SinC25 #4: Reggie Nadelson

For my fourth Sisters in Crime Book Bloggers Challenge author, I’m choosing one who has knocked my socks off more than once. Reggie Nadelson writes a series about an unusual (and quite frankly unlikely) NYPD detective named Artie Cohen. I say unlikely because the way he works would probably not actually be tolerated by the NYPD bureaucracy. He’s improvisatory and impulsive and poetic; he works like jazz works. I don’t think that would go down well with the brass.

But it goes down a treat with me. Nadelson writes in Artie Cohen’s voice with a style that just pulls me in. Artie is the child of a Soviet KGB agent and a refusnik mother who emigrated to Israel and then the US and now loves his home, New York City, with deep passion, an infatuation that comes through in the books. His ties to the Russian community – in particular to Tolya Sverdloff, an extravagantly wealthy businessman – run deep, too, and in Londongrad, though he’s trying to detach himself from the job and take a vacation, he gets caught up in a murder that might be a case of mistaken identity, with Sverdloff’s daughter Val the real target. The story takes Artie to London, or to the part of London where wealthy Russian oligarchs are living a dissolute life of excess, and on to Moscow, where Artie can’t avoid his memories. I wrote about the book at Reviewing the Evidence; I loved, loved, loved  it.

A more recent book, Blood Count, takes Artie to a foreign land: Harlem, where he investigates the murder of an imperious White Russian emigree who lives in a grand old apartment that is crumbling and in line for restoration by an aggressive developer. Where Londongrad concludes in a Russia where the old and new coexist in strange contradictory layers, Blood Count takes place in an equally contradictory moment in American history, when a black man is triumphantly elected president just as the financial system is crumbling in a spectacularly massive failure. She captures the hope and the despair poignantly. I also reviewed it at RTE.

Nadelson is a fine novelist with a gift for striking images and an uncanny ability to evoke places and moods in a way that makes them so vividly alive it almost hurts. But then, these are places I love, too.

It’s a challenge to come up with three more women writers similar to Nadelson, so I’ll strive for ones who are particularly good at evoking a sense of place with particularly fine style.

  • Denise Mina – whose style shape-shifts from one project to another, but who always is able to make Glasgow come to vivid and fond life.
  • Alex Carr (Jenny Siler) – whose Prince of Bagram Prison knocked my socks off; the ending has the same kind of heart-breaking beauty as Londongrad, the kind of passage that makes me want to read it aloud to savor the words. (And dammit, makes me cry.)
  • Asa Larsson – who does an excellent job of making me feel cold when she writes about Kiruna, in the north of Sweden, with a hat tip to the excellent translations by Marlaine Delargy.
  • 2 Responses to SinC25 #4: Reggie Nadelson

    1. kathy d. says:

      I definitely agree about Denise Mina. Her Garnethill Trilogy was among my favorite reads. Wish I had time to reread it, but the TBR list is too humongous for rereads now.
      And Asa Larsson is compelling and fun to read.
      I read Blood Count by Nadelson but wasn’t thrilled. I may try the one you suggest above.

    2. I just discovered Nadelson, and I’m very envious. She’s not only covered Russia as a journalist, but is now writing interesting detective books with a Russian theme.

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