Sunday, December 11, 2011

Best crime fiction I've read this year?

Best crime fiction I read in 2011? Regular DBB readers won't be shocked to see Irish and South African novels on the list, namely, Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke, Bloodland by Alan Glynn, The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty, and Dust Devils by Roger Smith. (Pure coincidence that those titles begin, respectively, with A, B, C, and D.) ed. note: OK, I'll break the sequence by adding McKinty's Falling Glass.

But I also read Derek Raymond for the first time in 2011, and I now understand why noir lovers love Raymond. In the Classics Division, I read four more books in Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck series, and I'm awed at how apparently effortlessly they pulled off the sort of crime-cum-social criticism that many of their successors strive so laboriously for.

I liked Harri Nykanen's Raid and the Blackest Sheep for the deadpan humorous narration of its odd on-the-road story. And once I've strayed close to Scandinavian territory, Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis's The Boy in the Suitcase is moving, suspenseful, and well worth a read. The Dagger-winning Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström, is a thriller with a conscience, yes, but mainly a pretty damn good thriller.

In America, I was pleased to enter Charlie Stella's rough, funny fictional world for the first time, but it's back abroad and to the alphabet theme for perhaps the year's most delightful crime fiction surprise, Anne Zouroudi.

I might not have read Zouroudi's Messenger of Athens had she not been on one of my panels at Bouchercon 2011, but boy, am I glad I did. Zouroudi is a master of slow, languid pace, of lives stoically lived, and of wrongs righted without sentimentality. What a sense of phsyical and human place.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

23 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

Yikes. I am so behind.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No, I'm ahead. It's only Dec. 11.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Not all these books are new, so ahead and behind lack the force they once may have had. That's one good thing blogs have done: They have allowed discussion of more than just new books. Newspapers and magazines could do the same, of ocurse, but few do.

December 12, 2011  
Anonymous Liz said...

I agree that Anne Zouroudi is to be commended for her series.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I hope to get to the Zouroudi series early next year.

Yes, it's now or never for books, unless you get course adoption for schools, which seems like a dubious distinction, really.

Now seems to mean something like, "this week" for books. Well, unless they make a movie.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Liz, I was especially excited to like "The Messenger of Athens" as much as I did because it's not the sort of book I might normally have come across in my crime-fiction reading. Of course, I could say the same about Pierre Magnan as well.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, among all the inflated claims made for the Internet, the creation of a forum where discussion of books oan take in something other than the new or the classic is one of the real achievments and opportunities.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Agreed.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Great picks!

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And if you and I agree that a technological phenomenon is beneficial, Seana, that’s one technological phenomenon that has good reason to feel mighty proud of itself.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kelly:

Thanks.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Declan Burke said...

Many thanks for the good word, Peter - as always. Very nice indeed to see AZC in such august company ...

Cheers, Dec

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And as always, the pleasure is mine. AZC is more than worthy of sipping a fine aged tawny port in that company.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I second Mr Burke. Glad you liked the book. Funny thing is that for me and Dec these are our two most personal books, so its really true to say that you should write what you know.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Both you and Mr. Burke had written a number of novels previously. Maybe letting the experiences and angst build up for a while makes for better books even if it may drive up an author's blood pressure.

December 12, 2011  
Blogger Kiwicraig said...

Just received a copy of BLOODLAND, so looking forward to that. Definitely need to get my hands on Absolute Zero Cool - not readily available in NZ bookstores, so will have to be an internet import.

Looks like I need to send you some more Kiwi crime fiction Peter - we had some good stuff down here this year too.

December 13, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'll like "Bloodland." And, if the term were not so suspect, I'd say that "Absolute Zero Cool" is as challenging a literary crime novel as you're likely to read.

And I ought to read myself, say, some Paul Cleave before too long.

December 13, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

What a sense of physical and human place

I loved A Zouroudi's first 2 novels for these very reasons. I've got her 3rd on an ILL request as it is not yet available in the US. She captures in crime fiction qualities that I enjoy but more often find myself having to turn to historical fiction in order to find. The enveloping mood of myth and mystery (not as in whodunnit) in her books is a real pleasure. Yep, she gets my vote for "best sense of place" in the crime fiction I read this year that was published in 2011.

December 13, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, when I first read Anne Zouroudi, I wrote that her work reminded me of Pierre Magnan's, especially Death in the Truffle Wood and The Messengers of Death. Have you read them?

December 13, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

No, I haven't. I saw the dreaded words "quirky" and "same bizarre but humorous vein as Fred Vargas" to describe Magnan at another blog and decided he wasn't for me. However, if I do decide to read one, which of the 2 you mention should I read?

December 13, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You might try either book.

Good gosh, I was going to say that Magnan does not remind me especially of Vargas, but it seems I once wrote that I bet Vargas had read Magnan.

Well, as I recall those Magnan novels now, the slow, closed rural life of the books sticks out far more than any quirkiness. You might have a look at my posts about Magnan. Here’s one. Just ignore the Vargas reference at the end. Here’s another.

December 13, 2011  
Blogger Susan said...

Darn, I haven't read any of these! I have heard of one, so I don't feel all bad - The Boy in the Suitcase, and your review of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo got me started in that series - it is really well done, isn't it?

I'll be adding lots here to my to-read list! Thanks, Peter!!!

Have a happy 2012 and lots of happy reading wishes to you.

December 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Susan, if you haven't read these, you have some good reading to look forward to.

And happy reading and Happy New Year to you, as well. The Sjowall and Wahloo series is one of the high points in the history of crime fiction.

December 31, 2011  

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