Wednesday, June 08, 2016

What Kirkus didn't tell you: Three more new crime novels you can read this summer

Kirkus Reviews recently published a list of twenty crime novels due for publication this summer and recommended for your consideration. It's not a bad list, but here are three novels that it missed:

1) Paradime, by Alan Glynn (Picador U.S. August/Faber U.K. May) Reviewers have invoked James Ellroy and John le Carré when discussing Alan Glynn, and if I squint and hold my head at the right angle, I can see resemblances. But Glynn's new novel is a lot more like David Mamet's 1997 movie The Spanish Prisoner than it is like anything by Ellroy and or le Carré. The novel's fever-dream narration is intoxicating, its first section in particular a kind of contemporary nightmare picaresque. (A worker for a private military contractor in Afghanistan witnesses a shocking incident, comes back to New York City, discovers that the incident won't leave him alone, and finds aspects of the result a strangely attractive escape — addictive, even.)

The novel shares some themes with Glynn's previous books, The Dark Fields (also published as Limitless), Winterland, Bloodland, and Graveland: alienation, paranoia, helplessness in the face of corporate and government power, and the uncertainty of boundaries between the two. But the action centers more on the protagonist than it does in the earlier novels, with distant but distinct echoes of mid-twentieth-century American noir. The book also seems carefully constructed, full of epiphanies that shed shocking new light on earlier scenes. And that may be one more mark of its kinship with The Spanish Prisoner.

2) One or the Other, by John McFetridge (ECW Press, August). I know of no crime writer who writes about suburbs and people who live there with the respect that McFetridge does, even though his books are set mostly in cities: Toronto and, in his three most recent novels, Montreal. But I also know of no crime writer who writes more vividly about cities, and who integrates character, crime, and history as seamlessly as McFetridge.

McFetridge's empathy with his protagonist, a young police constable named Eddie Dougherty, may remind readers of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels, but McBain never had anything like McFetridge's eye for the way big events and individual lives intersect, the lives always more important than the events. McFetridge's Dougherty books, of which One or the Other is the third, following Black Rock and A Little More Free, don't try to transcend any genre, but I can easily imagine that they would appeal to readers who love to empathize with characters and wonder about everyday lives lived in tumultuous times, whether or not the stories involve crime.

3) A Quiet Place, by Seicho Matsumoto (Bitter Lemon Press, August U.S./June UK) Too many invocations of one crime writer to describe another are silly, but Matsumoto really is reminiscent of Georges Simenon. This is true especially in his portrayals of dogged, unexceptional characters, bewildered, sometimes to the point of pathos, as they navigate the consequences of crimes they understand only dimly.

Matsumoto died in 1992, and little of his large output has been translated into English, so any new publication is welcome. A Quiet Place is a noirish tale full of sparing but sharp observations and pointed critiques of postwar Japanese society. The novel is reminiscent in that respect of Matsumoto's Points and Lines, which I named one of my favorite international crime novels in the first Detectives Beyond Borders post back in 2006.  The novel's close examination of a setting observed by the protagonist as he travels through it may remind readers of Akira Kurosawa's classic crime movie Stray Dog or of work by the contemporary Japanese crime writers Keigo Higashino and Fuminori Nakamura.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Blogger seana graham said...

Wow. I really want to read all three of these books, having read other work by all three authors.

June 09, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

They are terrific. I am on as hot a streak of reading good books as I can remember, and not just in crime fiction, either. Look for a post in the next day or so about Steve Cavanagh's The Plea, follow-up to The Defence, newly released in the United States as The Defense.

June 09, 2016  
Blogger seana graham said...

Cool. I keep seeing things about The Defence/Defense. Will have to look out for it.

June 09, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Defense was released in the U.S. just last month. Cavanagh also has a good story in Belfast Noir. Oddly enough, I don't remember that story being especially similar to either of his two novels. That speaks well of his talent, I think.

June 09, 2016  

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