Crime fiction can sometimes feel all about the new: the latest debut, the next bestseller. I try to balance this with reading books from the Golden Age era and also fiction in translation, in particular Nordic Noir. If I was going to be completely honest though, my favourite type of crime fiction comes from none of those categories. What I read and re-read over and over again are crime novels from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. PD James, Ruth Rendell, Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Colin Dexter. Is there a term for this period in crime fiction? I’m not sure but there should be because it produced some stand-out authors, many of whom are still writing.
There will be no more Adam Dalgliesh books but Faber have released a small collection of PD James’s short stories entitled The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. The book has an introduction by Val McDermid and although all the stories have appeared in publication before, they were completely new to me. James’s writing is a delight. She gives us plenty of intrigue but never forgets the human element in her writing. The second story, A Very Commonplace Murder, reminds us how much she had in common with Ruth Rendell whereas The Boxdale Inheritance is a classic Dalgliesh mystery. The book would make a gorgeous Christmas present for any crime fiction fan.
Susan Moody is a writer I first met at Iceland Noir and I remember her asking a helpful question at the first ever panel I spoke at. She’s the author of 34 novels which is an impressive output and I was keen to try one of her books. Penny Black has just been reissued by new publisher, Williams and Whiting and it was the perfect opportunity to give one of Susan’s books a go.
Penny Wanawake is a tall, black, elegant part time sleuth who investigates the murder of her friend, Marfa, a model. Although based in England, she travels to Marfa’s home in the States and with the help of Kimbell, an American detective goes on the hunt for the killer. First published in 1984, the style took me back to the Jackie Collins books I used to devour as a teenager. Great fun.
I met Kate Charles at an event in Ludlow and, by complete coincidence, I was in the middle of reading her first book, A Drink of Deadly Wine. Father Gabriel Neville is priest of the prestigious St Anne’s Church in Kensington Gardens. When he receives a letter threatening to reveal an incident from his past, he calls on his old friend David Middleton-Brown who he hasn’t seen for then years. It’s a great page-turner with an interesting cast of suspects familiar to those involved in parish life. First published in 1991, the story feels fresh and I’ve got a whole series to discover.