Batch Reviews: Crime Fiction

Once you decide that crime fiction is going to be a genre you love, there are so many reading options.

You could go for roller coaster thrill rides with Linwood Barclay or country house weekend style with Agatha Christie. Camilla Lackberg could send you to small town Sweden where you would be shocked at the deprave things people get up to. Ian Rankin is all about the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh while Jo Nesbo prefers Oslo. Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series likes a balance of philosophy and mystery, while Mo Hayder just likes to get right to the blood and guts.


There’s an entire section of the library devoted to mysteries! Sometimes it just feels impossible to hone in on a good one.

I’m here to help.

If you’re looking for something quick to get your skin crawling, I would recommend The Grownup for Gillian Flynn. Just 64 pages but it packs a big punch. Her narrator, a former sex worker turned “psychic”, starts right off talking about hand jobs and carpal tunnel so it’s probably not for everyone. But if you can get past that, I found it to be an expertly crafted little story. Susan Burke comes for help after moving to a new neighbourhood. Her stepson starts acting strange (more like a little psycho) and her house seems like it’s haunted. Our narrator decides to help, planning to spend hours in the library reading instead.

I was totally creeped out, completely taken in by Flynn’s misdirection and thoroughly enjoyed how it ended. Flynn shows just how good she is with this pocket sized tome and I am now more impatient than ever for her to give us something new.

If you were a fan of the show The Killing, might I suggest David Hewson’s Pieter Vos series? There are just two books so far (The Doll House and The Wrong Girl) but they are deeply enjoyable. One of the things that you really notice about these books is Hewson’s ability to get a place right. Apparently he spends lots of time in the cities he chooses to feature and he gets Amsterdam just right in these.

I think if you’re going to feature a city so prominently, you have to understand it’s people and way of life and Hewson nails it on both counts. In The Wrong Girl, a little girl, Natalya, is abducted at the Sinterklaas parade. Her mother is a sex worker, an illegal in Amsterdam from Georgia (the country) where they lost everything. On the day of the parade Natalya wears a new pink jacket that her mother got for her. She doesn’t like it much but it’s the warmest thing she owns. Across town, another little girl, Saskia, wears the same jacket. She’s the girl that is meant to be taken but it’s Natalya that they get. Now Vos has to find Natalya while he has the equivalent of Homeland Security on his ass because they’ve been working on this terror cell that is potentially in the Netherlands.

Oh yes, I enjoyed this one. I first wanted to read them because they were the only mysteries I knew of that took place in Amsterdam. But once I started reading them realized that they were actually really well done. Now I’m just hoping that Hewson is working on a third one.

Do you like your mystery fiction to take place in another time? Perhaps The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse will fit the bill.

It’s 1912 and about 10 years earlier Connie Gifford fell from a great height and hit her head. Her whole life until that day disappeared. Recently she’s started seeing a strange woman in town that looks vaguely familiar but she can’t tell why. When a woman’s body is found in the creek behind her house, it’s the beginning of a series of strange things happening, including the disappearance of a number of men in the area.

This was a strange one but it was decent. Connie has learned how to taxidermy birds from her father who was once a “bird stuffer” of some renown. Chapters are marked with excerpts from a book that teaches taxidermy, as well as a letter to Connie from someone mysterious talking about why certain things had to be done. There are loads of sketchy characters, stormy weather that hampers travel, and the hint of a love story. I will say that there were some taxidermy elements that were so gruesome I had to skip them…

The one big thing that I really had an issue with in this one is why do we keep having to refer to the main characters in books as someone’s wife or daughter? This one could have been called Constantia or The Corvidae Club or any number of other things. Her father barely features in it except as a drunk she has to make sure doesn’t off himself. Let’s make a deal to stop doing this.

After all that fiction, it’s probably time to take another stab at non-fiction…

16 thoughts on “Batch Reviews: Crime Fiction

    • It is definitely something I could rant about for a while. I’m surprised that publishers haven’t caught on to this really. Probably another case of them riding a trend to the end – see also titles with “Girl” in them.

    • Wow, thanks for commenting!
      I’m really excited to hear that you have two more Pieter Vos books ready to go! I’m adding them to my list right now and can’t wait to get my hands on them! I’m sure I will love them.

  1. This post comes at such a perfect time! I just finished reviewing The Widow and now I want to read more. I think I’m definitely going to start with The Grownup — something nice and short and creepy sounds perfect!

    • I’m so glad you’ve embraced this genre. I wonder what it is that kept us from it? Once you realize that crime fiction/mystery books are actually all about analyzing the human condition and the choices people make that affect their lives, they become a whole lot more interesting.

      • I think I resisted it for so long because I was scared of being scared! Then I finally read a “creepy” book and wasn’t that creeped out by it, which gave me the courage to read more. Now I can’t get enough! You’re so right — it’s all about analyzing how humans react to the situations they find themselves in. SO interesting.

  2. I love this post! And omg that picture is too adorable for words.
    I’m trying to think of anything I’ve read that actually falls under the Mystery genre umbrella and I can’t! Clearly I need to take you up on these recommendations! I do have an Agatha Christie at home and always remember how much you love her when I see it. Perhaps I’ll start there :). Love the seamless way you go from book to book here!

    • I love that Agatha Christie makes you think of me! She’s the queen. And a really good way to dip into the genre without a massive time commitment. They are also fairly clean – as in, the murders don’t tend to be super gruesome or sexually motivated which is the case with a lot of the more modern efforts. You can’t go wrong.

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