A lot of my reading recently, in addition to Nordic Noir, has been books by authors that I’ve been appearing alongside at events. It’s fascinating to hear what other writers have to say, in terms of what’s inspired their stories and how they go about writing their books and it helps the discussion if I’ve managed to read one of their novels. British crime fiction is a hugely diverse genre and this is illustrated by the following three books.
I’ve reviewed William Ryan’s novels on Crimepieces before and am a fan of his Captain Korolev series. The Constant Soldier is a standalone which tells the story of Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army who returns home to his village from the Eastern Front disfigured from fighting. An SS rest hut has been set up in the village which provides respite for soldiers in the prison camps. When Brandt recognises one of the female workers, a political prisoner he once knew, he accepts a job inside the hut in the last days of the war. The writing, as you would expect from Ryan, is excellent and the calmly written story contrasts with the atrocities being committed around the protagonists. It is in the minutiae that we find the most moving stories and this is Ryan’s best book to date.
Bill Rogers is an author who I’ve also reviewed on this blog before. His books are set in my hometown of Manchester so it’s always fascinating to read about locations I know well. The intriguingly named The Pick, The Spade and the Crow is the start of a new series featuring Senior Investigator Joanne Stuart who is newly promoted to the National Crime Agency. Stuart features in his previous series so there’s a nice continuity about the new book where a cold case suddenly becomes active again. Rogers’ attention to detail is always spot on and both the police investigation and references of Freemasonry came across as very well-researched. Those familiar with the city of Manchester will delight, as usual, in the references to landmarks such as the Northern Quarter and this excellently written book is a great start to a promising new series.
Lowdham Festival is an excellent event run Bookcase bookshop in Nottinghamshire. There, I met Robert Thorogood who created the Death in Paradise TV series. He’s written a book which stands alongside the series. As I haven’t seen any of the programmes I can’t compare the two but A Meditation on Murder was excellent. It’s a good example of how a crime novel can be gentle and funny without feeling ‘cosy’. The main detective Richard Poole appears to exasperate those around him yet his off-beat collection of evidence gradually uncovers the murderer of a spiritual retreat leader. Very enjoyable and I’ll definitely be reading more.