Review: Martin Edwards – The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards has been much anticipated by fans of classic crime fiction. It follows the success of The Golden Age of Murder, Edwards’ impressive story of the famed Detection Club, and the British Library crime classics for which he’s the series consultant. Impeccably packaged with vintage style covers, the success of the series has opened up classic crime to a new generation of readers.

It must have been a near-impossible task to choose 100 books in which to tell the story of classic crime. In his introduction, Edwards emphasises that the novels have been chosen to emphasise the genre’s development and is not merely a list of the best books of the period. The introduction serves as fascinating summary of the Golden Age as do the chapter headings. The breadth of the themes identified: from serial killers to psychological thrillers,  the origins of many modern day crime fiction tropes can be traced back to the Golden Age period.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is a book to both read from cover to cover and to dip in and out of. I found myself doing both, looking for authors I was familiar with and discovering new ones. Some of the books will require determination to track down if you’re inspired to read them which makes the list all the more interesting. It’s a timely reminder that the period of the classic crime is more complex and wide-ranging that is often attributed to it. This impressive volume is a book to return to time and time again.

 

Crime Fiction Round-Up

November is proving to be an interesting month for crime fiction and it would be a shame not share some of the events with readers of this blog. Sometimes, living in Derbyshire, it feels like all the interesting things take place in other parts of the country, particularly London. However, if you keep your eyes open and take advantage of the internet, you discover plenty of interest.

James Ellroy

The the self-styled demon dog of American crime fiction came to The Dancehouse,Perfidia-by-James-Ellroy Manchester in early November. The event was organised by Waterstones on Deansgate and was very well attended. For my money I would have preferred a more structured interview. It was left to Ellroy to read from his latest book, Perfidia, and then field questions from a very knowledgable audience. Manchester has plenty of fine journalists more than capable of facilitating a more structured event and I think we might have got some greater insights from Ellroy from more in-depth probing. He was, however, great to see and we were treated at the end to his recital of Dylan Thomas’s ‘In my Craft or Gentle Art’.

The Murder Squad.

The Murder SquadLast week, six of the best northern crime writers gathered at Linghams bookshop in Heswall for an evening of crime fiction talk. Cath Staincliffe, Ann Cleeves, Margaret Murphy, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis and Chris Simms talked about their books and characters in an event of interest to both readers and writers of the genre. Again the evening had a fantastic turnout and is evidence of what a vibrant local bookshop can do to promote writers. The passion that these authors still have for their books is an inspiration and I particularly liked the discussion on which character from another author they’d most like to write about. A white haired old lady from St Mary Mead was a popular choice. Thanks to Dave Mack (via Margaret Murphy) for the photo.

Serial

Those on Twitter will notice the amount of chat taking place about a podcast coming out from the States. Serial is a week by week investigation into the culpability of Adnan Syed who was convicted of murdering, in 1999, his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore, US. I’m not a huge fan of real life crime and certainly tend to avoid reading about it. But these podcasts are excellent and compulsive listening. The host, Sarah Koenig, has an impressive grasp of the minutiae of the case but it is the human element of the broadcasts that make them so fascinating. She oscillates between trusting and disbelieving Adnan’s innocence and we, as listeners, are right there with her. I don’t normally review books until I have finished them but for Serial, it is the real time unfolding of the drama that is one of its attractions. Highly recommended.

Iceland Noir

Next Thursday, Iceland Noir begins. I’ll give a full update in my return as there is a intensive programme ofIcelandnoirlogoSm events and panels. Those who want to follow the event can see live tweeting from @NordicNoirBuzz with the #IcelandNoir hashtag. Last year’s conference was a huge success and it’s fast becoming a ‘must attend’ event for readers, writers and fans of Scandinavian crime fiction. Watch this space.

While I’m in Iceland I’m hoping to catch up on my backlog of reading. If you’ve sent me a book for review, I will get there, I promise. I hope you’re all having a good reading month.

 

 

The Best of August’s Reading

Gladstone libraryAugust was quiet in relation to crime fiction events for me, with the exception of the excellent launch of Martin Edwards’s new book, The Frozen Shroud. However, my reading continued at a slower pace and all the books that I finished were of a high quality, mainly I suspect I only read what I really wanted to. Three of this month’s books were by ‘new to me writers’: Martin Edwards, Linda Stratmann and A D Garett. I hope to carry on reading all of these authors.

My book of the month is Jan Costin Wagner’s Light in a Dark House which is continuing a high quality series which is a must read for me, although the book wasn’t quite up to the standard of earlier ones.

The five books I read for Crimepieces were:

1. Everyone Lies by A D Garrett

2. Cold Hearts by Gunnar Staalesen

3. The Frozen Shroud by Martin Edwards

4. Light in a Dark House by Jan Costin Wagner

5. A Case of Doubtful Death by Linda Stratmann

I have some cracking books set for September, so fingers crossed….

Review: Martin Edwards – The Frozen Shroud

Gladstone LibraryI attended the book launch on Tuesday evening of Martin Edwards’s new book, The Frozen Shroud, at Gladstone Library on the Welsh border near Chester. The library is, in my opinion, M Edwards launchone of the hidden treasures of the region. It was founded by William Gladstone to house his personal collection of books and the building was erected to replace the temporary structure in 1902. It’s a fabulously atmospheric place that holds residential courses and a variety events at a very low cost. I’d recommend checking out their website here. Martin’s book launch took place in the main library room which was a perfect setting for a reading and discussion. Martin’s account of the event is on his own website. He rightly describes it as an evening to remember.

This is where I have to make a confession to make. Despite being a regular visitor to Martin’s blog, I’ve never read any of his books, an omission that I was keen to remedy. The Frozen Shroud is the latest in his Lake District series featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett, head of the Cold Case Review Team and Daniel Kind, a specialist in the history of murder. Ravenbank, a remote village in the Lakes, is fascinated by the story of a young housemaid who was found killed in a nearby lane, the victim of a jealous rage. In a strange twist, her face had been removed by the killer and a frozen shroud clung to her remains. History repeats itself years later with the murder of Shenagh Moss, the girlfriend of a local landowner, although the culprit in soon identified. Five years later a new murder is committed and all three killings are re-examined.

The book opens with the second murder and sets the scene for the rest of the book. We get a strong sense of a small community in the Lake District where disparate people are thrown together by an isolated location and shared history. The countryside appears both familiar and frightening, there is clearly a hidden menace lurking closer to home than the community realises.

Hannah Scarlett is an interesting protagonist. As I haven’t read any other of the previous books, I’ve clearly missed a significant amount of character development but it’s easy to piece together the background of both Hannah and Daniel. Hannah is reassuringly vulnerable. She makes poor decisions in relation to her personal life which gives her character depth. Her friendship with Daniel is still tentative and based more on mutual admiration than anything substantial at this stage although, based on comments by the author, the relationship promises to head towards something more significant.

It was a bold move by the writer to bring three plot strands together, all of which involve a similar style  murder. In fact it worked very well as all three murdered women had distinct personalities. For those, like me, who are new to Edwards’ work, Frozen Shroud is an excellent introduction and I’ll definitely be reading more of this series. His existing fans, I’m sure, will love it.

As an aside, as I mentioned at the beginning, Martin is a very active blogger. One supporter of this website, Margot Kinberg at Confessions of Mystery Novelist has long been a champion of this author’s books and was one of the reasons I was so keen to read him. In his acknowledgements, Martin also thanks two Australian blogging friends, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise and Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, for help given. Do check out all these websites, including Martin’s – the crime fiction blogging network is alive and flourishing.

Harrogate Crime Writing Festival #2

A second post on the crime writing festival that took place in Harrogate last week-end. I had been looking forward to the New Blood AL photopanel and I wasn’t disappointed. Moderated by Val McDermid, it featured the talented Anya Lispka along with other debut writers Derek B Miller, Colette McBeth and Malcolm Mackay. The writers gave a brief overview of their books and what had prompted them to write within the crime fiction genre. What was interesting was not all the writers set out to write a crime novel but were influenced by the conventions of the genre that allowed them to tell the story they wanted to write. The authors also shared with us their journey to publication and the ups and downs of a writer’s life. A fascinating panel and a must-see for me every year. Anya can be seen with her fellow panelists standing on the far left of the photo.

Much of the rest of the festival involved me catching up with friends I’ve met over the years who are too numerous to mention here and I run the risk of missing someone out. All I can say that it was great catching up with you all. Crime writers, readers, bloggers and reviewers are some of the friendliest people I know and I’ve made some great friends.

Saturday evening at Harrogate is marked by the crime fiction quiz. This year I was on the stellar team featuring writers Martin Edwards, Paul Johnston, Margaret Murphy, Linda Stratmann and Martin’s agent James Wills. With a team of such calibre you would expect a decent ranking. Well, we came second. Next year maybe….