What Got You Hooked on Crime, Crime Thriller Girl?

CrimeThrillerGirlIf you haven’t yet discovered the wonderful blog of Crime Thriller Girl, you are in for a treat.  She not only provides you with thoughtful reviews of the latest crime fiction releases, she also does author interviews and is fully up-to-date with any crime festivals or other literary events. She seemed like an obvious candidate for my ‘Life of Crime’ series, so I hope you enjoy the revelations about her reading passions as much as I did.

How did you get hooked on crime fiction?

As a kid I loved reading the Famous Five, and later Sherlock Holmes – usually read by torchlight under the covers when I was staying at my grandparents’ house, as they had a wonderful bookcase packed full of mystery books which I loved browsing through. The Hound of the Baskervilles was (and still is) my favourite Sherlock book, and I guess you could say Sherlock is how I first got hooked into the genre. I can still remember the image on the cover of the first copy of Hound of the Baskervilles I read – a terrifyingly huge hound with a green glow around it. I don’t think I slept for a week!

As a teenager I was addicted to old re-runs of Columbo and The Saint, and read John Grisham’s legal thrillers at a rapid pace. Then I discovered the novels of the great, late Michael Crichton, and read every one of them – what a master of creative story-telling he was! I think it’s from reading his books that my love of thrillers was born.

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

I love a great action thriller. Something fast-paced, with lots of twists and an emotional hook thrown in always grabs my attention. There are some fantastic series in the subgenre – Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Zoe Sharp’s Charlie Fox, and Jeff Abbott’s Sam Capra to name a few.

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

Gosh, that’s a tough one, there’ve been so many! But, sticking true to my love of thrillers, there are two debuts I’ve read recently that are really stunning: ‘The Killing Season’ by Mason Cross, which is the first book in his Carter Blake series about a mysterious American gun for hire, and ‘The Distance’ by Helen Giltrow – the first book in her Charlotte Alton series set in the UK with a wonderfully strong female lead who navigates skilfully on both sides of the law.

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

I’d have to say Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. It has everything I love about thrillers. Besides, each book is set in a different location and sees Reacher face a different kind of problem, so even if it’s the only set of books I have on the island, I’ll still have quite a lot of variety!

That said, if my rucksack was big enough, I’d also sneak in the Charlie Fox series by Zoe Sharp, and the Tom Thorne series by Mark Billingham onto the island! Both are awesome.

What are you looking forward to reading in the near future?

I’m really looking forward to reading Steve Mosby’s new book ‘The Nightmare Place’, which has just been released. Also Jessie Keane’s new novel  ‘Lawless’, that’s coming out later this month, and the new thriller from Simon Kernick ‘Stay Alive’, which is already out and about which I’ve heard great things.

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

To be honest, I mainly read crime and thrillers. Outside of the genre, I’ve read everything by Stephen Fry and would recommend all his books, they’re brilliant. Aside from that, it’s whatever might catch my eye when I’m browsing in a bookstore. Oh, and I suppose perhaps I should admit my guilty pleasure – Jilly Cooper – I’ve been a fan of hers since I sneaked a read of my Mum’s copy of ‘Riders’ back when I was a teenager!

Well, well, Jilly Cooper – who’d have thought that of a hardened thriller fan! There’s nothing like a little variety after all. Thank you very much for sharing your reading pleasures with us, Crime Thriller Girl, and enjoy yourself at Theakston’s Crime Festival in Harrogate later this week!

For previous replies in this series about reading passions, see here.  And if you would like to participate in the series, please let me know either in comments below or on Twitter.

 

Deon Meyer: Thirteen Hours

ThirteenHoursCoverThis is the first South African crime fiction novel that I’ve read, but on the strength of it, it certainly won’t be the last.  I have to admit it’s all thanks to Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise and her Global Reading Challenge.  That is the greatest value of book bloggers and reading challenges – they push you just beyond your normal everyday boundaries.  And you discover that in many cases these boundaries were entirely in your own imagination.   Why had I never explored South Africa before (although I have a deep affection for the country, having been there several times on business trips)?  Because it is so much easier to fall into the familiar authors and patterns of reading, obviously, but perhaps also because I feared that the very real, everyday brutality of South Africa would make its crime fiction unbearable to read.

That is, however, far from the truth.  Deon Meyer does not make for comfortable reading, but there are no graphic scenes of torture or gratuitous violence here (unlike some other books I have read recently).  Instead, the Afrikaans writer gives us a very perceptive picture of the tensions and contradictions in the South African society, beneath the initial optimism and affirmative action of the Rainbow Nation.  His main detective, Benny Griessel, a middle-aged, doting Dad, is an Afrikaaner, but his colleagues are Xhosa, Zulu, English, coloured.  They have two cases to solve.  The first seems an open and shut case: the murder of a music producer in his own Cape Town home, his drunk wife found passed out next to him with no memory of the previous evening.  Griessel, a fellow (recovering) alcoholic, cannot believe that the wife, a formerly successful singer in her own right, could have shot him. But before he can get too deeply involved, he is called to another crime scene.  A young American backpacker has been found murdered outside a church, and there soon are indications that a second girl is on the run for her life.  Traumatised by what she has witnessed, she dares not trust anyone, least of all the police. While dodging the ruthless pack of men pursuing her, she manages to place a call to her father back in the States.  And so the American Consulate and local politicians put pressure on the police to find the missing girl, although no one knows why she is being hunted down with such ferocity.

Although this book (and Deon Meyer more generally) is being touted as an edge-of-the-seat suspense writer in the Harlan Coben, Lee Child and Simon Kernick, I actually found Meyer’s style more relaxed.  It’s not that there isn’t enough exciting action throughout the book, but there is also plenty of breathing space.  The pacing is such that we have time to meditate on corruption and justice, to find out more about Griessel’s family situation and to discover Afrikaans music. The social commentary is ever-present, yet never overdone, never slowing down the action.  And I admit I am biased: Cape Town is one of my favourite cities in the world, but I loved the atmospheric recreation of its different neighbourhoods and felt I was running alongside the girl up the steep slope of Lion’s Head.

What a great introduction to South Africa – if you are going there for a visit, this book will probably tell you more than most guidebooks, as well as being far more exciting and enjoyable.

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