Author Topic: Investigating Crime  (Read 367 times)

Investigating Crime
« on: January 11, 2019, 03:59:26 PM »
I never read much crime fiction, so I'm making a concerted effort to do so this year.

I've picked up a few books almost at random, old and new, but I'd be interested to know what the general consensus is on what's good and bad.

What are the classics? What old ones do you need to read to understand what makes the genre what it is? What books have broken the mould in recent times and done innovative things with the themes and tropes?

One thing that is daunting is working out where to start with all those thick books with the author's name in big letters. Who's a must read, and who's not? Is LEE CHILD better than KARIN SLAUGHTER?

Just as a random starter, I'm on Hound of the Baskervilles, then I've got the Big Sleep and the first Robert Galbraith to get on with. Where next?

BlodwynPig

  • R.I.P. The Waxwork René
Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2019, 04:06:10 PM »
I picked up Mo Hayder's Pig island years ago because of the title and that led to Karin Slaughter. They're pulpy but good for the most part, probably not classics in crime fiction, more like CSI or Law & Order compared to Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2019, 08:11:04 PM »
I always recommend Sjöwall & Wahlöö's Martin Beck series.

Ten books with a story arc that takes in the major social changes that happened in Sweden in the sixties, and the severity of the crimes worsens as society changes. They have informed lots of Scando-Noir including Wallander, and I like that one book takes in a three month period and then in another all the action happens in twenty four hours; the only thing you know at the beginning is that each book has thirty chapters.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2019, 09:17:13 PM »

BlodwynPig

  • R.I.P. The Waxwork René
Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2019, 09:18:52 PM »
I always recommend Sjöwall & Wahlöö's Martin Beck series.

Ten books with a story arc that takes in the major social changes that happened in Sweden in the sixties, and the severity of the crimes worsens as society changes. They have informed lots of Scando-Noir including Wallander, and I like that one book takes in a three month period and then in another all the action happens in twenty four hours; the only thing you know at the beginning is that each book has thirty chapters.

Beck itself was televised, of course. Great series.

chveik

  • TOTALLY CURED
Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2019, 09:38:26 PM »
My favourite crime fiction novelist is Donald Westlake (particularly his Dortmunder series), his books are hilarious and very well paced. I'm also very fond of the Father Brown short stories, by Chesterton, it's highly unusual. And then there are the usual suspects, Simenon, PD James, Elmore Leonard etc.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2019, 10:03:59 PM »
Yes another fan of Chesterton here. Also Margery Allingham's Campion stories, if you like that sort of thing.

Funcrusher

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Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2019, 10:04:46 PM »
My favourite crime fiction novelist is Donald Westlake (particularly his Dortmunder series), his books are hilarious and very well paced. I'm also very fond of the Father Brown short stories, by Chesterton, it's highly unusual. And then there are the usual suspects, Simenon, PD James, Elmore Leonard etc.

Westlake's Parker books under his Richard Stark alias are amazing also. Elmore Leonard was a genius. Other all time greats: Chandler, Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, Simenon, Ross Macdonald, John D Macdonald. I guess I have to mention Derek Raymond as well. The Martin Beck books are also really good. My view is that crime fiction is not in the best of health these days and everything just seems a bit formulaic and mediocre.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2019, 11:41:33 PM »
Yes another fan of Chesterton here. Also Margery Allingham's Campion stories, if you like that sort of thing.

What's the name of that Chesterton book of short stories, where ever incident starts out like some dead to rights minor crime, only for it to turn out to be the result of a unique profession, like a company that arranges elaborate lies so you can get out of dinner parties?  He's a funny guy.  Slightly dodge politics, but great imagination.

Haven't read it in years, but I remember James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner really plunged you into the headspaces of both the killer and the copper on the hunt for him (it's split into two parts for both perspectives).

chveik

  • TOTALLY CURED
Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2019, 12:30:06 AM »
What's the name of that Chesterton book of short stories, where ever incident starts out like some dead to rights minor crime, only for it to turn out to be the result of a unique profession, like a company that arranges elaborate lies so you can get out of dinner parties?  He's a funny guy.  Slightly dodge politics, but great imagination.

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Mister Six

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Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2019, 10:38:26 AM »
If you don't mind reading books that aren't about police, I can't recommend Denise Mina's Garnethill trilogy (Garnethill, Exile and Resolution) enough. They're about a regular - but resourceful - woman who winds up investigating grisly crimes in Glasgow and London, but they're no less gripping nor beautifully detailed. Such a great grasp of character and place, and some highly likeable (and loathsome) supporting characters.

She did a decent one-off book, Sanctum (released as Deception in the US), which I also read and enjoyed, but which feels a bit lightweight in comparison.

Not read her other series - one about young reporter Paddy Meehan (two of the books were filmed as The Field of Blood, with Peter Capaldi), another about police detective Alex Morrow, both set in Glasgae - but I really should.

I'll also second the love for Elmore Leonard, although he was very prolific and some of his books are only middling. Get Shorty (but not the sequel, Be Cool), Rum Punch, Pronto and Out of Sight are the obvious picks, for a reason. They've all been adapted, but they're still worth a swing of the bat as Leonard does a great job of getting inside the characters' heads.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2019, 06:12:39 PM »
Slightly dodge politics, but great imagination.

One of the few 'intellectuals' to have gone against the progressive tide of eugenics, so credit him for that. Of course Borges was a fan too.

Edmund Crispin is great. His Fen novels distinguish themselves amongst other Golden Age series by having a sense of humour and an Oxford don for their sleuth which gives them a distinctive literary quality.

btw John Lanchester had a piece in the last LRB but one making the case for Christie as a modernist writer, not sure I buy it but worth reading.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2019, 10:23:27 PM »
Another I've just remembered is Michael Innes' (JIM Stewart) Appleby books. Only read four and a collection of short stories (Appleby Talking) but must try and get hold of some more.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2019, 10:52:40 PM »
One of the few 'intellectuals' to have gone against the progressive tide of eugenics, so credit him for that. Of course Borges was a fan too.

I think the last one of his I read was Manalive, which had a couple of passages about the barren savageness of the non-white, and where he says things like, "He is only a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of the Conservative." It's confusing for a pinbrain like me, because in the same book he champions a sort of freewheeling ragamuffin lifestyle.   I think maybe what he really wanted was for his college professor mates to take up the odd yoga class.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2019, 11:41:46 PM »
Just realised that I read a Beck novel last year - The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, and really enjoyed it.

I also read two by Jorn Lier Horst - William Wisting is the detective, Norwegian and very good.

The Skull Beneath The Skin by PD James was fun too.

chveik

  • TOTALLY CURED
Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2019, 11:57:21 PM »
I've never read any of Chesterton's essays, I find the antimodern/catholic/conservative trope very tiresome (tbf the progressive one is not that interesting either), but I might be mistaken. has anyone read his autobiography?
but his novels (and short stories) are incredible, particularly The Man Who Was Thursday and The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

anyway back on topic.
I deeply recommend Dogra Magra, it's a brilliant and very experimental detective story which takes place in a psychiatric hospital.
here's a quick summary:

Quote
In the story, the protagonist/narrator wakes up in a hospital with amnesia. He finds out that he was the subject of an experiment by a now-dead psychiatrist, and the doctors are working to bring back his memories. It is not clear whether he was a psychotic killer or the victim of a strange psychological experiment, but it is told that he killed his mother and wife and that he inherited his psychotic tendencies from an insane ancestor.

Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2019, 12:56:54 PM »
Beck itself was televised, of course. Great series.

Yup, good series, but only based on the characters in the books, not adaptations of them. I like the books because they're a finite run of stories and by the last book you know all the foibles and fallibilities of the characters and then they find themselves in the middle of a situation that they're completely unprepared for.

Catalogue Trousers

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Re: Investigating Crime
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2019, 06:53:24 PM »
My usual recommendation - Christopher Fowler's Bryant And May books. Just a marvellous series.