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 Nesbø – The 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