CRIME NOVELS, MYSTERIES & THRILLERS "THOUGHT SPOT"
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I thought since there are so many of us here on Club Read who read crime novels of what kind or another, I'd open a thread for the discussion of the genre.
I was an early member of the Mystery group (I forget what it is called now) and participated for a number of years before I thought it became terribly repetitive. I'm not seeking to reproduce that 'what are you reading' or a list of reviews sort of thing here (we have threads for that), but to provide a place for general discussion, questions ...etc. I am an endless questioner and am happy to get everyone warmed up, but feel free to contribute as you will.
You may or may not have thought about the various types of crime novels there are: thrillers, cozies, psychological thrillers, police procedurals, locked room mysteries, domestics, noir, historical mysteries, Sherlockania, location-based, Capers & derivatives...to name a few.
(If you are puzzled by some of these, I refer to you to this website but you don't necessarily need to know what all these are, to answer my question).
Question: What kind of crime novels do you like? Are there specific types you stick to? What is it you like about them? Conversely, are there certain kinds of crime novels you don't like? Feel free to give examples.
>2 avaland: Thanks for the website link. I have been puzzled for some time as to the distinctions, lumping them altogether as crime, apart from noir. Then LT came along and I realized from other people's threads that there were different subgenres, but I did not know the definitions.
I didn't answer the question; I will have to think about it.
Ooh, I like this thread and I like your first question. So here goes.
I love the original Sherlock Holmes stories, but I have also read one novel (so far) inspired by Sherlock Holmes (Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz), which I liked a lot as well. So I guess you could say that I'm into crime fiction. I also enjoy Poe's short stories which are often very mysterious and dark. Yet, I'm also a sucker for your standard crime fiction novel or thriller (David Baldacci, John Grisham, Stephen King and the like). There's probably a lot that I forgot right now, but those are the ones that come to mind first.
>3 SassyLassy: And I will look forward to your answer!
While I have read a
Favorites of ongoing series: Rebus (Ian Rankin), Banks (Peter Robinson), Erlander (Indridason), Challis & Destry (Garry Disher), Winter (Ake Edwardian), Wilhelmsen (Anne Holt), Lorimer (Alex Gray), Alex Morrow (Denise Mina), William Wisting (Jørn Lier Horst.
Ended series favorites: Wallander (Henning Mankell), Daziel & Pascoe (Reginald Hill), Adam Dalgleish (PD James), Morse (Colin Dexter) Vik & Stubo (Anne Holt)
Other Series I enjoyed for a time but abandoned: Lynley & Havers (Elizabeth George --lost interest a book or so after Helen died), Simon Serillier (Susan Hill--Simon was personally traumatized in every one of the 6 or so books I read, I couldn't take it anymore), Ian Rutledge (Charles & Caroline Todd --stopped with that book where they ended with him being shot in his chair -- I thought it a cheap trick -- because, of course, there would be another book and he would live).
I rarely read American crime novels now, although years ago when I had a long commute I'd listen to Jeffrey Deaver, Linda Fairstein and others on audio. .
Unlike some of the other genres I read, the awards in this one had not be vandalized (yet) so I tend to look through the lists (especially of first novel nominees) for ideas for new authors - the Shamus, the Barry, the Anthony, the Macavity, the Edgar, the Agatha and the Ned Kelly all have "First novel" categories; the Daggers and the Nero (and the now defunct Dylis) don't technically but they are still worth looking at. And if you look at the nominees of 10 years (or more ago), you can also see who is still around and still writing - some of the good novels never get a followup but the vast majority end up the beginning of an interesting career.
I'll answer >2 avaland: later :)
That's a good question. The quick answer is I like crime novels to be dark and gritty. I like the old noir and hard-boiled novels, although often more in theory than in fact - what I like more are modern novels that play homage to those old crime classics. So, Megan Abbott's women-centered play on the classic LA noir (Queenpin), or how novelists like Tana French, Stef Penney, Kate Atkinson and even J K Rowling and Stephen King play within the strictures of the police procedural or private detective genres.
I also like crime novels written by authors from different places. Not just the whole Nordic crime thing, but ones by Dutch or Australian or Japanese authors.
A solid detective novel is a thing of beauty.
I dislike cozies - murder isn't a suitable basis for a group of charming whimsical people to convene in bakeries or knitting supply stores. But if that's your thing, enjoy it. I will roll my eyes, but I'll try to do it when no one is looking.
I’m quite fickle about subgenres - quality of the writing counts for a lot more than the label. Good dialogue, a consistent, psychologically plausible plot, an interesting setting, and ideally a bit of wit, are the key requirements.
That said, I lean a bit towards the noir side, and I often prefer team stories over single protagonists, which means police procedurals come up quite a lot. I haven’t found many US authors I enjoy apart from the real classics (Chandler, Hammett): most of my favourites are French, Nordic or British (with a few outliers in Italy and Holland). Chronologically, what I read often seems to be 80s/90s, 50s, or 30s - I don’t know what you can read into that.
>6 AnnieMod: That's an interesting approach. I do keep track of one or two of those for the store to give the book a bit of attention on the bookstore shelf, but I don't often read them.
>7 RidgewayGirl: Yes, I have had many times where I have a been attracted to a series because of location. I will forgive some of the story if the landscape or cultural tidbits were worth the read.
>8 thorold: Most of mine have been heavily UK, and Nordic but I have found few French or Dutch, but then I rely on translations (I read 1 1/2 Fred Vargas crime novels but couldn't continue: I like my detective using their left brains not a kind of second sight.
>9 avaland: It started almost by chance - I looked at the previous winners and nominees for the Shamus First Novel just to find something new to read - and discovered Dennis Lehane, Janet Evanovich, Steve Hamilton, John Connolly, Declan Hughes, Steve Hockensmith, Sean Chercover and so many more. So I decided to take a look at the other awards and the rest is history. And especially if you are looking at the awards from the last few years, you do not end up with a series that already has 20 novels in it :)
And back to >2 avaland:
What kind of crime novels do you like?
I have a soft spot for detective stories and police procedurals but I read across the genre.
Are there specific types you stick to?
Depends on my mood - in some days (and months...), all I want is a cozy mystery. Some days I want a thriller. And some days I want just an old fashioned detective (or police) novel.
What is it you like about them?
They have a storyline (unlike some of the contemporary novels - I can read a story that goes nowhere but a novel that shares that characteristics rarely gets into my house. And with crime and mystery, there is also the "let's try to figure it out while I am reading it" factor which was what first got me into the genre - Dame Agatha has a lot to answer for.
Conversely, are there certain kinds of crime novels you don't like?
The ones that are mystery/crime novels just in name - the authors that believe that if their main character is a detective and there is a murder, it is a crime novel (even if the novel is more concerned with the detective's home life and his job is just a second thought). I tend to forget these quickly and seem to be better at recognizing them. No examples - had been awhile.
One of my early favourites in mysteries was ecclesiasticals. Yes Rabbi Small, Father Koehler, Rev. Randollph (ex-pro footballer with a skyscraper cathedral), lots of English Anglicans and of course French and English historical religious mysteries. They seem harder to find now.
Police procedurals like Quintin Jardine, Peter James, Vicki Delany, Xiaolong, Qiu, Stuart Kaminsky and more. More the present than the past and a focus on solving not violence. I also like legal procedurals.
What I call women sleuths as well as women P I.’s - Gail Bowen, Sara Paretsky, Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton, Hazel Holt to name a few authors.
I am not big on cosies however if I can relate to the location or the topic (antique prints) I do make acceptions.
This is not comprehensive but gives you a good idea of what I read in mysteries.
I think I’ve been hooked on mysteries from the time I was very little and my mother would read the Bobbsey Twins mysteries to us. I progressed to reading Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. Agatha Christie was probably my entree into adult mysteries.
I was trying to think about my favorite type of crime novel, and then I read the article you posted. I’ve had favorites in almost every category. I think it depends upon my mood.
Wallender & Adam Dalgleish. So sad that I’ve read them all. Karen Fossum’s Inspector Sejer - I thought I’d read them all, but a few have been translated since I finished them, so I’ve more to go.
I love Rebus and Inspector Gamache. I hope they keep going because I’m current on both. I also really enjoy the quirky Bryant & May series by Christopher Fowler. There have been a few closed room entries in that series.
I’ve started Elizabeth George’s Lynley/Havers series, and Charles Todd’s Inspector Rutledge. I haven’t hit the spot that Lois referred to as the end for her.
Like Kay, >7 RidgewayGirl:, I have enjoyed Kate Atkinson, Tana French, and J K Rowling. Even Stephen King made it onto one of my favorites list with Mr Mercedes and Finders Keepers. But, I couldn’t bring myself to read the third book in the trilogy. The end of the second book left me with that very anxious feeling that I don’t like. I guess that might mean I don’t like thrillers if they are too intense (but I’m not sure that I’m right).
I still love Agatha Christie, whose mysteries fall into the cosy category for me.
There are so many series I’ve started thanks to the people in Club Read, that I’m glad I was pointed to the FictFact website to keep track of the ones I’ve read, and of the books I’ve yet to read.
I’m not sure I’ve really answered the question, but it was interesting to try to define my feelings.
>10 AnnieMod: To your last point, I would mention the Lorimer series by Alex Gray. There is a good police procedural in those books, but Gray spends quite a lot of time showing that her detective is psychological healthy and has a normal married domestic life. I'm okay with a certain level of that, but she overdoes it sometimes (I skip pages at that point).
>11 pmarshall: Gosh, I read those Kemelman Rabbi Small books decades ago (it's what the library had). I have also read a few of Qui Xiaolong's Inspector Chen.
>12 NanaCC: Colleen, the offending Charles Todd must have been published before 2006 because I was still at the bookstore, I can be easily offended and what with a plethora of mysteries around me every work day, it was easy to move on. Come to think of it I was still at the bookstore (pre-LT) when I stopped the Elizabeth George series. I did enjoy both series for quite a while though.
I wouldn't call myself a mystery reader, generally. I've read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy back when it was first published and was all the rage, and The Cuckoo's Calling, because I love the Harry Potter books and wanted to see what else J. K. Rowling could do. When I first joined LT, I read Mistress of the Art of Death, again because everyone was talking about it at that time. I thought all of these books were good, but I haven't continued on with the series.
However, I'm a big fan of Louise Penny's Gamache/Three Pines series. I just finished Glass Houses, which is the thirteenth book in the series, and if a fourteenth book was available, I would read it right away. I love these books. So I'm trying to decide what it is about this series that holds my attention, while others have not.
Part of it is, I think, the setting. While I don't live in Quebec, I have visited it, and in university I studied a lot of Canadian history, so the French-English relations that are in the earlier books captured my attention. I remember feeling like the series was an accurate representation of contemporary issues in Canada, and I liked that. Then there is the town itself, Three Pines. It is full of these endearing characters who started off as quirky caricatures and have deepened into fully rounded people. I've enjoyed getting to know more about why this odd group of people have found each other as friends. Interestingly enough, the protagonist, Gamache, also goes on this journey, and I enjoy watching him walk the line between upholding the law and being friends with potential suspects. Penny also has quite a focus on food, and always describes the delicious things the characters are eating, which I love.
That last paragraph makes these books sound like "cozies" - small town setting, quirky characters, lots of sitting in bistros and bookstores - but they also aren't. There's plenty of action scenes, and lots of heavy discussions of really large topics, such as the reasons humans are motivated to commit crimes. One storyline that spanned several books was about drug addiction, and another was corruption in the police force. So there's a good amount of dark in these books too.
The protagonist, Gamache, is a great character, but my favourite is his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. If Gamache represents the light in these books, Beauvoir is often the dark. He's troubled, angry, and headstrong. The relationship between these two men is fascinating, and watching it change over the series, and watching Beauvoir fight his natural inclinations to become a better person, is ultimately what keeps me coming back to this series.
So.... if any of you more seasoned readers has another series that you think I should try, please let me know! I'd love to find something else to fill the void as I wait for Penny to write her next book!
>15 Cait86: Im not sure if you've tried the Rebus series by Ian Rankin. There are a lot of books in the series, so it could keep you occupied for ages while waiting for the next Three Pines. :).
I really like too many series....
>17 avaland: I know that Rebeccanyc started reading a lot of mysteries during her last year. She became hooked on the Inspector Rutledge series by Charles Todd, and Inspector Sejer by Karin Fossum. They might be a good place to start.
>12 NanaCC: Have you read the Bess Crawford mysteries by Todd? I like her. I haven’t tried Todd’s policeman.
>2 avaland: I like most of it, though not so much derivatives, and capers/cozies are low on the list. They're a bit too light & fluffy for me to fully enjoy. But I do enjoy an Agatha Christie sprinkled here & there in my reading. My most favorite and frequently read is generally thrillers (psychological or otherwise), but the lines aren't so distinct - there's often a bit of multiple sorts sprinkled in. :)
I read a lot of mysteries--mostly stand-alones, and primarily what could be described as "psychological thrillers." I've completed just a few series, Elizabeth George, the Harry Hole books, P.D. James's Adam Dalgliesh, Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexler, and I've read a few (or in some cases many) of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus, Juri Adler-Olsen Department Q, Minette Walters and John Lawton's Inspector Troy. I loved Peter May's Lewis Trilogy, but didn't care for the series set in France. As you can see I lean toward British police procedurals.
As to stand-alones, here are some authors whose books (usually multiple) I've enjoyed, by country:
JAPAN: Natsuo Kirino esp. Out
FRANCE: Georges Simenon--never read any of his Maigret books, but have enjoyed several stand-alones.
Pascal Garnier--How's the Pain?--comic noir
Sebastian Japrisot--One Deadly Summer
SWEDEN: Johan Theorin
NETHERLANDS: Tim Krabbe--The Cave
ITALY: Massimo Carlotto--spent years in prison for a murder he did not commit; when released he became a crime writer, and has also written a memoir.
ARGENTINA: Guillermo Martinez--The Book of Murder
GERMANY: Zoran Drvenkar--Sorry
AUSTRALIA: Peter Temple
Jane Harper--The Dry
NEW ZEALAND: Paul Cleave
SOUTH AFRICA: Zirk van den Berg--Nobody Dies
ISRAEL--Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Then I've liked crime novels which combine with science fiction elements. These include The Last Policeman trilogy and The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
I sometimes like legal thrillers: Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent series, some of John Grisham's books, and William Landay.
Some "literary" crime novels: books by Dan Chaon, including his latest, Ill Will and The Deaths (couldn't find touchstone) by Mark Lawson.
Some noir: James Ellroy
Vintage Crime--Margaret Millar
Josephine Tey--I've only read Brat Farrar, but want to read more.
Psychological thrillers: P.D. James
Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine
Bernice Rubens--some of her books
I recently enjoyed a couple of books that seem to be the starts of series:
Darktown by Thomas Mullen--next up Lightning Men;
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
One recent one I didn't like was In a Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. I agree with the description of it by an Amazon reviewer--"a Scooby-Doo mystery."
I also like some true crime, but can't think of any standouts now other than In Cold Blood.
I don't usually read "cozies" or political thrillers, but one I enjoyed was Daniel Silva's The Unlikely Spy about plans for the D-Day invasion. I also liked Shelley's Heart by Charles McCarry, written a number of years ago, but with the timely theme of what happens when a president steals an election.
Mid-century domestic thrillers by women writers, usually featuring women protagonists, have enjoyed a little renaissance. I did a paper on this at a lit conference. A lot of the books were dealing with "the problem that has no name" before Friedan's Feminine Mystique in, what, 1962? If anyone wants my reading list, message me on my home page, and I'll dig it out for ya.
>18 NanaCC: Colleen, I think those are good choices, both series are of the "weight" I believe the Penny novels are (based on reader reports).
>19 pmarshall: The Norwegian crime novelist Anne Holt wrote a homage to Agatha Christie a few years ago, 1222. A finite number of people are stranded in mountaintop lodge by a blizzard and the bodies start to fall. I enjoyed it, but it's not my favorite kind of mystery.
>22 arubabookwoman: Deborah, that is an interesting list of standalones! I've read some of them.
Jumping off arubabookwoman's list of standalones: thinking back to your reading, (or rummaging through your LT library), do you have recommendations for crime novel standalones, books which are not connected to a series?
(I'm off to have a think)
There's nothing I like better than an excuse to sift through my LT (although it bothers me to discover I have been less than perfect entering books). Here is my list of standalone crime novels I can recommend. Some take the usual form with a detective or non-detective investigating a crime, some do not.
Hell to Pay AKA Bitter Wash Road, Garry Disher (Australian) (A Disher is always a good read)
Moghul Buffet, Cheryl Bernard (how do you find the killer when she wears a burqa? This was written before troops were in Afghanistan, btw)
The Emperor of Ocean Park, Stephen Carter (US, legal thriller, became a movie)
North of Boston, Elisabeth Elo (US, a first novel, might? have become a series. Blends commercial fishing, environmental issues, and the perfume industry…)
The Dry, Jane Harper (Australian. I’m wondering where this authors goes next).
1222, Anne Holt (Norwegian, “locked room” mystery, a homage to Agatha Christie)
The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill (perhaps a bit more of a ghost story?)
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (Jane Austen-related)
Mystic River and Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (Boston area; they were great books before they were movies!)
Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem (Brookllyn setting, character has Tourettes)
Cutting Season and her other novels., Attica Locke. I’d call her novels standalones, but they do connect…)
Vanishing Point, A Darker Domain, Distant Echo and Grave Tattoo, Val McDermid (UK)
White Heat by Melanie McGrath (arctic Canada, this may have become a series, not sure)
A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones (Set in China, much about Chinese porcelain)
Cold Earth by Sarah Moss (haunting thriller set around an archeological dig in Greenland….)
Jack Glass, Adam Roberts (Golden Age SF meets detective fiction, a fun read.)
Before the Poison}, Peter Robinson (UK, writes reliably good stuff, but I like his DCI Banks series better)
**Before I Burn. Gaute Heivoli (Norwegian,1970s, small town setting, arsonist) This was one of my top literary reads a couple of years ago. It’s more literature than crime novel or mystery, particularly as you discover who the arsonist is early on…but it’s so excellent for so many reasons.
Clearly, I have a fondness for reading about cold places (right now it feels like -8ºF here)
>19 pmarshall: Penny, I have read a couple of the Bess Crawford series. I have found myself liking the Rutledge series better. This is going to sound stupid, as the Rutledge character has the voice of a dead soldier in his head at all times, but I found some of the scenarios in the Bess Crawford series a bit unbelievable.
For standalones, I would start by going back some time to the incomparable (to me) Wilkie Collins with Lydia Gwilt in
Try also his The Woman in White. Some consider this to be the origin of the detective story, but that may be stretching it. Still with Victorians, there is Lady Audley's Secret.
Moving forward considerably, The Widow Killer by Pavel Kohout is well worth reading. It takes place in Prague during WWII. Don't read this if you are going to read the book: http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/11/15/daily/widow-book-review.html
Even more current is William Shaw's The Birdwatcher, a good look at how well we really know those we think we know well.
edited for grammar
>11 pmarshall: I like the idea of ecclesiasticals as a subset. I've read The Name Of The Rose, and have had the Father Browns recommended. I was lukewarm about the Grantchester Mysteries and gave them up. I must follow this as a line for finding new authors/series. I enjoyed Dissolution, which was my first Shardlake book, so I plan to go back to read them in order. Otherwise I suppose I'm cosies ( Dorothy Sayers, Marjorie Allingham and one or two of the standalones from the British Library reprint publications), and procedurals (the Martin Beck novels). I used to find Holmes terribly dull but now enjoy them.
Would Rogue Male count as a standalone for the purposes of this thread? I suppose it's a sort of reverse crime novel, more of a thriller. Which of course brings to mind the classic Buchan Richard Hannay novels like The Thirty Nine Steps.
>31 Oandthegang: Would Rogue Male count as a standalone for the purposes of this thread?
Well, technically it is continued in Rogue Justice so it is not a standalone. It can read as a standalone but then a lot of first books in series will count as ones.
Back to the question - I need to do some thinking for standalones - I am a serial reader :)
>30 SassyLassy: Hadn't thought to include Wilkie Collins! Thanks for doing so (I went through the books in my library tagged "crime novel," which admittedly, missed a lot.
Ok, I've joined FictFact now (thanks for the recommendation), read the second Inspector Sejer mystery by Karin Fossum in a day (the first was checked out at the library), and I've downloaded the third as well as The Secret Place by Tana French. You all are killing my resolution to read off my shelves!
My mother got me hooked to mysteries when I was a kid; she died a couple of years ago, and in memory of her I read all the Tony Hillermans I could download from the library last year--I think there is still one that they don't have. She was an anthropologist (physical, not cultural, so not an expert in this area) and really enjoyed them.
I've ranged pretty widely in sub-genres over the years and can be in the mood for any at the right moment. I've tried many of the authors and series on this thread, but for me stand outs are:
and now, Karin Fossum
Ones that have not worked for me include the first of Louise Penny's Gamache series. I'm going to give them another attempt though, as so many people on LT whose taste I respect have recommended them.
I'll be starring this thread, and looking for new suggestions.
>35 Oandthegang: It’s a rather disappointing afterthought (how could he have thought of trying to follow a book like that?). Better not to know about it.
I've been reading mysteries since the Bobsey twins and Nancy Drew, and see a lot of authors I like here. One I don't see is Walter Mosley - Fearless Jones, Easy Rawlins, Leonid McGill.
I'd also recommend the Makana series by Parker Bilal, which I discovered last year, I can't remember how. Author's Wikipedia page here. Bilal is the pen name for Jamal Mahjoub, and in addition to writing literary fiction (none of which I've read), he is writing a mystery series set in Egypt (Cairo) between 1998 & 2011, building up to the 2011 demonstrations and revolution. Six novels have been published so far; I've read and enjoyed the first three.
Makana is a former police detective from Sudan. After the coup in 1989 Makana's practice of investigating deaths instead of finding the results the party in power wants results in his fleeing Khartoum with his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, he is the only one who makes it across the border. He now lives as a refugee in Cairo, and earns a living as a private detective. This series is on the dark side.
Edited to add Eliot Pattison both the Inspector Shan series set in Tibet and the Bone Rattler series during the French/Indian (Seven Years) war.
>38 markon: Oh wow, that actually sounds really amazing, definitely adding to my list!
>2 avaland: Still contemplating this. I am a big fan of James Elroy and while his novels and nonfiction certainly involve crime, I tend to think of him as a noir political writer, not restricted to crime, so I'm not sure how to classify him.
For series books, I have enjoyed Rebus, Wallander and Erlendur. I'm not sure what that says about my views on men! In a different vein, I also like the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr, but once again there is the history/politics background.
Over the years I have tended to read these books during exam weeks, project deadline weeks, and other such trying times, so they represent pure escape.
>41 SassyLassy: I'd say those three would qualify as loners (on one level or another).
It's been my experience that some mysteries/crime novels present their settings as merely backdrop to the investigation, action or characters, and others seem to give it as much weight as they do their characters for one reason or another. Surely there have been mysteries you have read that have done the latter. Perhaps we have forgiven some part of the plot or failures in characters because the setting has been so three-dimensional?
Without making long lists, could you name a few mysteries/crime novels where more weight was given to the setting or there was something about the setting that fascinated you, good... or bad?
Of course, creating the question got me thinking and I should at least answer the question I'm hoping you will answer too...
Wolf Lake by John Vernon uses the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York in an atmospheric Gothic fashion. It definitely adds to the feeling of mystery and ups the suspense with its deeply wooded, frigid, frozen and off-season wintery setting. I forgave Vernon that gun-waving thriller ending because I was so enthralled with his setting.
The Broken Shore and Truth by Peter Temple. Temple in The Broken Shore uses the setting to brilliant effect as a reflection of the emotional state of the main character, or perhaps they are organically one. Here's a bit I wrote in my review:
The setting, especially the broken down wreck of a building that Cashin lives in, the farmland around it, the old family home he's trying to fix up, and the particularly dangerous part of the coastline referred to as "The Kettle" - all reflect back to Cashin's struggle to recuperate.
In Truth Temple presents a Melbourne that is very, very bleak with almost no redeeming qualities. Who would want to go there based on his book, I thought. Never had I read a crime novel where the city setting was so bleak and I really reacted to it. In looking back, I might be inclined to say that Temple might have been doing a similar thing as he did in the previous book...in my review I described the detective thus: Steven Vallani, our tormented hero, is horribly flawed. He's a crap husband, guilt-ridden and lousy father; he has more than a few past sins, and breathes the tempting air of corruption around him.
I think The Dry by Jane Harper may be doing this also. Will have to think on it.
Peter May's The Blackhouse, in particular, made the Hebrides a character in his story, I thought. I thought this the best book of the trilogy.
In Cold Earth by Sarah Moss the remote Greenland setting is used a lot like Vernon's Adirondack one to add to the tension, but in my memory it remains more vivid than any of the characters. And I certainly read White Heat by Melanie McGrath more for its Ellesmere Island (arctic Canada) setting and insight into Inuit culture than for it's slow-to-start crime novel (which turned out to be reasonably good mystery by the end). it's been a long time since I've read it but in my memory Bangkok was certainly a character in itself in John Burdett's Bangkok 8.
This thread will be a great resource whenever I want some suggestions for crime novels!
As for the question in >43 avaland::
Darktown by Thomas Mullen is a crime novel set in Atlanta just after WWII, when the city hired a few African American police officers and then tried to keep them from being able to do their job. The book is well-researched and Mullen really evokes that time and place.
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley is set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula during winter and is excellent at portraying the hockey culture and what life in a working class town is like.
Denise Mina's Paddy Meehan series (which begins with Field of Blood), is all about Glasgow in the 1980s. Her latest novel, The Long Drop is all about Glasgow in the 1950s, with the blackened buildings and factory whistles.
>46 SassyLassy: Maybe...they are both certainly thrillers. Sure, why not, I did include thrillers in the title of the thread (to be honest, I was thinking at the time about the thrillers that pose as crime novels or mysteries). I wonder if thrillers generally use all resources, including setting, to create suspense, fear...etc. I don't think I read enough thrillers to say, but certainly Rebecca is classic/modern Gothic and setting always plays an important part in that. I haven't read any Stephen King and only have a over-simplified notion about the plot.
I finished a crime novel recently which I would consider not really my thing and yet (!) I found it strangely addictive (as was the first book in the series). It was Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris. Interesting education on the deep shelter tunnels under London BUT the detective—DC Nick Belsey—is completely unethical, an anti-hero (I like my detectives flawed but ethical). It's amazing he survives to get a second book - but he does always seem to land on his feet.
So, my question is: Have any of you read other crime novels/crime thrillers where the detective is more anti-hero than hero? Where the assumed "good guy" is questionable at best?
Thanks Lois for pointing out this thread. It gives me something to think about.
>53 nohrt4me2: That one did come to mind....
>52 RidgewayGirl:, >55 SassyLassy:, I'm not sure I want a steady diet of bad boys (and girls?), especially in this political era. But I am interested to see what we come up with and how widespread it is.
I should have mentioned that I read Port Villa Blues by Garry Disher, it's a volume from his Wyatt series which features a thief. It was good but, again, not my thing.
>43 avaland: Without making long lists, could you name a few mysteries/crime novels where more weight was given to the setting or there was something about the setting that fascinated you, good... or bad?
A few come to mind immediately:
Garry Disher's Peninsula Crimes (Hal Challis) series starting with The Dragon Man
Mark Pryor's Hugo Marston series starting with The Bookseller- even when they are not set in Paris, the place is as much a main character as Hugo is.
And of course Donna Leon's Brunetti stories starting with Death at La Fenice - the main character is not really our detective but the city of Venice.
Steve Hamilton's Alex McKnight stories starting with A Cold Day in Paradise had made the upper peninsula of Michigan so familiar just by reading the books and making it part of the story.
And I won't even start on the Scandinavian authors (including the Icelandic ones) - they make their place part of the story - I think that part of why they are so popular is because of it. Or Peter Temple - all of his books would fit here. Or novels about Rebus where Edinburgh follows the same pattern.
>57 AnnieMod: Did not know there was a series about Michigan's Upper Peninsula! My old home. Will have to look into them to see if the local color rings true.
I will be very curious to hear the opinion of someone that actually lived up there.
>43 avaland: I just finished a crime novel which fits very well within the category of books where the setting is very important. Echoes From the Dead by Johan Theorin is set on the Swedish island of Oland. Throughout the novel, there were many references to a place as the "alvar." My Kindle dictionary did not have a definition for "alvar," but from context, it sounded kind of like a moor, so I was reading it as such. But I decided not to let it go and googled it. An alvar is a raised limestone plain with a very thin soil cover. The vegetation on the alvar is unique and prairie-like, and was first studied by Linnaeus in the 17th century. The alvar on Oland takes up about one-fourth of its land mass (the island is about 85 miles by 9 miles; the alvar is about 25 miles by 6 miles).
Echoes From the Dead was very good (and atmospheric). I have read another novel by Theorin also set on Oland, The Darkest Room, which was also very good and atmospheric, but I don't recall any mentions of the alvar. I have also read another crime novel by Theorin which is set on the mainland, and which I enjoyed, but didn't find as compelling. I really liked these "island" novels.
So many different types of crime novels to love! An old favorite, The Alienist by Caleb Carr, has just started being shown as a miniseries on TNT. I saw the first episode last night and really enjoyed it. I'll definitely reread the book afterwards.
Has anyone in here read the Claire DeWitt books by Sara Gran? I loved the first of the trilogy, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead and found the second, Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway quite good. I'm still waiting for the third book...
something about the setting...
Good use of setting is one of the main things I enjoy in a crime story. Obvious examples where the wider setting is what drives the type of crime and the way the investigation runs include Rebus’s Edinburgh (already mentioned above), Montalbano’s Sicily (Andrea Camilleri), Fabio Montale’s Marseille (Jean-Claude Izzo).
But I also like writers who can do interesting things with a small-scale, fictional setting and P.D. James is the one who really stands out for me there, exploiting the cliché of the fixed group of suspects to dig into how a workplace or small community functions. Simenon is also very good at this, but in a quite different way.
I’m still thinking about the “detective as anti-hero” question, I’m sure I’ve read a few that would fit, but I don’t seem to be remembering them.
I gave up on DeWitt after the first novel. I loved the city description but the mystery just fell flat for me.
I am the same way with series (well... when I get back to them) but when I really dislike the first book, I kinda keep pushing the second one so far down the list that chances are I will never leave it. I was looking at my review last night and I cannot even recall why I really dislike it besides what I wrote there. But then we cannot all like the same things, right? :)
The last crime/mystery/thriller you read (that was part of a series of more than, say, 5 books,) was....
and have you read all of the previous books?
No, it was the latest in Garry Disher's Hal Challis and Ellen Destry series, and yes, I've read all of the books prior.
That would be Walking Shadow - the 21st Spenser novel. And yeah - I had read the first 20.
>71 AnnieMod: I'm assuming Spenser is aging through the 21? I don't know how I feel about the aging of my favorite characters. DCI Banks spent the last book worrying about getting/being old generally (and being alone), it wasn't the best part of the novel.
At last, one I can easily answer! It was The Lady from Zagreb in June, part of the Bernie Gunther series, and yes, I have read the earlier books. I have The Other Side of Silence to go.
I have some catching up on Rebus to do. I didn't like Malcolm Fox and seem to have left Rebus in his early retirement as a result. Summer is coming though, so I can catch up.
>72 avaland: He is, so is his relationship with Susan. The first novel was written and set in 1973, this one was set in 1994 (and written then). The series stays contemporary - so everyone gets a bit older.
Age does not come up too often - the passing of years does and some of the younger characters (Paul and Gerry Broz for example) age visibly (so do the older ones like Joe Broz) but the main ones are in that grey area between the 30s and 50s that does not make much of a difference. I am not sure that I know if we started in his early 30s or a bit earlier or later but considering the backstory, that's around where we were. So that puts him in his early 50s or so.
It is somewhere between Rebus (where he aged and even retired) and Perry Mason (who does not age visibly - the years pass and are referenced but noone seems to age) to mention two of my other 2 long running series.
>50 avaland: I picked up Prussian Blue by Phillip Kerr recently, and Bernie Gunther is at least problematic, since he's had to make so many compromises to stay alive. This novel went back and forth between his investigation of a murder at Hitler's Berchtesgaden retreat in the 30s and his attempt to get out of murdering someone at the behest of a Stasi agent in the 1950s. This was the first (and may be the only) one of this series I read. Hardboiled noir was not what I was in the mood for, but it was well written. Interesting to see the role of methamphetamine, which I had forgotten was introduced during World War II.
>69 avaland: The last I read was Death at La Fenice, which is the first in a series (27 to date, I think). I might read some more of them, haven’t decided yet...
The ageing problem is an interesting one - it’s usually more interesting for the writer to allow time to advance in the setting from book to book - this allows you to bring in current topics of interest and avoids the need to keep on talking about pagers, modems and floppy disks in the 2010s - but from a plot point of view there is only a fairly narrow band of age in which your protagonist can plausibly have that particular job and do the kinds of things that make the story interesting. Too young and they don’t have enough responsibility to be working on their own initiative all the time, too old and they should be sitting in an office managing, not out on the streets chasing villains. You can slow down career-progression by making the detective behave badly (Rebus), but after a while that gets a bit silly. Who would entrust someone with so many bad marks on his file with an interesting case?
So a lot of writers seem to resort to some kind of cheating. Maigret is a famous example - he’s on the point of retirement when we first meet him in the mid-1930s (and actually does retire briefly just before WWII); a few years later he tells us in his “memoirs” that he had started with the Paris police in the 1890s, but somehow he manages to keep on working until somewhere in the 1960s, when he’d be well into his 90s. Simenon just keeps on shamelessly making him a bit younger. No doubt he did the same thing to himself...
Andy Dalziel is another one - he’s obviously well into his fifties in the first book in 1970, and they still haven’t quite succeeded in persuading him to retire from the force (for health reasons, not age!) in 2008.
But the same sort of problem applies to all types of long series - Patrick O’Brian and C.S. Forester both started their naval sagas too late both in history and in the protagonist’s career to fit in as many books as the public had an appetite for. Whatever you do, the Napoleonic wars have to end in 1815, and a naval captain with a decade or so of independent command has to be either retired or made an admiral. Forester dealt with it by writing prequels, O’Brian by freezing history for a few books.
>73 SassyLassy: I wasn't sure I liked Malcolm Fox either, but he has appeared again and he has grown on me.
>76 thorold: Andy Dalziel is another favorite.
I have a followup question I'll come back to....
>73 SassyLassy: & >77 avaland:, I was a bit tired of Rebus when Rankin introduced Fox and I liked him a lot - I liked that Rankin managed to create a protagonist so very different from Rebus and I was sorry when he reduced Fox to a secondary character.
I tend to read stand-alone mysteries more than series, but I read two last year - Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin and The Trespasser by Tana French. I have a few gaps in my Rebus reading, but I've read all of French's Dublin Murder Squad series, usually soon after the publication date.
>79 RidgewayGirl: I think Rankin is a bit of a prisoner of Rebus. I imagine fans won't let him stop until he kills off Rebus. I thought Fox might have been his attempt to move away from Rebus long term. Still, I'd be happy to follow Fox (I almost wrote "Fox and friends" LOL)
How has your reading of crime/mystery/thriller novels been affected by the extensive changes in technology of the digital age? Does the technology or lack thereof date the novel for good or ill? Does it make a difference in your reading pleasure how much technology plays a part in the story? Can there be too much or too little of it? How do the crime/mystery novels of the past hold up in this high tech age (and do we care? are we happy to escape back to pre-digital...) You don't have to answer all these questions; they're just to get you thinking.
>80 avaland: Wasn't Rankin involved in that TV play "Reichenbach Falls" about an Ian Rankin-like character trying to kill off the detective he created?
Changes in technology
That's another one that cuts both ways.
On the whole, I find low-tech stories more interesting. Technology goes out of date, it's difficult to make typing search statements into Google interesting and exciting, and writers are often simply not very good at describing what technology can do accurately and convincingly. And I haven't really seen many books that manage to integrate it well into the plot. In the end, the writer wants to give us the traditional elements of the crime story, so something goes wrong with the technology (or the detective is locked out of it) and we go back to interviewing suspects in low dives, going alone into dangerous places, following people by car or on foot, etc.
When you read something from the fifties or before, when even the police often didn't have access to cars and wireless communication (payphones in bars!), and whatever records you needed to consult were stored on paper in some dusty archive and had to be searched by hand, it seems to make the detective's job so much more interesting. I've been reading a few Val McDermid stories lately - she does a lot with technology, and she's obviously very interested in what it can do in crime fiction and tries to push it further, but I don't think she's really solved the problems.
But, I realise that for some writers there's a very important reason for setting stories in the present day, which is to make us think about how crime affects people in our society today. And you very often can't do that without making both the criminals and the detective use the digital tools. Sooner or later we will get better at building fiction around them (or will Google start producing it's AI crime writer tool...?).
My first thought on reading this question was The Thirty-Nine Steps. It's impossible to imagine Richard Hannay fleeing across Scotland with a GPS or being tracked with various devices and succeeding the way he did. Similarly, Rogue Male would not be able to hide out without being tracked in some technological fashion or other. However, both these novels hold up well today, even without such devices. Contemporary technology did creep into the Buchan book somewhat, making it seem as if he would certainly be using digital plot devices if he wrote today, but that's one book I prefer the way it was written.
On the other hand, reading some of the earlier Patricia Cornwell today would seem really clunky, given changes in technology, as her novels have pages of technology which is crucial to the story, but would date them for ill. However, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series would probably not suffer as much.
I can live with or without technology in crime/mystery books. You can't ignore the existence of a digital world if you are writing something that takes place now, but I wouldn't want it to be the primary focus.
>83 avaland: Well said, Mark.
I watch a lot of crime shows on television and I think it integrates it better because of the "show not tell" nature of the medium. I agree with you that it's tough to write into a novel.
>82 SassyLassy: I hadn't been thinking about the tech in Cornwall or Kathy Reichs series; you're right, it plays a major role in the stories there. My hubby tells me that Halting State by Charles Stross is a detective novel (SF) where digital technology is crucial to the plot.
I read the most recent Indridason novel, the start of a new series. It has two storylines, one during WWII and the other contemporary. There was a noticeable lack of digital technology in the contemporary story, maybe a mention of picking up a phone but that was it. I thought it so odd, especially because of the eras of the two storylines.
I think generally the best writers can integrate technology naturally without distraction. Perhaps it depends on how comfortable the author is with it?
I haven't read much by way of historical crime novels for quite some time. I read a number of the early Charles Todd, the first Jacqueline Winespear; quite a few Laura Joh Rowland's samurai series and a short series set in colonial Massachusetts and a single book called, Death of a Mill Girl.
The only historical crime novel that I've read in the last few years (as far as i can remember at the moment) was Dreamless by Jørgen Brekke, only "half" historical, in that it followed two parallel storylines. 1. current 2. 18th century. It was a 2nd book in a series. I gave it 4 1/2 stars.
Dreamless is a beautifully written book, not so much in its prose style, but in the way Brekke deftly moves us through the book; his use of common motifs is almost a kind of music. Of course, the crimes do have links, and the investigations provide the reader with very nice, brief introductions to early Norwegian and Swedish musical tradition, music boxes and the Ringve Museum.
Last year I bought A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee, a well-reviewed crime novel set in the Raj in the early 19th century. I haven't been able to get into it. If someone (in the US might be interesting in this book let me know).
Historical crime novels: Definitely the Maisie Dobbs series, by Jacqueline Windspear, which I know has been mentioned in this thread previously; Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls is partially set against the backdrop of 1930s Chicago and is quite good; I know they are divisive, but I particularly enjoy Amy Stewart's Kopp Sisters series, about female police officers in the early 1900s.
Setting as a Character: For me, this describes almost every Tana French Dublin Murder Squad book, but I think it's particularly true of Broken Harbor, which takes place in an abandoned subdivision that is just so creepy and so evocative of the post-real estate market crash.
>86 fannyprice: Tana French gets mentioned a lot...hmmm. I'm going to have to keep her in the back of my mind when I run out of crime novels.
>87 avaland:, I can't believe you haven't tackled her. I feel like she writes exactly the kind of mystery novels I could see you really enjoying -- police procedurals, foreign setting that's evoked so clearly it's almost a character, and very well-built characters. Each book focuses on a set of characters within the Dublin police who were secondary or tertiary in the preceding book, which means that most of the characters become more complex and fascinating over time. A character you loathed in one book suddenly becomes sympathetic when you're following his or her perspective around. I read the first four of these in quick succession and once I had caught up with the author's pace of writing, I started deliberately rationing them, so I still haven't actually read her most recent The Tresspasser. I feel like I have to earn it or something before I'll let myself read it, lol.
Generally historical mysteries don't appeal to me. I don't think I've read any, unless you count the Inspector Troy series by John Lawson, which goes back to include WW II London, Cold War London, and the "Swinging Sixties." I've enjoyed those of the series that I've read.
>88 fannyprice: Stop it, stop it! she says, covering her ears (er...her eyes). I work in a bookstore, do you know the cacophany of books that call to me at any one moment?! :-)
>89 arubabookwoman: Well, it sounds like they qualify. Do they actually flash back to that time or are they, say, cold cases they are currently working on?
>90 avaland: Joining the ranks as someone who enjoys Tana French. BTW, I'd spend my entire paycheck if I worked at a bookstore! XD
>91 MsNick: Well, there are the arcs and that does keep purchasing under some control. OK, for me maybe not so much. But it is a good thing that I mostly do the ordering and other office work; keeps me out of the danger zone. LOL
>87 avaland: Don’t wait! I think you are a prime candidate for Tana French. :)
>95 SassyLassy: I agree, Sassy. I read them all, and was hoping he’d continue with Elizabeth, as it seemed he had done a set up for that possibility.
I can name historical series, but I generally don't read them, so I thought it might be interesting to hear which ones readers here enjoy.
Has anyone read the Albert Campion mysteries by Margery Allingham? Kindle had a deal on three of them, so I downloaded them even though they aren’t the start of the series. I think they are 5th, 11th, and 14th. Do they need to be read in order? Should I try to find the earlier ones? I don’t usually read series out of order. :(
I recently reread the Masao Masuto series by E. V. Cunningham, aka Howard Fast. He is a Nesei police inspector on the Beverly Hill Police Department. They were written in the 1970-80’s. There are just seven in the series.
Before that it was Marcia Muller,, The Color of Fear, #33 in the Sharon McCone series. I have read them all.
Very interesting how Marcia Muller and Sue Grafton dealt with technology. Muller started her Sharon McCone series in 1977 and made changes as technology changed in her 33 titles. Grafton wrote 25 Kinsey Milhone titles starting in 1982 and didn’t adjust for technology. One case finished and another started so time didn’t pass in the same way it did for McCone. Once you understand that it doesn’t matter.
When I was a teenager, many of my Dad's friends were police officers, much to my chagrin of course. We occasionally would have people over for supper on weekends and a number of the officers would come over. I was fascinated watching them try to let go of the trauma that they had witnessed. I distinctly remember one time two of them playing catch in the backyard, both starting off in space and throwing rockets to each other. I could not understand what they were seeing in their mind's eye, but I was glad that I could not.
As I grew older, my interest in crime novels migrated from Agatha Christie to novels that gave me a view into the psyche of a police officer or detective. I wanted to understand (vicariously, not first-hand!) what they had to deal with, and how they tried to cope. This means I am drawn to novels by Ian Rankin or to a lesser degree Michael Connelly. I wandered into the procedural subgenre since I thought that was a logical progression, but try as I might, I just can't make it through something like the Dave Robicheaux novels from James Lee Burke. I have often wondered if that is because I see something of my Dad's friends when I see the world through the eyes of Rebus or Bosch, but Robicheaux is too foreign.
>98 NanaCC: I read a few Campion books back eons ago, but I don't remember much about them. How weird that there was a deal on them, but I suppose it is intended to get you to buy the others?
>99 pmarshall: Gosh, Howard Fast. I haven't heard that name for a long time.
>101 pmarshall: Are you saying she incorporated the current technology as appropriate at the time each book was written? (you aren't saying she revised the older titles, right?) How interesting she didn't adjust for it in the other series. 1977 I was working in the law enforcement field using a teletype machine, one computer (my 1st), and an electric typewriter, ha ha.
It seems series like Patricia Cornwall and Kathy Reichs (I've read some of the latter but not the former) must be technology sensitive, the characters being forensic pathologists.
A mention elsewhere in CR, reminds me that The Name of the Rose was an historical mystery I read!
Wow! I just found this thread - and already it has over a hundred posts! Can't wait to read everything! I like all kinds of books but I've always been particularly fond of mysteries.
Re: Historical mystery series
The Mathew Shardlake series by CJ Sansome might be my favorite, but there are others that have pulled me in. Two new ones for me haven’t been mentioned above.
I started reading the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters last year. Amelia and her husband Emerson are archaeologists during the late Victorian time frame. The books would fall into the cosy mystery category, and the mystery usually takes a back seat to the humor of the dialogue and the atmosphere in Egypt.
I also started the Sebastian St Cyr series by C.S. Harris. These are considered Regency England - the first takes place in 1811. The first might have been a bit more romance than the typical mystery, but the writing is good, the atmosphere and political intrigue are a plus. I’ve read four of them, and will continue.
Muller incorporates the technology available at the time she is writing a title. The older titles remain unchanged and sometimes there are references to looking at paper files of earlier cases.
Sue Grafton wrote about this matter, saying that it was too late to make the adjustments for technological changes because of her timing in her plots. She may have been writing in the two thousands but Kinsey was solving cases in the 1980’s. It would have been useful but out of sync.
New Titles In a Series
Does anyone reread earlier titles in a series before reading the newest?
I am preparing for To Die But Once, number 14 in Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. It will be released at the end of the month. Before I read the new title I am rereading Journey to Munich, #12 and #13 In This Grave Hour.
I do this with every series I read.
>108 pmarshall: I do reread a couple of books, if a lot of time has passed. It depends upon how clearly I remember what happened in the last one.
>108 pmarshall: I do NOT reread previous books when a new installment comes out. There are just too many books out there.
I send my crime novels off to my brother & sister-in-law when I'm done, so that prevents a reread. But that's okay, because there are new books coming out all the time!
>108 pmarshall:, The only time I've re-reread earlier books in a series was the Southern Reach Trilogy, which doesn't really qualify as a mystery.
>111 fannyprice: Well, it is quite a mystery of a sort, just not a crime novel :-)
TELEVISION & MOVIE ADAPTATIONS. This came up on Colleen's thread related to Mankell's "Wallander," so I thought I'd solicit some opinions from you all.
Have you seen adaptations of mysteries, crime novels/thrillers that you have also read? and 1. Do you like the person or people they have cast? 2. What do you think of the production? Would you recommend it? 3. Conversely, did a television adaptation inspire you to read the books? So, do you then picture the actor as the character?
A few adaptations off the top of my head: Rebus, Vera, Wallander, Armand Gamache and also Lynley (those last two both played by Nathaniel Parker). DCI Banks, Longmire, Paddy Meehan (I think? the Denise Mina series), Dr Tony Hill, Vik & Stubo, Inspector Erik Winter, Morse, Lord Peter Whimsey & Harriet Vine, Adam Dalgleish, Jack Taylor, Temperance Brennan, Dexter, Irene Huss, Aurelio Zen and Inspector Erlunder.
>115 avaland: TV adaptations:
Surprisingly few, when I come to think of it. Most of the time I either read the books or watch the TV adaptation, but not both. Or I enjoy one and then dip a toe into the other and decide it’s not for me...
One of the few where I’ve enjoyed both is Dalziel and Pascoe. And of course that’s one where the books were good in the first place, and the adaptations didn’t stick slavishly to them, but they got in some very distinguished scriptwriters (Alan Plater, Malcolm Bradbury, ...) to do their own thing. And once you’ve seen Warren Clarke as the Fat Man, you can’t imagine anyone else doing it.
Morse is a case where the TV series was better than the OK-ish books - Colin Dexter only seems to have been interested in the puzzle-plots, but the TV version is really all about the characters, who didn’t exist until John Thaw and Kevin Whately created them (Dexter admits that Morse and Lewis in the later books were based on Thaw and Whately), and the locations, which are barely sketched in in the books. (And the two spin-off series demonstrated very nicely how none of it worked without John Thaw...)
I’m a big Maigret fan, of course, but I’ve never bothered much about the many TV versions. Of the few I’ve seen, I think I like Bruno Cremer the most, and Rowan Atkinson the least. But I’ve only seen about half an episode of the Atkinson version - it looked as though they were trying to turn Maigret into seaside-rep-style Agatha Christie. (*)
Wallander has to be Krister Henriksson. However magnificent Branagh is in Shakespeare, Wallander speaking English is just weird. That’s another one where I’ve read a few of the books, but never found them as good as the TV shows. OTOH, the couple of episodes of Beck I’ve seen weren’t a patch on the books, and seem to have very little to do with them, apart from the running joke about Beck’s neighbour.
Lynley strikes me as bad TV based on worse books. The only reason for watching it was Sharon Small as Havers. Nathaniel Parker was a wooden (but very pretty) actor playing an obnoxious and improbable character, and the stories were uniformly silly. But Elizabeth George’s books, insofar as I’ve tried to read them, are almost comically bad, in every possible way.
(*) Slightly off-topic, but I’ve seen a lot of stage productions of Agatha Christie in small theatres, and they never fail to be wonderful, even when the sets wobble every time a door opens, the corpse sneezes because of all the dust on the stage, and the telephone fails to ring at the crucial moment...
Most of my television viewing is crime series. My favourites are Vera, Montalbano, Cameron strike, Morse and Endeavour, Silent Witness and many of the Scandinavian noirs. Why is it that crime dramas always seem so much more interesting set in colder climes? I don't watch any of the American crime series because after "The Wire" they all look so unrealistic. I don't read much crime fiction at the moment and so my T V viewing is totally unrelated to my reading.
T V shows are all about the look and the feel of the characters and the setting, I usually get lost with the details of the plot and suspect that some of them don't really make an awful lot of sense. Life is too short to rewind to piece together the details, but this is not the case when reading novels, which are a slower process and so it is more likely that I would keep details in my head
I love the Inspector Brunetti series based on Donna Leon's novels. That's one of the rare cases where I started with the series and then tracked down the books.
>116 thorold: Oh, yes, the Reginald Hill's....so fab, both on the page and on the screen.
I wasn't terribly impressed with the TV adaptation of the Elizabeth George series. I read a lot of her books, but mostly for the character of Barbara Havers. I always had the feeling that George disliked her own character in Barbara.
The Icelandic production of "Jar City," the first Inspector Erlunder novel to be translated into English was excellent. The characters were well-cast (ordinary-looking, not gorgeous or handsome, if you know what I mean) and seemed authentic. I'll not forget the scene of Erlunder tucking into his dinner of a sheep's head.
>117 baswood: I watch quite a few, too, Barry; but I rarely watch an American show (and I'm American!) It's mostly because of the added bravado and too many guns. The exception to this was "Longmire" which was more or less a modern Western/crime novel combo. A co-worker at the bookstore has read all the books (by Craig Johnson) and apparently the show and the TV adaptation differ greatly.
I agree re colder climates, but then, I live in Northern New England. Are you keeping up with all the television adaptations that seem to be secretly sponsored by their travel & tourism boards i.e. "Shetland" and "Hinterland."
>118 thorold: I will keep that one in mind. I've seen it around.
>119 AnnieMod: I'm not sure I've seen that one advertised.
It is a German production although they had been released on 2-episodes DVDs in USA as well in the last few years and I saw them available somewhere on the streaming apps (Amazon Prime with an add-on maybe). They go under "Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti Mysteries" in English. They changed the main actor after 4 episodes (there are 19 so far I think) and I vastly prefer the second one but even the first 4 are good.
I do not think that they were ever aired in the States or made available by Netflix/Hulu/whatever... One of the Bulgarian TVs had been running them on repeat for years - I can remember watching them for years :)
This list might jog memories. I cobbled this together from various internet sources. These are just television series, limited series and a few movie adaptations (there are more movie adaptations of single books than we can fit here, trust me)
TELEVISION CRIME SERIES BASED ON BOOKS
NOTE: I have tried to limit the listings to television series with a few exceptions. This is not an exhaustive list.
“Case Histories”, Jackson Brodie, 2011
Books by Kate Atkinson
“Jack Taylor”, 2011 (movie & series)
Books by Ken Bruen
“Inspector Montalbano”, 1999 - (Italian)
“The Young Montalbano”, Salvu Montalbano, 2012
Books by Andrea Camilleri
“Agatha Christie’s Marple”, “Miss Marple” (2004)
“Tommy & Tuppence”
Books by Agatha Christie (so many adaptations!)
“Vera”, DCI Vera Stanhope, 2011-
“Shetland”, DI Jimmy Perez, 2013-
Books by Ann Cleeves
“Bosch” 2014 -
Books by Michael Connelly
“Endeavor”, 2011, Endeavor Morse (based on the characters from…)
“Inspector Morse”, 1987–2000 (these are from the books)
“Inspector Lewis”, 2006–2015 (based on the characters from…)
Books by Colin Dexter
“Zen”, Detective Aurelio Zen. 2011
Books by Michael Dibdin
“Sherlock”, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, “Elementary”…etc
Stories & books by Arthur Conan Doyle (so many adaptations!)
“Kommissionäre Winter”/“Inspector Winter”; Detective Erik Winter, 2010, Swedish
Books by Ake Edwardson
“The Inspector Lynley Mysteries”, Lynley & Havers, 2001-2008
Books by Elizabeth George
“Midsomer Murders”, DI Barnaby, 1997-
Books by Caroline Graham
“Miss Fisher’s Murder” Mysteries, 2012 - 2015, Australian
Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood
“Dalziel & Pascoe”, 1996 - 2007 (UK)
Books by Reginald Hill
“Skin walkers”, “Coyote Waits” and “A Thief of Time”, Joe Leaphorn, 2002-2004
Books by Tony Hillerman, (based on his Navajo Tribal police series)
“Modus”, Vik & Stubo (though this one is just Vik), 2016 Norwegian (might be a Swedish production)
Books by Norwegian author Anne Holt
“Inspector George Gently”, 2007-2017
Books by Alan Hunter
“Jar City”, Inspector Erlendur, 2006, Icelandic
Books by Arnuldur Indridason (the producer may be making an English language version by the same name but set in Louisiana!)
“Adam Dalgleish” (1984 - 2005)
“Cordelia Gray”, various adaptations from 1982 on….
Books by PD James
“Murdoch Mysteries”, Detective William Murdoch, 2008- Canadian
Books by Maureen Jennings
“Longmire”, 2012-2017, Sheriff Walt Longmire, US (Wyoming)
Books by Craig Johnson
“Rebecka Martinsson”, 2017, Swedish
Books by Asa Larsson
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”…et al. 2009 - Swedish & US versions
Books by Steig Larsson
“Gone Baby Gone” (TV series in pre-production)
Private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro
Books by Dennis Lehane
“Detective Commissioner Guido Brunetti", 2000 - (German production? filmed in Italy)
Books by Donna Leon
“Dexter”, 2006–2013, US
Books by Jeff Lindsay
“Wallander”, Rolf Lassgård, 1994-2006, Swedish
“Wallander”, 2005-2013, Krister Henriksson, Swedish
“Wallander”, 2008. Kurt Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh, UK
Books by Henning Mankell
“The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries”, Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn 1990 - (UK)
Books by Dame Ngaio Marsh
“Red Sparrow” (2018 Movie)
Book by Jason Matthews (poss start of a series)
“Wire in the Blood”, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, 2002
Books by Val McDermid
"The City & the City" 2018 UK
Book by China Miéville.
“The Field of Blood”, Paddy Meeham. 2011
Books by Denise Mina
“Spenser for Hire” 1985-1988
Books by Robert B. Parker
“Still Life: A Three Pines Mystery”, Inspector Armand Gamache, 2012 (Canadian)
Books by Louise Penny
“Brother Cadfael” 1977-1994 UK
Books by Ellis Peters
“Rebus”, Series 1 starring John Hannah, 2000 - 2004
“Rebus”, Series 2-4, starring Ken Stott, 2006-2007
Books by Ian Rankin
“Bones”, Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, 2005-2017, US
Books by Kathy Reichs
“DCI Banks”, DCI Alan Banks, 2010 -
Books by Peter Robinson
Based on The Grantchester Mysteries, collections of short stories written by James Runcie.
“Lord Peter Whimsey” (& Harriet Vane!), played by Ian Carmichael in the 70s and Edward Petherbridge in 1987 -
Books by Dorothy Sayers
“Maigret”, Chief Inspector Jules Maigret; 1992-1995, UK starring Michael Gambon
Margret, starring Rowan Atkinson, 2016
Books by George Simenon
"Jack Irish" 2016 - (Australian)
Books by Peter Temple
“Detective Inspector Irene Huss”, 2007 - , Swedish
Books by Helen Torsten
>120 avaland: I've just finished the Shetland series as far as it has gone and prefer it to the one book (the first in the series) I had read. However, it definitely stretches credulity as the islands would face depopulation at the rate murders are committed!
I do love it though for the accents, the scenery, the ferries and the knitting.
I have read some of the other books mentioned as the basis for series, but the series themselves don't seem to be available here. I suspect I would be really choosy about who plays Rebus given my mental image of him.
>123 SassyLassy: Very good point about depopulation. Same goes for all the small towns in the US & UK! Have you read the Peter May trilogy set in/on the Hebrides Islands? I wonder if a mystery set on an island is a form of "locked room" mystery (finite number of people in one place...a la Agatha Christie). Hmm.
The John Hannah Rebus episodes were more atmospheric, he played a younger Rebus; however,I thought John Stott was closer to how I imagined Rebus. Did you know they give Rebus tours in Edinburgh?
>123 SassyLassy: the islands would face depopulation at the rate murders are committed!
I've had the same feeling about the Midsomer villages for a very long time... :)
>125 AnnieMod: Oh, Midsomer! At least with the television series, it was always 3 murders per episode (X 70 or 80 episodes....). I thought the comedy "Hot Fuzz" sort of spoofed Midsomer Murders....
>126 avaland: 3 murders per episode
116 episodes so far (and 6 planned for this year's series - the 20th series... it had been a long haul; and does not seem like they are anywhere close to canceling it so probably more to come) - I would be catching the first plane out of there if I was living in Midsomer... :) There were only 7 books from the series and they are not bad but it is one of the series I prefer on the screen (although I am not a huge fan of the new Barnaby (they did not recast - they just retired the old one and brought in a nephew/cousin/something like that) - he is ok but I miss the old one)...
>127 AnnieMod: I did not realize it was still going....(I think he's a cousin).
I was tempted to read Dibdin's Aurelio Zen book or books after seeing Rufus Sewall play Aurelio (he lives with his mother!) Sewall is always yummy as an Italian (and not always the dark-haired bad guy).
>123 SassyLassy: Finished watching the latest Shetland tonight. It’s labelled “characters created by...”, so they’ve obviously run out of books. Accents and scenery are lovely, as are the sweaters, but the plots are pretty nonsensical. I should have given up after the fiscal’s lesbian lover was thrown to the lions and the female officer raped in the last series. This one brought in a lengthy red herring about a Norwegian far-right group just so that they could shoot some scenes in Scandinavia and establish a bit of Nordic noir cred for themselves.
Yeah, I think he is a cousin - I keep thinking nephew because of the age difference.
You and me both about Dibdin - I am leaving the books alone for a few years until the series fades from my mind a little bit more :)
>130 AnnieMod: It's not going to fade right away for me. I'm still hung up on him in "Dangerous Beauty" with Jacqueline Bissett (in which he was a young 17th century Italian! between that and the costumes....)
Came across this today (in casey you don't have enough to read):
"The McIlvanney Prize is Bloody Scotland’s annual prize awarded to the best Scottish Crime book of the year. It provides Scottish crime writing with recognition and aims to raise the profile and prestige of the genre as a whole. Scottish roots are a must for competition applications: authors must either be born in Scotland, live there or set their books there. Crime fiction, non-fiction and anthologies of short crime stories are all eligible. The prize was renamed in memory of William McIlvanney, often described as the Godfather of Tartan Noir, in 2016."
2017 WINNER: The Long Drop by Denise Mina.
Lee Randall, chair of the judges said:
‘The Long Drop by Denise Mina transports us back to dark, grimy Glasgow, telling the social history of a particular strata of society via the grubby, smokey pubs favoured by crooks and chancers. She takes us into the courtroom, as well, where Manuel acted as his own lawyer, and where hoards of women flocked daily, to watch the drama play out.
Full of astute psychological observations, this novel’s not only about what happened in the 1950s, but about storytelling itself. It shows how legends grow wings, and how memories shape-shift and mark us.
Val McDermid – Out of Bounds (Little, Brown)
‘The Queen of Scottish crime adds yet more jewels to her crown with Out of Bounds and shows us why she’s writing at the very top of her game…Karen Pirie is one of the most engaging and charismatic of all the fictional Scottish Detectives’
Denise Mina – The Long Drop (Random House)
‘This elegantly written novel confirms Denise Mina’s stature among the great Scottish crime writers…The Long Drop transports you to the pubs, grubby back alleys and courtrooms at the heart of this unsavoury chapter of Scottish history’
Craig Russell – The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid (Quercus)
‘The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid is an assured riff on a classic noir caper which reveals Glasgow in all its gritty and compelling glory…The writing is as stylish as Lennox’s bespoke suits’
Craig Robertson – Murderabilia (Simon & Schuster)
‘An intriguing premise in a contemporary setting which tiptoes along the darker edges of crime fiction with an unusual detective at its heart…Murderabilia is a terrific addition to this inventive series’
Jay Stringer – How to Kill Friends and Implicate People (Thomas & Mercer)
‘This unexpected and explosive novel proves that Jay Stringer has reached the major league of Scottish crime fiction…The prose in How to Kill Friends and Implicate People crackles like a roaring campfire and you find yourself rooting for the unlikeliest of heroes’
I just finished the Val McDermid Out of Bounds after a five hour stint completely engrossed in it on Friday after work. When I finished I said, "That has got to be as near a perfect police procedural as can be." (I'm sure my hubby was polite enough not to yawn at my declaration). I got the book some time ago from the Book Depository, but the book just came out in the US.
I love some of Denise Mina's work and tried to read The Long Drop but I didn't care for the voice of the novel, or perhaps I was just disappointed that it was not one of her familiar series.... Anyone here read it?
>133 avaland: Unlike others who have commented on it, The Long Drop was a Mina book I really liked, while unlike others, I am not particularly fond of her series. I suspect the difference is that the former is written by someone whose love of her city always comes through. Indeed, to me, the Glasgow bits in her series are the best parts of the writing. Here is an excerpt from the review of The Long Drop I wrote in December which captures that writing:
Most of all though, this book feels like an ode to Glasgow. Not today's post European culture capital Glasgow, but the gritty city of old, still within living memory for some. As Mina tells it
I really liked The Long Drop, although I do prefer her other novels. It's such a vivid picture of a specific event, place and time. In an interview I heard with Mina, she was forceful in her view that authors should write what they want to, and not worry about what others want them to write.
>117 baswood: I agree. Certainly writers should write what they would like to, but they may pay a financial price for it. Ian Rankin was allegedly going to stop writing about Rebus some years ago, and I was among the bummed out, but turns out he did not.
This thread is dangerous every time I stop by. I already watch far too many crime/mystery series on tv, but it won’t stop me from adding more.
>132 avaland: Thank you for the list, Lois. I do have plenty to read, but I’m always looking for suggestions..just in case I run out of ideas. :) I really liked Denise Mina’s Alex Morrow series. I have her other series on my mental wishlist, and will get to them eventually. I’ll have to pick up The Long Drop from the library. They actually have it.
Going back to the topic of crime novels with a sense of place -- I just finished the first in a series of mystery novels set in the part of the Appalachians in Georgia and it was a good one. Heaven's Crooked Finger by Hank Early is about a private investigator who returns to his childhood home when he learns that the woman who took him in when his father kicked him out as a teenager is dying. There's a ton of atmosphere, but also snakes.
>139 NanaCC: It's meant to be dangerous, Colleen. You know you love this kind of danger....
>140 RidgewayGirl: I've never heard of that author.
***List of books into television series in message #122 above has been updated to add the Spenser for Hire, Bosch and the forthcoming Gone Baby Gone series (Dennis Lehane)
>141 avaland: It's his first novel. But the second book in the series is due out in July. I really liked the setting -- he clearly knows the area and dedicates the book to his two grandmothers who lived in north Georgia.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.