Sometime late last year I realised that while I like writing in the genre of crime and mystery, I haven’t read much modern crime, my reading in this had mostly been Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. The rest had all been derivative genres, such as steampunk crime, urban fantasy detective noir etc. So, to expand my familiarity with the genre I put some requests in for Christmas.
One of those was Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. I’ve seen some of Christie’s plays, most memorably The Mousetrap, which I very much enjoyed, but I had never read any of her books. I quite enjoyed her style in the book, her voice was instantly apparent and consistent. However, the story fell down for me by being a little too obvious in places; in other places clues would only be apparent to the reader familiar with children’s toys of the 1930’s. Overall, it was a quick, easy to read and fun, but I doubt I’ll be reading many more.
The next were’s Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus books. For some reason my mother gifted me with books 13 and 14, Resurrection Men and A Question of Blood, which worried me; I didn’t want to get bogged down in 15 years worth of backstory. However, I needn’t have worried. In fact the thing I thought was most accomplished in these two books was that the books stood exceptionally well on their own. Resurrection Men worked as a completely independent work and was very good for it. Furthermore, reading A Question of Blood didn’t mean covering a lot of history all over again. The background and personalities of the characters is shown, rather than spelled out in exposition. Not an easy task to accomplish and Rankin executed it excellently.
Also, the mystery was a unfolded in a very good balance of continual revelation and early foreshadowing. The best mysteries are ones where the reader is not light-years behind or ahead of the protagonists. Both frustrate the reader, by either making them feel stupid, or by coming to the conclusion that protagonist is an idiot.
I’d like to read more Rebus novels, but I think my next experimentation in crime fiction should be Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series.