I was quite surprised when a few days ago I realised I was nearing my 100th post. Since starting my blog in June, it seems I have reviewed 67 novels, 1 play, 4 books about detective fiction and 4 crime fiction films, which leaves another 25 posts, a number of which are my current contributions to the Tuesday Night Bloggers, a group which puts up posts oddly enough every Tuesday on a different Golden Age detective fiction writer each month.
Aside from giving myself a pat on the back for having reviewed an awful lot of books, I was wondering how I should commemorate having written 100 posts and therefore decided to get some ideas off others, a lot of which tied into my own idea of somehow looking back on the blog so far and also looking forward into the future.
One suggestion for my 100th post was to look at my favourite books which I have reviewed on the blog so far and after the usual quandaries I would have to say that the following are my favourite 5 reads of the blog:
- The Catalyst Killing by Hans Olav Lahlum
The Catalyst Killing has all the hall marks of an amazing read for me, as it combines a great sense of time and place, has central characters who you quickly become addicted to following (Patricia is brilliant), and a plot which has puzzle elements, but hooks you emotionally as well, leaving you bereft when you turn the last page and realise there are no more words.
- Death of Anton by Alan Melville
For those who have read Melville’s Quick Curtain, they will know that comic detective fiction is his forte, but I think Death of Anton is Melville’s tour de force in detective humour, ranging from satire to slapstick. But what also surprised me with the book were the moments of great poignancy and darkness, which was something I didn’t expect from light-hearted Melville.
- Death of a Fellow Traveller by Delano Ames
What made this such a good read was that Dagobert and Jane are such a great detective duo and come across as much more mature in comparison to Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence such as in their outings in The Secret Adversary or Partners in Crime. This doesn’t stop them from being absolutely hilarious, with neither Jane or the reader knowing what Dagobert will do next.
- Murder in the Telephone Exchange by June Wright
The Australian setting was great and the central character, Maggie is enjoyable to read as she blunders her way through solving the case and the twists Wright brings out at the end are of Christie standard, which always makes a book worth reading doesn’t it?
- The Mamo Murders by Juanita Sheridan
This was a brilliant novel in Lily Wu series and I think the mysteries Lily Wu and Janice Cameron have to solve avoid being repetitive or formulaic due to the way Sheridan intrinsically intertwines Hawaiian culture into the plots. Moreover, I like how Lily Wu neither fits into elderly lady amateur sleuth camp nor the Bright Young Things group, which younger amateurs tend to fall into.
Another suggestion which was given to me was to look at gender in crime fiction, such as gender of victims and killers in the books I have reviewed. This was an idea which intrigued me because it is perhaps an overused concept now that the victims in crime fiction tend to be woman and the killers men. But having looked at the victims and killers in the books I have reviewed, this theory doesn’t hold water because as you can see below the majority of killers and victims are in fact men, though I would say a number of the female killers were actually the most memorable.
Of course, my results are affected by my choice of books and perhaps it is in more Scandinavian or Noir crime that women cop it a bit more, whereas family patriarchs and businessman might be the more common fodder of Golden Age crime fiction.
Looking into the future now, a question which was asked of me was ‘Where would I like to see crime fiction go next?’ Since the introduction of detective fiction as a genre there have been a lot of trends such as hard boil, Scandinavian and forensic and the trend of Golden Age detective fiction could even be said to cyclical as evidenced by the reprinting of such novels and the number of current writers who use its’ tropes in their own books. I think for me it is not a case of wanting to see a whole new trend in the future of detective fiction, but rather seeing current trends continued and developed, in particular the reprinting of nearly forgotten and hard to get hold of Golden Age detective novels, but also in translated crime fiction.
An interesting idea I saw on The Puzzle’s Doctor’s blog (who has done over 800 posts, so has done a fair few 00th posts in his time) was giving a shout out to underappreciated/ less well-known writers. The Puzzle Doctor chose 5, but very unlike me, I am going to only pick one and that is Boris Akunin. I have read two series by Akunin, both of which are set in late 19th Russia (though occasionally other countries feature as well such as Japan). His longest series concerns Erast Fandorin, who begins life in the police force but quickly slides into a diplomatic job. In each book there are murders/crimes for Erast to deal with, but it is the character of Erast himself who makes the books hard to put down, as like Lahlum’s series, you become emotionally hooked into seeing what happens to him and his emotional interactions and responses to things make him a more rounded character. Akunin also tries to incorporate a different aspect of crime fiction into each of his novels so for example Murder on the Leviathan has quite a Christie feel to it. However, I think it is important to start with The Winter Queen, the first book in the series, as it shows how Erast became the way he did. Like this first book, the last book to be translated (so far I hope) left my gasping at the end. The second series Akunin wrote which I have read, is a trilogy and it has a much more amateur sleuth at its centre, Sister Pelagia. Whereas Erast functions mainly in urban areas, Sister Pelagia tends to operate in more rural areas. This is a trilogy which has a much more philosophical turn to it perhaps and definitely leaves you thinking. Sister Pelagia herself, is often showing up the male characters in solving cases, but she is not big headed about it and I would say she is a descendent of Christie’s Miss Marple. At the end of each book there is a cliff hanger which leads into the next one so again starting at the beginning is very important, Sister Pelagia and The White Bulldog.
N. B. If you have a copy of CADS 70, handy you will also see a certain article about this author, written by myself which looks at both these series and the use of Golden Age tropes.
Finally, to the future of this blog. It’s come a long way since the beginning, where I couldn’t seem to get wordpress to format paragraphs properly and I have become introduced to a lot of great people, who are always there with one more book for my TBR pile. It has been brilliant to find so many like-minded people. I hope to continue writing reviews and posts for the Tuesday Night Bloggers, but feel free to give any suggestions you have below to the improvement of the blog or things you would like and want to see more of…