Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Lure of Detective Stories

I am truly hooked on detective stories. I'm a genre junkie! I don't know if it's the summer or a reaction to everything else going on around me. For example, my wife has done a stint of jury service recently and the mess that is the real criminal case can't equal the excitement of a really good whodunit.

With the exception of the master, Sherlock Holmes (I am enjoying his American adventures by Larry Millett), I find most English detective fiction anodyne and bland. For me, continental Europe produces the best writing. Without doubt, Italy heads the list with Donna Leon, Andrea Camilleri, and Gianrico Carofiglio, as I've mentioned before.

I also think of southern Europe as containing Engrenages (Spiral), the French policier recently shown on BBC4. (Which was ended in such a way as to ensure series two.)

Northern Europe--all rectitude and hidden subversion--is creating marvellous characters such as Kurt Wallander in Sweden (Henning Mankell) and Detective Erlendur in Iceland (Arnaldur Indridason). And I am about to start the Amsterdam Cops series by Janwillem de Wetering.

But now others are entering the dark crevices of my mind. Pre-revolutionary Russia in the guise of Erast Fandorin by Boris Akunin--a beautifully nurtured character who grows and evolves with each volume.

While it's sunny and warm outside in our baking summer, it will be dark and cold in my heart as I wend my way through the more rebarbative side of our natures.


Caz Mockett said...

I remember you recommended Donna Leon's books to me just after I had returned from a trip to Venice, and I certainly enjoyed reading them; it was so much easier to visualise the action having visited the place.

While not actually detective fiction, Richard Russo's "Straight Man" is a book my friend over at LitLove recently recommended to me, and it's a great read.

But there is a mystery to be solved (who strangled the gooose?!). it's set in the back-biting English Department of a smalltown US University. The academics' antics are priceless. I think you would enjoy it :-)

johnflood said...

There is nothing like an academic mystery. What else is there for the poor darlings to do? One of my favourites is The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, an Argentinean mathematician. Godel's incompleteness theorem figures in this. I say this with confidence considering maths was never one of my favourite subjects at school.