What Got You Hooked on Crime, Mel McKissock?


Mel McKissock is another fellow crime fiction aficionado that I met via the excellent virtual Crime Book Club organised by Rebecca Bradley. Based in Melbourne, Mel makes almost superhuman efforts to join us at the monthly book clubs, in the early hours of the morning (her time). You can find Mel on Twitter at more sociable hours and she always adds a touch of Australian knowledge to her reading passions.

How did you get hooked on crime fiction?

Like so many other avid crime fiction fans, it was Agatha Christie who gave me my first taste of crime fiction. My parents had a complete set of her novels, and I steadily worked my way through them in my early teens, starting, I think, with ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.’ I moved on to more of the Golden Age crime writers, such as Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh.

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

These days I enjoy contemporary crime novels. I love learning about new places and cultures, so anything with a strong sense of place is particularly interesting.  I love Scottish noir and Scandi noir, one of my favourite Scandi authors being Karin Fossum, who can bring out the pathos of a crime like no one else. I’ve recently discovered the Jungle Beat series, by John Enright, set in Samoa, and the Edie Kiglatuk series, set in the Arctic Circle, by M.J McGrath. Both of these series have taught me a great deal about their respective settings and I enjoy anything that really immerses me in a whole other world!

If you had to choose only one series or only one author to take with you to a deserted island, whom would you choose?

Only one! Well, it would have to be a prolific author, to keep me occupied. I think it would be a toss up between James L. Burke and his Robicheaux series, set in and around New Orleans, and Louise Penny and the Inspector Gamache series, set in the intriguing Canadian village of Three Pines. Both are a series of long, extremely well-written books with many layers, all of which can stand re-reading.

MelbooksWhat are you forward to reading in the near future?

That’s an easy one to answer, as we have a long weekend coming up here in Melbourne, and I have been keeping a book to savour over the weekend. It’s ‘The Dying Beach’ by Angela Savage, set in Thailand in the 90’s and featuring PI Jayne Keeney. This is the third book so far in this witty and clever series, and I’m really looking forward to reading it over our Cup weekend.

Outside your criminal reading pursuits, what author/series/book/genre do you find yourself regularly recommending to your friends?

One book which made a huge impression on me is ‘Elemental’ by Amanda Curtin, an Australian author. A beautiful, lyrical book, it tells the story of ‘Fish Meggie’, her upbringing at the beginning of the twentieth century in Scotland, and her subsequent move to Australia. As a work of historical fiction, it’s very different to my usual fare of crime novels and I’d encourage anyone reading this blog to take a look at it!

Thank you for your excellent recommendations, Mel! I’m also a fan of exotic settings both north and south. Angela Savage and James Lee Burke are two authors that I am ashamed to say I haven’t read yet, but will certainly follow up with them (you are not the first to highly recommend them). As always, my TBR list is the biggest victim of this interview series. What do you think of Mel’s choices – have you read any or all of them?

For previous participants in this series, please look here. And please, please, please do not hesitate to let me know if you are passionate about crime fiction of any description and would like to take part. 


10 thoughts on “What Got You Hooked on Crime, Mel McKissock?”

  1. Marina Sofia – Lovely to see Mel here!

    Mel – I think you’re in for a treat with The Dying Beach – it’s fantastic! And I couldn’t agree more about the way we learn about new places and cultures when we read. It’s one of the best payoffs of reading novels set in different places. And you know, you could do a lot worse than bring Penny’s Gamache series with you to the desert island…

  2. I do love James Lee Burke, he really is a superb writer who’s skill transcends the genre…he brings Louisiana and New Orleans to life for me. I’d be interested to hear what Scottish authors Mel particularly enjoys? This is a great series – Agatha Christie has a lot to answer for! Thanks so much Rebecca!

      1. Absolutely! She and Enid Blyton! I remember reading something about them altering Enid Blyton’s books as they were perceived as “classist” because the baddies were always working class…I don’t know if it actually happened, but how sad if the books are altered – I think intelligent children would realise they are a work of their time…by the way, does anyone recall Malcolm Saville and his Lone Pine series? I remember us avidly passing them round primary school, after we’d exhausted one boy’s complete Tintin collection…this lucky lad’s dad ran a bookshop in our village, which was wonderful to have in a TINY place with one pub…the father also ran a weekly film club. He’s responsible for a lot of us getting interested in “culture” (hate that word, but no other quite fits!) My parents weren’t like that, they were exhausted every night from running a large farm and bed and breakfast, but I have to say they were happy to indulge my obsession with books, and I so appreciate that…sorry this comment’s so long! And the Chalet School books! I adored them…My mum has ALL our books from childhood, which is fantastic…

        1. My parents also have a treasure horde of my books from childhood – including some Malcolm Saville, I believe, although I was not quite aware it was a series, just read The Secret of Grey Walls and perhaps one other. I keep hoping my children will rediscover them – although they are kept in a locked-up cellar in the countryside where mice might also abound…

        2. I was amazed at how much these books go for on eBay. Having said that, I don’t think anyone would like to buy my books – they are well worn, and well loved, probably written on (This book belongs to…) but isn’t that how childhood books should be?

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