Since the 1970s, the two major branches of crime fiction — the English cozy and the American hard-boiled — have “divided and proliferated,” Richard Shephard and Nick Rennison argue in their 100 Must-Read Crime Novels (A&C Black, 2006), a Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide www.acblack.com. One result is that the field now ranges from “the tartan noir of Ian Rankin to the Roman scandals of Steven Saylor, from Donna Leon’s shadow-filled Venice to the mean streets of Walter Mosley’s LA.”
But can the recent expansion be sustained? How many of those “must-read” crime novels have appeared in the 21st century? Among the 100 essential books reviewed in their guide, Shephard and Rennison list five published since 2000:
Flinch (2001) by Robert Ferrigno. Ferrigno has set his books “mainly in the sun-kissed idyll and moral vacuum” of southern California, and he returns to it in Flinch. Reporter Jimmy Gage becomes involved in the hunt for a serial killer in a novel that, Shephard and Rennison say, “may well be Ferrigno’s finest offering.”
The Bottoms (2000) by Joe R. Lansdale. “Joe Lansdale is best known for his series of violently farcical novels in which Hap Collins, white and straight, and Leonard Pine, black and gay, join forces in an odd crime team let loose among the rednecks in the Deep South, but The Bottoms is something very different,” Shephard and Rennison write. The novel, set east Texas in the mid-1930s, involves the discovery of a mutilated body bound to a tree in the river bottoms near the home of its young narrator, Harry Crane.
Tell No One (2001) by Harlan Coben. A young married couple plan to celebrate the anniversary of their first kiss at a lake in Pennsylvania, but during the tryst Elizabeth is murdered and David is beaten and left for dead. Eight years later to the day, David receives an e-mail message telling him to visit a Web site that contains the command: “tell no one.” “Coben masterfully piles on the suspense and tension,” the editors say, and sets “a relentless pace that holds till the final page.”
Mystic River (2001) by Dennis Lehane. The plot may hinge on implausible coincidences, but Shephard and Rennison see this as an “entirely compelling story” about three friends and something terrible that happened to them twenty-five years ago in Boston. For an alternate view of Mystic River, see the review posted on this site on Oct. 17, 2006 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/10/17/.
Dialogues of the Dead (2002) by Reginald Hill. In a novel that brings back Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe of the Mid-Yorkshire police, two deaths regarded as accidents come under new scrutiny when stories entered in a library’s short story contest contain details only someone close to the crimes could have known. All of Hill’s fiction shows his love of word games and literary allusions, Shephard and Rennison say, and this book places that love at the heart of the plot.
Not sure you’d like any of those books? Bill Peschel has an archive of reviews of other mysteries at Reader’s Almanac www.planetpeschel.com/index?/reviews/index/C5/.
Have you read a good crime novel that you would recommend that others? If so why not leave a comment on the post for the latest meeting of One-Minute Book Reviews online book club www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/07/01/, where people are discussing the books they are taking on vacation?
(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.