The modern novel: is there a plot or just a conspiracy?

I SYMPATHISE wholehearteldly with David Nicholson-Lord and his frustration at the pretentious unreadability of much contemporary fiction.

I wonder, however, if he has perhaps succumbed without realising it to the other major con of the literary establishment; namely that if a book concerns itself even remotely with the unravelling of a puzzling crime, it cannot be "literature".

Dickens was certainly not above using such plots to sustain reader interest - alongside fine writing. Though there is clearly much dross in the genre (as in all others), there is still to be found, in the work of such as Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Nicholas Freeling, Julian Symons and Elmore Leonard, all the joys of excellent, intelligent writing and the "good read" that your correspondent craves.

Geoffrey Brace