Crime Time November Roundup
BRYANT AND MAY: LONDON’S GLORY Christopher Fowler (Transworld). Praise for this consistently entertaining series is now absolutely sui generis; enough to say that Christopher Fowler’s latest entry for his eccentric ageing detectives is as ingeniously enjoyable as ever. This is a series that goes from strength to strength with the author constantly finding new wrinkles to inject into his idiosyncratic narratives; Fowler aficionados (and they are numerous) need not hesitate.
THE MURDERER IN RUINS Cay Rademacher, translated by Peter Millar (Arcadia) Hamburg in 1947 is a devastated city occupied by the British who bombed it. It is experiencing its coldest winter in living memory, and the black market is all-powerful. There is a killer on the loose. Frank Stave is a career policeman dealing with both this external threat and a tragedy in his past. The reputation of this remarkable novel since it was first written some four years ago has grown by leaps and bounds, and it proves to be well worth the attention it has already received, particularly in this sympathetic translation by Peter Millar. It is historical crime writing of a distinguished order.
THE KILLING OF POLLY CARTER Robert Thorogood (Mira). The phenomenal success of this hit television series Death in Paradise is due to several elements – not least the aspiration of viewers towards the kind of sun-soaked holidays that we all vicariously enjoy on screen. But there is no gainsaying the contribution of series writer Robert Thorogood, whose novels set in the universe of the television show are deftly entertaining. This latest entry pushes all the requisite Agatha Christie-style buttons.
MR MILLER Charles Den Tex, translated by Nancy Forest-Flier (World Editions) The winner of prestigious crime awards (and adviser to this writer when I was writing Euro Noir) has been long overdue in a new English translation, and rewards the wait. The author published his first thriller in 1995 and has won the Golden Noose three times: in 2002 for Schijn van kans (Chance in Hell), in 2006 for De macht van meneer Miller (Mr Miller) and two years later for CELL. Den Tex is perhaps best known for his Bellicher Trilogy (Mr Miller, CELL and Password), featuring management consultant Michael Bellicher, immersed in conspiracies, identity theft and surveillance systems in an era in which internet technology and age-old crimes converge. Mr Miller and CELL were filmed as a ten-part television series.
THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF THE ADVENTURES OF MORIARTY Maxim Jakubowski, editor (Constable Robinson) One might have thought that after the numerous variety of Moriarty pastiches created by everyone from John Gardener to Kim Newman the possibilities for Sherlock Holmes’ arch nemesis have been thoroughly exhausted. But that is not the case, as this lively and entertaining collection (correlated by editor emeritus Maxim Jakubowski) comprehensively proves. Writers involved includes such masters as David Stuart Davies, and there are some ingenious attempts to fill in gaps in the Canon here – even though Holmes and Watson are not always present, the spirit of Conan Doyle always is.
MYCROFT HOLMES Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse (Titan) More Holmesiana. Despite the author’s unlikely credentials as a Holmesian (he is 7′ 2” inches tall and basketball’s all-time leading scorer, as well as being a US cultural ambassador), this is a solidly written entry in the genre of post-Conan Doyle adventures for The Great Detective. Having said that, one wonders just how crucial the involvement of co-author Anna Waterhouse was…
SOME KIND OF HERO Matthew Field & Ajay Chowdhury (History Press) Subtitled ‘The Remarkable Story of The James Bond Films’, this is a book which – topicality apart (it includes a section on the new Bond film Spectre) — might seem to be redundant, given that there have been so many volumes on the 007 film franchise. Admittedly, there are some well-worn anecdotes here, but it isn’t just the fact that the new study covers everything from the inaugural Bond movie Dr No to the latest film that makes it so valuable, it is the fastidious scholarship and research – along with its enthusiastic insights – that makes Some Kind of Hero a useful purchase for any admirers of the Bond films interested in the logistics behind their success.
JOSEPHINE TEY: A LIFE Jennifer Morag Henderson (Sandstone Press) Of all the great women writers of the golden age of British crime fiction, one of the most accomplished was Josephine Tey — and while there have been previous books about the writer, Henderson’s study becomes at a stroke the definitive volume. The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair earn their high places on the reading list of crime aficionados, but their author’s life is often as intriguing as anything she produced, and there are several mysteries about the writer – not least concerning her ambiguous sexuality. There is an insightful introduction by Val McDermid, but another crime writer, Nicola Upson, might have provided an equally interesting introduction, given that she has made Tey the detective heroine of several of her books.
THE RIVALS OF DRACULA: STORIES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE OF GOTHIC HORROR edited and introduced by Nick Rennison (No Exit Press) Rennison’s earlier collection, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, is highly diverting, and this follow-up features writers who have taken up the vampiric tropes of Bram Stoker and his sinister Count. This collection is equally entertaining, with a very eclectic choice of writers (including two undisputed masters, EF Benson and MR James, making up for the odd quotidian entry). It’s a collection which can either be dipped into consumed en masse – either way, the rewards are considerable.
ONCE A CROOKED MAN David McCallum (Sandstone Press) During David McCallum’s long career as an actor, he appears to have been harbouring writerly ambitions, and Once a Crooked Man proves to be an ingenious if straightforward crime novel which moves at a considerable lick.
THE CHOSEN Kristina Ohlsson (Simon & Schuster) A frigid winter’s day in Stockholm; a preschool teacher is murdered in front of parents and children at a Jewish school. Frederika Bergman and Alex Recht find themselves up against one of the most intractable cases of their careers in this characteristically sharp and atmospheric slice of Nordic noir from the capable Kristina Ohlsson.