Kozol, who for the past forty years has written some brilliant work about education and literacy in the US, and the impact that social class and race have on a child’s chance at educational equity. It’s hard-hitting and eye-opening. I could keep going on, but that’s at least a tiny smattering of what I read outside crime fiction.
Thank you, Margot, for taking part. Quite a few surprising answers there, even though I thought I knew your reading preferences quite well. Hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did! And let me know if you would like to take part in this. I’m a real old Nosey Parker when it comes to finding out what people like to read.



41 thoughts on “What Got You Hooked on a Life of Crime, Margot Kinberg?”

      1. I’ve just read it; great piece, thanks. I can’t decide on my favourite, but I cd never get to grips with the documents in the case. But it has to be a Wimsey story, I never cared for the ones with that travelling salesman (Montague Egg?). Lovely to find another fan.

  1. Really interesting interview, I enjoyed that. It got me thinking what my answers would be: I think crime fiction books I would like to avoid (it’s not always possible to know in advance) would be those featuring graphic and gratuitous violence against women. I’m getting increasingly intolerant of that: the sheer quantity of it around at the moment is making me (and most women I think) uncomfortable.

    On a lighter note… Agatha Christie is hard to resist for the desert island because of sheer quantity. But quality too…

    1. Moira – I couldn’t agree one bit more about the increasing number of books that feature horrific crimes against women. I avoid them myself and it is disturbing to think about how many there are.
      And you’re right too about Christie’s quality as well as quantity – definitely part of the appeal!

    2. Is that an offer, Moira? I might take you up on that if you are not careful! 😉
      I agree with you about the violence against women – and children too. It seems that there is a new threshold for gore, which writers almost feel obliged to cross, otherwise their books won’t be deemed shocking or serious or original enough.

  2. Fascinating – I think it would have to be John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen and Raymond Chandler that turned me into a mystery buff – the important bit though is probably that i was about 12 years old …

    1. Perhaps the things we read in our pre-teens and early teens do mark us profoundly. I remember as a 13-14 year old, when I was in hospital with appendicitis, reading Agatha Christie to the other ladies in my ward (88 and 74, respectively). And I thought about the wonder and power of crime fiction, that it can appeal to all ages.

    2. Sergio – Oh, that’s interesting! And oddly enough, I got hooked on crime fiction at about the same time. Must indeed be the age, as Marina Sofia suggests below.

  3. It was AC for me too. I was at the shore and a store on the boardwalk was selling her novels in big bulks. The first I read was THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD and I had no idea how novel the story was.

    1. Isn’t that a fabulous novel, Patti? One of her finest, and not at all surprising that it got you interested in crime fiction.

  4. Enjoyed that, MarinaSofia and Margot! Yes, AC for me too – mostly because of the stories of course, but also because when I was in my teens they were all reissued with cover art by a chap called Tom Adams, and I adored the covers. Collected the whole set and still have them – falling apart now from frequent re-reading.

    1. FictionFan – Oh, cover art can be a real draw. I don’t blame you either for keeping your original collection. I have a set of some of Christie’s work in paperback that I treasure like that. Covers much-used, frequent repairs, the whole thing. I don’t care. I will keep them always.

    2. They are absolutely gorgeous, aren’t they? And more than a little unsettling (I had nightmares about the cover of ‘N or M’, with its bloody clump of hair stuck to a hammer). Funnily enough, we had a little Twitter flutter about those very covers only this morning…

      1. Really? What a coincidence! I love them because they look as if he actually read the books – all the images relate to the plot but without being spoilers. In fact you can usually tell which book it is even if you don’t look at the title or read the blurb.

  5. Such an interesting topic for your interview with Margot, Marina, and such a good question. I am trying to think what got me hooked. I think it has to be AC and her books and yes, the covers do pull you in. I also like James Michener – Centennial was one of my favourites. I am a history lover too. Your question would be a wonderful one to ask many well known authors Marina – I’d love to know what they’d come up with. Thanks so much.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the interview, Jane. I’m quite honoured to have been asked. My guess would be that Agatha Christie is responsible for lots of crime fiction addiction. And it’s funny you would mention Centennial. That was, I think, my first Michener. And I hope Marina interviews lots of people – it’s been a great experience and I’d love to know the way other people would answer these questions.

      1. I really did Margot and I agree, AC is the catalyst for many crime fiction readers and writers I am sure. Centennial was my first Michener too. I loved it. I then went on to watch the serialisation on TV – back in the 1980’s I think, and loved the whole series. It was wonderful. I would love to know the answers people might give if asked about their introduction to crime fiction – I nearly wrote crime! Better not go there. lol

    2. I used to be a real historical fiction girl in my teens: all the Jean Plaidy, Philippa Gregory, absolutely adored Antonia Fraser’s biography of Mary Queen of Scots. But somehow I’ve lost all that now, with the exception of some historical crime fiction (I do like Falco, the Roman detective in Lindsey Davis). I have been meaning to get started on Wolf Hall, though, so perhaps that will rekindle my old passion. It may be shocking to admit it, but I don’t think I’ve read any James Michener, so would you recommend I start with Centennial?

      1. You could certainly do far worse than Centenniel. The Source is also excellent I think.

      2. I think so, it is about the Wild West in the USA but gives a great insight into the Native American and the way they lived and were exploited and abused but it is a lovely story. About trappers and the lives they led. I loved it and the TV series was excellent too. It is a really thick book. It is the first book Margot read of his as well. I read Jean Plaidy when I was a teenager but I’ve not read Philippa Gregory at all and I cannot recall reading Antonia Fraser, but I used to read every moment I had free so I may well have read her and forgotten! I tend not to read Historical fiction these days and I am not in to romantic fiction (historical or other) as I seem to write more than I read and I find it hard to read when I write if you get what I mean. Bit like when I was making an album, I couldn’t listen to other music when making music…weird I think but that’s how I am! 🙂

  6. This is just the post for me as I love reading Margot’s excellent blog, being a fellow crime lover. Interesting to see that Edward Rutherfield is one that she recommends historical fiction lovers too as I love his writing, the way he links all the historical periods together in one book makes for fabulous reading.

    1. Thank you, Cleo – That’s very kind of you. And I completely agree about Rutherfurd’s writing style. He’s very good isn’t he at moving the reader through several time periods in a seamless sort of a way. And he ‘does his homework.’

    2. Margot is a source of wisdom and delight, isn’t she? I was very honoured that she agreed to be my first guest. I hope you will enjoy the series as it goes on – and maybe take part in it, if you have the time?

  7. Marina Sofia, thanks for hosting Margot and your new feature promises be quite interesting.

    Margot, such a fun post. It’s always a delight to learn more about your reading taste. We share some of the same taste in authors and I always find new books to check out from you.

    1. Mason – Glad you enjoyed this. I think it’s going to be a great feature, and I was honoured to be asked to be a part of it. I think it’s great that you and I have some similar tastes in what we read. Great minds 😉 – And as far as discovering new books goes, I always find something new at your blog.

    2. Thank you for your kind words, Mason. Like you, I always enjoy finding out more about reading tastes – and Margot has a lot to answer for in terms of my TBR list!

  8. Who could be so cruel as to limit a crime fiction reader to one series on a deserted island? Surely the ship dropping off the reader would have room for more series.

    I would make sure I had the Nero Wolfe books of Rex Stout. It has the most books and stories and novellas of any series I have read.

    The John D. Macdonald series featuring Travis McGee would be included.

    Of living writers I would want the books of Michael Connelly and John Grisham.

    Lastly, I loved the Hornblower novels of C.S. Forrester. They are not crime fiction but I am sure no inspector is going to notice amidst all the mysteries.

    1. Ha, ha, I agree it is a very cruel decision – I felt all Blofeld when I wrote that question, stroking my (tabby rather than fluffy white) cat. I was thinking of Desert Island Discs – always had a problem deciding on just 10 music pieces there. Great choices you mention: I love the fact that you are going for quantity as well as quality!

    2. Bill – I agree! It would be far, far too cruel to limit a crime fiction fan to just one author/series. I like your choices very much. And I like the way you think about making sure you get some of the books you want. 😉

    1. Margot is always a great source of ‘books to be added to my reading list’. Thanks to her I’ve discovered Louise Penny, Flavia de Luce and many more. Do you find that you remember quite clearly the plot in Agatha Christie novels? Because I find that (aside from the most famous ones), I often forget ‘whodunit’, so I can reread them without losing that element of surprise.

    2. Elizabeth – Thank you. It’s been such a pleasure being here. And I do recommend Swimming in the Dark (And anything else Paddy Richardson writes). It’s an excellent read.

      1. Margot, glad to hear you’re a Michael Connelly fan – such a reliable writer, you’re always guaranteed a great story. Same with Dennis Lehane, imho.

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