Saturday, January 05, 2008

More Detectives Beyond Borders' 2007 top eighteen (or nineteen)

A few more highlights of the crime-fiction year just past:
The Big O by Declan Burke – A tour de fun from a high-spirited Irish novelist and blogger.

Crook as Rookwood by Chris Nyst – This headlong, comic legal thriller managed the difficult feat of sharing a Ned Kelly Award with Peter Temple's superb The Broken Shore for best crime novel of 2006. Nyst mixes humor and menace, plunges headfirst into the dirtiest of politics, and shows a flair for incisive courtroom drama. No surprise in that last; Nyst is a celebrated criminal-defense lawyer in Australia. The novel is also full of delicious Australian slang.

Macbeth and Hamlet by Christopher Marlowe, Edward de Vere or Queen Elizabeth I – I'll spare you any pronouncements about crime fiction vs. "serious" literature. I will remind you that Shakespeare's unparalleled and chill-inducing insights into human nature include in these two plays explorations of the fragmenting minds of the grandest killers known to English literature.

The Redbreast and The Devil's Star by Jo NesbøThe Redbreast is a chilling, gripping, atmospheric, psychologically acute decades-spanning thriller and mystery spiced with touches of romance and humor. The Devil's Star is rich in incident, in subplot, in deliciously slowed-down narrative passages, but the centerpiece is the protagonist. Harry Hole is the most alcoholic fictional detective I have ever come across. He passes out, he sleeps poorly, and he is tortured by nightmares from his past. Yet he is oddly accepting of his fate, if not passive, and this makes him compelling and sympathetic. Crime-fiction readers can look forward to this Norwegian author's Nemesis, to appear in English translation later this year.

The Flaxborough Chronicles by Colin Watson – Not a novel, but a series of novels, published from 1958 through 1982. Watson casts a loving but satirical eye on English village life while keeping up with the times and remaining thoroughly contemporary. This series was one of the year's big discoveries for me, and I repeat my big thanks to Michael Walters for suggesting Watson and to Karen Chisholm for raving about him. Find a complete list of the Flaxborough novels here.

He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum – This Norwegian writer offers a lead investigator who enters late, outcast characters treated with sympathy and humor, and a cast of characters in which everyone is a thinker, even the dogs.

The Broken Shore by Peter Temple – You may have heard of this Australian novel, winner of the Ned Kelly Award and the Duncan Lawrie Dagger and deserving of both. In addition to the novel's other virtues, Temple writes beautiful prose.

The Return and Borkmann's Point by Håkan Nesser – One of my big crime-fiction discoveries this year, belatedly translated into English and proof that Swedish crime writers can combine wit and humor with deadpan observation and social concern.

The Chinaman by Friedrich Glauser – Another carefully observed, quiet, mordantly satirical mystery from this great Swiss writer of the 1930s, though warmer, more personal and touched with more wry humor than its predecessors: Thumbprint, In Matto's Realm and Fever. This superlative crime writer is the jewel of Bitter Lemon Press' fine catalogue.

"Watch Me Kill You!" and “You’ll Die Laughing” by Norbert Davis – The first of these stories is from The Adventures of Max Latin, the second from The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps. Think those old-time hard-boiled American pulpsters could not go for laughs and succeed? Think again.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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7 Comments:

Blogger Kerrie said...

I haven't managed to get around to any Nesser, or Glauser so far Peter.
So there are some that I will have to find time to read. Helen from Newcastle pointed me to the Flaxborough Chronicles and they are a hoot aren't they? Nobody told me they were satirical before I began reading them, and that element took me by surprise particularly as the first one I read was THE FLAXBOROUGH CRAB.
Still haven't read any Declan Burke, although I've seen his name around lots recently, nor Chris Nyst. So my list gets longer

January 05, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

I suspect Declan Burke may become more widely known, since he has recently signed a two-book deal that will include publication of The Big O in the U.S.

The Flaxborough Crab is one of my favorites (I still haven't read every book in the series), and its title is far, far superior to the alternate title under which the novel was published, which I think was Just What the Doctor Ordered. How the books can beold-fashioned village mysteries and satires of 1960s morals at the same time is one of the great feats of alchemy in all of crime fiction.

If you haven't read Nesser or Glauser yet, you have much to look forward to.

January 05, 2008  
Blogger Roger Cornwell said...

Peter Temple actually won the biggie -- the Duncan Lawrie Dagger, see the CWA website. The International DL Dagger is for books translated into English, the DL Dagger is for books originally in English no matter what the author's nationality is, provided they are published in the UK.

Disclosure: I am the CWA's webmaster.

January 05, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

Roger: Yikes, that's an embarrassing slip, especially since I knew that Fred Vargas and Sian Reynolds had won the international dagger and had praised the CWA for making two good decisions in honoring two superb novels.

Thanks!

January 05, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This
al·ter·nate /v. ˈɔltərˌneɪt, ˈæl-; adj., n. ˈɔltərnɪt, ˈæl-/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[v. awl-ter-neyt, al-; adj., n. awl-ter-nit, al-] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation verb, -nat·ed, -nat·ing, adjective, noun
–verb (used without object)

...

11. constituting an alternative: The alternate route is more scenic.

January 05, 2008  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

OK Peter you are now the Duke of Dictionaries, or do you want an alternate title? ;)

January 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

The Landgrave of Lexicographers.

January 07, 2008  

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