Crime & Thrillers: Sleuths in battle
Friday 25 November 2011
Let's avoid saying that 2011 was the best of times, the worst of times for the crime and thriller field - but it has been a turbulent year, with regular visits by authors to both the heights and the depths.
The host of dispiriting, maladroit thrillers has (thankfully) been counterpointed by some exemplary writing, both from veterans and fresh-faced young pretenders. Of the latter, one of the most talked-about novels was produced by a shy NHS audiologist, SJ Watson. Word of mouth on Before I Go To Sleep (Doubleday, £12.99) was already impressive even before Watson bagged a CWA Dagger, and though he may have borrowed a premise from Christopher Nolan's film Memento, the assurance with which he finessed his narrative rivalled such old hands as Robert Harris.
Not that the latter was resting on his laurels, with The Fear Index (Hutchinson, £18.99) demonstrating why he has remained at the top of the tree. As usual, we're given a provocative central notion (involving hedge funds, sinister artificial intelligences and the collapse of the world economy), delivered with storytelling nous. Critics were also struggling to come up with new adjectives to praise the South African writer Deon Meyer's Trackers (Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99, trans. KL Seegers), a menacing tale of smuggling and disappearances on a sprawling canvas of post-apartheid South Africa. Historical crime may have moved into ever more unlikely territory in its attempts to re-energise the genre, but sterling work was still being done by such writers as Andrew Martin. The author produced one of the most impressive novels with The Somme Stations (Faber, £12.99), locating his railway detective Jim Stringer in the grim trenches of the First World War: a mesmerising mystery and a sober meditation on war. Still with historical crime, RN Morris's final outing for his revivification of Dostoyevsky's sleuth Porfiry (The Cleansing Flames, Faber, £12.99) wrote a poignant finish to an exemplary series. The Scandinavian invasion showed little sign of abating. Håkan Nesser's typically quirky The Unlucky Lottery (Mantle, £16.99; trans. Laurie Thompson) demonstrated that the author's idiosyncratic skills were still firmly in place.
But in the translated crime field, dispensers of Nordic Noir didn't quite have it all their own way. Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X (Little, Brown, £12.99; trans. Alexander Smith & Elye Alexander) sold two million copies in Japan, creating a cult and delivering a tale of urban murder and bizarre psychology. One of the most venerable names of the thriller genre, Gerald Seymour, showed that age was not withering him with A Deniable Death (Hodder, £19.99), including a relatively sympathetic portrait of an Iraqi bomb maker.
And 2011 offered one serendipitous find - a lost crime novel by CS (Hornblower) Forester (The Pursued, Penguin Classics, £12.99), plus three dangerous cities to be visited: Moscow in Martin Cruz Smith's Three Stations (Pan, £7.99), London in Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood (Doubleday, £16.99) and Istanbul in Tom Harper's Secrets of the Dead (Arrow, £6.99). All should be remembered when the lacklustre crime fare has settled into the silt.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained star's white boyfriend Brian Lucas confirms LAPD internally investigating 'racist' detainment
- 2 Isis release 'Flames of War' video warning Obama of attacks troops could face in Iraq
- 3 Pakistani passenger power forces two politicians off plane
- 4 Say yes to 'no-poo': It's been three years since I stopped washing my hair
- 5 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time: 'That was the lowest I'd ever felt'
Robin Thicke admits he did not write 'Blurred Lines'
Colin Firth and Emma Stone on starring in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance
Doctor Who series 8: Time Heist pictures revealed ahead of episode 5
Pharrell Williams says 'Blurred Lines' criticism is 'out of context'
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes