I’ve had a dauntingly large pile of books to review – large, but choice, for the most part. Here are a few off-the-cuff impressions:
Asa Larsson’s Black Path – one of a number of gifted Swedish writers, I found her third book intriguing, well-written, and a little bit frustrating, with an over-the-top ending that didn’t work for me, even though I really wanted it to. She’s better at dramatic twists and fast pacing than many of her compatriots, but sometimes it gets a little out of hand. To be fair, a lot of readers think it’s top-notch all the way through. See what I thought at Reviewing the Evidence.
John Harvey’s Cold in Hand – after I thought Charlie Resnick had his Last Rites, Harvey returns to his series and to Nottingham. As always, very, very good.
John Fetridge’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere – actually not on the assigned reading list, but I ended up reviewing it for RTE anyway. A brilliant, funny, caustic, complicated book peopled with cops and criminals who have a lot in common. You’ll never see Toronto quite the same way again. Really excellent.
Mark Billingham’s In the Dark – quite a departure for him, a stand-alone that explores the drug trade in South London when a young dealer gets caught up in a chain-reaction of violence. It reminded me a bit of Richard Price’s Clockers, told in a very different accent without quite so definite a physical geography as the imaginary Dempsey.
Michael Walters’s Shadow Walker – quite possibly the only crime fiction series set in Mongolia. A British detective is sent to Ulan Baatar to inquire into the murder of a geologist. His counterpart, Inspector Nergui, turns out to be a very able cop facing a very active serial killer. The body count is numblingly high, but the setting is fascinating – a clapped-out post-Soviet industrial society at the edge of the world.
Cody McFadyen’s The Darker Side – sadly, this book will no doubt outsell all the others I’ve read recently. It’s fairly effective, if you enjoy the mix of horror, soap opera, and manichean struggle that is the basis of the standard tortured FBI Profiler on the trail of a torturing serial killer narrative. I don’t.
Sam Reaves’s Mean Town Blues – what a good writer Reaves is! And he makes it seem so simple. Here he takes a classic noir tale, the kind that aches with nihilistic fatalism, but his hero apparently took a look at the script and decided not to play along. Instead, Tommy McClain, born in Kentucky and tempered in Iraq, steers his course through the mess, calculating the odds, doing the honorable thing, and always – barely – staying a step ahead of the game. This book doesn’t have the emotional density of Dooley’s Back or the teaming and vivid cityscape of Homicide 69, but it’s a perfect vehicle for its laconic and resourceful hero.
There are a few more on the pile still needing to be read – including Nick Stone’s King of Swords and Robin Burcell’s Face of a Killer – before I get to Sean Chercover’s Trigger City. I keep hearing it’s better than his much-admired Big City, Bad Blood. Can’t wait.