Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Reading Murder Books

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  • Amy Gale,

    I just got a book of EVERY POIROT SHORT STORY from the library on Saturday!

    And why?

    Because I was browsing a few aisles away under STR, wondering if there was any Charles Stross there that I hadn't read, and someone came into the aisle, and I looked over, and it was a coworker.

    He said he was looking for Laundry novels, I said hah how about that. He pulled out The Apocalypse Codex., and it fell open at a piece of paper. A boarding pass. For Amy Gale.

    While I was shamefacedly stuffing it in my bag he said have you read any Inspector Pamplemousse and I said no, so we walked over and I picked some out and oh look CHR is just near BON. I do like me some CHR.

    (But I still haven't read any Inspector Pamplemousse yet. I don't even know if murders are involved.)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    Oooh yes. Put me down for Altered Carbon - Sci Fi Noir detective trilogy by Richard Morgan. I have a feeling if they manage to get the movie made, I will be disappoint.

    Reading Agatha Christie's Mysterious Affair at Styles at present for a book club - good old Poirot and his little grey cells.

    The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Three Investigators, The Famous Five - all those gateway drugs for young readers.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Jack,

    The Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax books in Discworld by Terry Pratchett and frequently as much murder mystery as they are fantasy and I re read Pratchett every year. I still love Sherlock Holmes, although it's in a different way now than it was.

    I love Ben Aaronovitch (although I have to check how to spell his name every damn time) and Jim Butcher. Mira Grant writes badass zombie/journalist/apocalypse fiction.

    Guilty pleasure: Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Yes, they are the same book over and over after about book five, but who cares? They're fun.

    I get a lot of re-read pleasure out of Pride and Prejudice (not so much Austin's other works, but P and P is awesome).

    I just recently discovered The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey, which appears to be crack in the form of a series of space opera books.

    I occasionally get asked when I'm going to read (or write) a 'real' book (meaning literary book). I'm yet to thump anyone for asking but it's been a near thing sometimes.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2015 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Amy Gale,

    A boarding pass. For Amy Gale.

    I have left so many boarding passes in library books. When you're not using them as bookmarks, they tuck neatly inside the jacket flap of a standard hard-cover.

    I get a lot of re-read pleasure out of Pride and Prejudice (not so much Austin’s other works, but P and P is awesome).

    This is an odd co-incidence, because I was just thinking that of my four 'favourite books', P&P is the only one that isn't in some way a mystery. Rebecca certainly is, and I think, stretching the point more, Possession is as well.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    I admit it... I'm an addict, hopelessly hooked on murder mysteries. In particular I've developed a taste for Scandinavian police procedurals. It started during a brief spell in hospital where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo become unputdownable and I quickly consumed the rest of the series. That led to Stieg Larsson's biography which included a handy list of his favourite crime writers. And I was away.

    My favourite author by far is still Henning Mankell, who sadly passed away earlier this year. If you enjoy perfectly plotted and beautifully crafted crime books, he's your man. He also wrote several non-crime novels -- Chronicler of the Winds stands out for me. It's one of those wonderful books which is so good you find yourself re-reading paragraphs for the pure pleasure of the writing style.

    Of course once you're addicted to this stuff there's a never ending supply of quality Scandinavian noir from the likes of Sjowall & Wahloo, Hakan Nesser, Karin Fossum, Jussi Adler-Olsen; French crime by Pierre Lemaitre; Icelandic fiction from Arnaldur Indridason, as well as a handful of fine New Zealand crime authors including Vanda Symon, Paddy Richardson and Liam McIlvanney.

    As a former lapsed reader I'm relishing my rediscovery of the joy of books. While I blame crime novels for getting me hooked again, it's nice to branch out into other fiction. I've just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Murial Barberry, a superb little tale, beautifully translated from the French.

    Ahh... so many books to read... it's a pity that life is just too damn short.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Emma Hart,

    The book I most often claim as my favourite is Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, which is one of the contenders for the title of “first detective novel”. It’s a masterful piece of fiction, especially considering Collins was bombed out of his skull on laudanum and managing two mistresses. It’s a series of first-person narratives from a succession of characters, and each narrator’s voice is absolutely distinctive.

    Have you read Dan Simmons' 'Drood'?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I'm mostly a SciFi & Fantasy reader nowadays but I grew up reading EVERY 3 Investigators book and Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Arthur Conan Doyle blew my mind with logic (so glad I never knew what a nutjob he was back then).

    Once I became hooked on SciFi I worked through all the classic authors, I loved Asimov so much I tried to read all his books (since he was writing them faster than I could read, it was probably a vain pursuit). Included in that list were the books that I think had more impact on me than they deserved - Asimov's Tales of the Black Widowers. The butler always solved the mystery, the widowers themselves always swallowed the red herring, but most of all the guest had to justify their existence. It was a question I had never thought to ask myself before, "what do you contribute?", there were no wrong answers but you did have to have an answer.

    Now I get my mysteries within the SciFi & Fantasy genre, something that Asimov himself proved was possible when nobody thought a SciFi mystery novel could be written. Today's SciFi authors are completely comfortable embedding a ripping good murder into an alien culture or a future world. Just because the victim was an amorphous blob and the detective uses an imaginary third arm doesn't make the mystery any less fun.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I always get all them classics mixed up. Is Jane Ayre the one what goes,
    “I wish I’d looked after me wife, and not locked her upstairs for life…”?

    @Bart – See also J.D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts in SF mode (generic title Death in Insert_Noun_Here ). Not always entirely convincing, the future world created has all-too-convenient gaps in technology to facilitate the plot,* but if you’re running short of Stephanie Plumb novels, it’s in the same ballpark.

    * in much the same way as one of Asimov’s SF whodunnits had a plot requiring camera film as a medium of information storage.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    (Actually, generic series title is Insert-Noun In Death, which kind of makes my point about the non-memorability of the individual titles.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to linger,

    camera film

    One of the hazards of older SciFi is the problem of current technology making the futuristic SciFi tech look old hat.

    I mean really, film is so amazing - nothing could replace it :). And as for those pathetic communicators they use in Star Trek, you can't even Skype on them!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    I bought Chandler's The Big Sleep to keep me sane on a work trip, and was very pleased to find rich veins of humour and snappy repartee alongside the hardboiledness.

    I finished a large part of it during an afternoon's downtime at a café in Palmerston North, so I now have a rather odd fictional overlay to my memory of my first visit to the Manawatu.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Sam F,

    One of my colleagues was reading that during yesterday’s interminable department meeting: partly as an ironic comment on said meeting.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to linger,

    Is Jane Ayre the one what goes,
    “I wish I’d looked after me wife, and not locked her upstairs for life…”?

    All the names I spell-checked so carefully for this column, and I missed that. Eyre.

    I bought Chandler’s The Big Sleep to keep me sane on a work trip, and was very pleased to find rich veins of humour and snappy repartee alongside the hardboiledness.

    The Big Sleep is my favourite, still. I have a lovely old battered green Penguin copy that was given to me by David Haywood at the very start of our friendship.

    One of the hazards of older SciFi is the problem of current technology making the futuristic SciFi tech look old hat.

    Last weekend, we binged-watched the three existing Star Wars movies with friends, and we were all struck by the way they kept talking about the Death Star plans as if they were, like, a physical roll of paper.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Have you read Dan Simmons’ ’Drood’?

    Oo, no I haven't. I may have to get myself a Christmas present then.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    the three existing Star Wars movies

    Making a statement there :).

    Not even tempted by the Machete order?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • A C Young,

    Kerry Greenwood for good wry mysteries (I enjoy reading her Corinna Chapman novels more than Phryne Fisher although I love the TV series).

    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis is technically a time travel comedy but there's some decent stuff in there involving classic mysteries.

    I also find J D Robb books really soothing for some reason.

    Wellington • Since Feb 2011 • 35 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to A C Young,

    Kerry Greenwood for good wry mysteries (I enjoy reading her Corinna Chapman novels more than Phryne Fisher although I love the TV series).

    I have just discovered the TV series and it's my current binge-watch. I'm loving Essie Davis doing Diana Rigg.

    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis is technically a time travel comedy but there’s some decent stuff in there involving classic mysteries.

    This is also a favourite book of mine. I think we might have similar senses of humour. And I'm pondering now how many of my non-mystery favourites nonetheless involve unravelling What Actually Happened.

    Not even tempted by the Machete order?

    If I HAD to watch them all again, this is how I'd do it. But I can't fathom what would make me sit through I and II again.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    But I can’t fathom what would make me sit through I and II again.

    The value is you throw away vol I completely, however that still leaves you with the problem of the dialog in III which almost certainly has to win as the worst romantic dialog ever in a movie.

    And I’m pondering now how many of my non-mystery favourites nonetheless involve unravelling What Actually Happened.

    I'm pretty certain without that "mystery" I struggle to finish a book (something I HAVE to do). It's why I shy away from most "literature" because a) nothing happens and b) should anything accidentally happen it is blindingly obvious.

    As for Connie Willis I loved "The doomsday book" and "To say nothing of the dog" but Blackout and All Clear almost drove me mad with frustration, yeah I get that you did all that amazing research on the blitz but no I didn't want to read every little anecdote you dug up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Stevenson,

    Sci/Fi murder mystery and "what just happened?"
    The rook by Daniel O'Malley.
    Summary: The body you are wearing used to be mine.? So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Thomas Lumley,

    Another vote for Kerry Greenwood. I'd also add Donna Leon (cynical but not callous Venetians with good food), Janet Neel, and Laurie King (I prefer her modern series to her Holmes one).

    Darker, but still very good: Batya Gur's police procedurals set in Jerusalem.

    And for people who read Young Adult fantasy, the mystery series Point of Hopes, Point of Dreams, Point of Knives, Fair's Point by Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett. These are set in a fantasy world apparently inspired by Bruges in its Golden Age, and feature a sweet gay romance.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Rob S,

    More of a sci-fi fan with an Elmore Leonard, Doctorow, James Ellroy bent on the side.
    However I've just started Arab Jazz by Karim Miske and am enjoying the hell out of it although I've only got around 30-40 pages in I don't want it to end.

    Since Apr 2010 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    I discovered Dorothy Sayers via Connie Willis. I never managed to get into Agatha Christie, but I like the way the adventures of Lord Peter et al illustrate the life and times of the interwar period. A pioneer of a long history of crime novels illustrating social issues.

    I'm reading Luckiest Girl Alive at the moment, which is at least the third school massacre pop fiction I've read by accident, alongside We Need to Talk About Kevin and another one by Jodi Picoult. It's got a lot in common with Gone Girl too. In amongst the clever plotting and suspense there's some really sharp observations in all of them about femininity, what we do to fit in etc. I guess the school massacre novel is the 21st century's serial killer novel.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    I'm having English lit thoughts now about crime fiction, women's prominence in it, and the genre as a vehicle to express a kind of feminism. It's often about male violence, usually about someone breaking society's rules, and always about the struggle of justice over greed or violence.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Jeanette King,

    Ohh! Ka mau te wehi! Awesome thread. And with some suggestions (thanks folks) that'll make it a great summer of reading for me.

    My (not already mentioned) favs are: Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries - orchids, food, NY brownstone, prickly but brilliant detective who outwits everyone. Also Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano series - the Sicilian landscape, subtle but powerful writing, humour and the vexations of life. For a NZ fix Paul Thomas' gritty Tito Ihaka series.

    Ōtautahi • Since Oct 2010 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • octopusgrrl,

    Lewis Buzbee said, “If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print.” Granted, my speed is a little better than that, but it still saddens the hell out of me that there are so many books and so little time!

    Loving the recommendations on this thread, ta very muchly! I too have always loved mysteries, ever since I found my mother's copies of the Five Find-Outers and Dog as a pre-teen, and moving from those into Golden Age detective fiction. I was lucky enough to take a paper in Scottish crime writing this year - "Tartan Noir" - and I'm still chewing through the books I came across there. William McIlvanney (who sadly died on the weekend), Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh... I think I could be quite happy in life just reading Scottish writers. But then there'd be all the rest I'd miss out on!

    Dunedin • Since May 2009 • 33 posts Report Reply

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