In part two of our New Year episodes, we look at a run down of the best crime fiction books TCF has reviewed in 2022. Again, this is in no particulary order.
The Coombs case indeed throws up a mirror to our apparently more modern age, where we consider ourselves to have more understanding. The Wicked Boy however does not lead one to the satisfactory conclusion that we would react differently now-a-days because we are so much more knowledgeable and clever. Instead it shows us that despite the great advances we've made both socially and in technology, once you scratch the surface the human reaction to children committing murder is the same tumultuous mix of shock, horror, pity, and disbelief, accompanied by the kind of wild blame seeking and judgement that speaks more of calming anxiety than the search for true understanding.
It is not just the effects on the soul that Dundass has got right, it's also the othering and dislike of disability from society. At the heart of HellSans is the unspoken question that all those with disability come to ask themselves sooner or later "Is it me who is disabled, or is the real disability societies inability to cope with differnece."
The surface question of this book is "Who is killing these people?" but as a book of layers, readers who choose to dig down further find other questions, many of which will be uncomfortable. Like it's antipodean counterpart, Dust off the Bones, we are seeing an emergence in crime fiction of narrative which deeply engages with crime. Not just the crime that propels a reader to turn the page to find out who dun it. Rather crime that is rooted in great injustices, crimes of nations and states, crimes for which no one person can be jailed, so we can easily say justice is done and move on. Crimes which are so large, that they ripple throughout history, and on the level of time are still present, happening and, ongoing, before our very eyes.
This week on a podcast only episode Mairi interviews Jack Lutz, author of London in Black, a near-future novel about crime and society in London after a biochemical attack. They talk crime fiction, London, names and flawed detectives.
Mead's central charctor, John Spector, is the magician who helps the police unravel, this fiendishly difficult murder. As a conjuror he is perfectly placed to understand the art of illusion and distraction, and fits wonderfully well into the narrative. However, we learn little about who Spector is, and how he has come to be assisting the police, leading his presence to be essentailly the third mystery of the book.
When we hear the word farm we normally think of a beucolic idyl, of hard but satisfying work on the land. Not so for anyone who had the misfortune to be sucked into the orbit of the Pickton farm, and crimes so truely haneous that it strengthens my argument that some true crime could really …
Creature X is ultimately trying to entertain, rather than change the world, an egoistic conceit to begin with, and sometimes, as long as it is done mindfully, and conciously of impact of steriotypes entertainment for it's own sake is enough. And perhapse, while writing a hunt for a mythological creature, Dupuis has managed a few blows in getting rid of other dinosaurs altogether.
This is the strength of the book, the deeply personal decades long reflection of the victims family. However, this is not a piece of investigative journalism. So those who are expecting the rigour of someone with the caliber Gregg Olsen will be dissapointed. Cosgrove is aware of this, and admits that in his journalistic career he gravitated towards upbeat fluff pieces, and there are points where this shows.
It is the slow building of a sense of place, time and people over a series of novels that allows one the same sense of emotional investment as one would have to Ellis Peters, or Lyndsey Davis. For historical crime fans this is going to be the new must-read series.