Four Quick Crime Reads

I read the last four crime books at great speed – almost slurping them in (unlike the much slower reading of the meticulously detailed and long Six Four). Each of them was satisfying in very different ways. Yes, none of them are translations, which is a bit of a shame on a #translationthurs, but they take place in Scotland, Iceland, US and …erm… Hampstead. Does that count?

oswaldJames Oswald: The Damage Done

I normally steer well clear of crime fiction which contains supernatural elements, as I feel it ‘doesn’t play fair’ with the readers and solving the case. But in this case (and it was my first Oswald novel, so I wasn’t sure what to expect), I found it woven in so plausibly and to such chilling effect, that I was won over. My full review is over on Crime Fiction Lover and I’ll be seeing the author in Lyon in April.

frasersampsonGuy Fraser-Sampson: Death in Profile

A quick, easy read for lovers of Golden Age type puzzles, this one is quite openly an homage to Dorothy Sayers and her most famous creation Lord Peter Wimsey. Implausible and oddly ‘outside time’ though this tale is, there is a lot of entertainment value in the sheer audacity of its set-up and fun interaction between its witty (and on the whole very well-behaved) characters, reminiscent of an earlier age. One for puzzle fans, although the author doesn’t play entirely fair at one point. I do love the Hampstead/Belsize Park setting too!

thiniceQuentin Bates: Thin Ice

I think that Bates is developing a Nordic comic noir style all his own, almost lampooning at times the seriousness and gloom that we have started to associate with Scandinavian crime fiction. There are touches of Fargo about the set-up of this latest in this Officer Gunnhildur series, which not only has the delightfully down-to-earth, middle-aged Gunna as the main crimebuster (think an Icelandic equivalent to Catherine in ‘Happy Valley’), but also a motley bunch of rogues and their victims hiding out in a boarded-up hotel in the middle of nowhere. A really fun read – for my in-depth review see here.

Layout 1Joe Flanagan: Lesser Evils

Europa Editions is better known for its translated literature (some of it dark, but often simply literary), so this is a bit of a departure for them. Flanagan is an American speechwriter and freelance writer and I believe this is his debut novel. It’s a recreation of Cape Cod of the late 1950s and it’s got a great sense of time and place, as far as I can tell, having lived through neither. But this is a trope that is so familiar to us from film depictions of the US during that time that I could almost imagine Burt Lancaster, Glenn Ford or Charlton Heston brooding on by, under hats pulled low over their foreheads and perhaps laying aside their trench-coats for a minute because it’s summer after all.

The book shows us the darker side of the ‘golden years’ of America, with a detective, Bill Warren, who is well ahead of his time in terms of empathy, compassion, sensitivity and integrity. At times, it does feel a little hard to believe that everyone else in the book seems to be so rotten and corrupt, and that he is the single hero in search of justice and the truth. Too much Lone Ranger perhaps, and the undercurrent of Mafia influence and willingness to look away are overdone. Some readers will be repulsed by the child killings, although the scenes are never overly graphic. What kept me reading were the complex characterisations and motivations of many of the characters. All in all, an absorbing story, revealed in a way that felt fresh despite fitting well within the traditional noir canon.



25 thoughts on “Four Quick Crime Reads”

  1. Crime fiction can a good choice when you want to whip through something fairly quickly. I often turn to mysteries when I need a break from reviewing! Death in Profile sounds perfect for a friend of mine. She lives near Belsize Park, so I’m sure she would enjoy the setting. Thanks for the reviews, Marina.

    1. I lived in Belsize Park for 6 months and in Golders Green for 9 as a students, so love the area. And yes, crime makes a pleasant change from more serious, difficult books.

  2. 2 of the 4 I’d definitely be interested in, in fact I’m reading Thin Ice at the minute and I think I’m going to like Oswald! Flanagan – a maybe, though I don’t need any more books.

  3. “I’ll be seeing the author (James Oswald) in Lyon in April.”
    Will this be for a book signing event ? I am one hour away from LYON and would very much like to attend.
    ps: I taught French in a private school (Pardes House) in Golders’ Green for 2 years ( in 1979-1980)

  4. Oh, these all sound worth the read, Marina Sofia. I’m not usually one for supernatural elements, either, but sometimes they can be handled well. And I’ve heard the Quentin Bates is good. I’m glad you enjoyed these.

    1. Let’s put it this way: the James Oswald book is not for someone who wants all loose ends tied up neatly and punishment meted out to the evildoers. But it’s nevertheless an interesting, worthwhile read!

  5. I think I would really like Lesser Evils.
    Quai du Polar again? Wasn’t that just last month? Time flies by.
    I always hear about it too late. I don’t think I will be able to make it.

    1. Ah, shame! For me, it always comes round far too SLOWLY. I wait for it all year – my one chance to get away and do something grown-up all by myself.

  6. Having read Quentin Bates’ translations of Ragnar Jonasson’s books, I’m eager to try his own stuff now. Just as soon as I get a moment! The James Oswald sounds good too – I can cope with a bit of supernatural in crime so long as it’s done well.

    1. I’ve really enjoyed the previous books in the series by Bates, but he really seems to have hit his stride in this one. He’s having fun and it shows!

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