After avoiding the crime section in bookshops for years, the fact that I love whodunnits came as a bit of a surprise. In fact, it was so unexpected that I simply had to tell everyone about it. A blog seemed appropriate – there’s plenty of space to ramble, and it makes a sinister implication that this is not a one-time occurrence. There will probably be more. Flexing fingers is good for a person.
I always thought crime fiction wasn’t really for me. Of course I read all Sherlock Holmes years ago, but that’s classics, right? If I think of any current writers, I don’t believe I’ve read a single one. Stieg Larsson? Nope. P.D. James? Nope. And to be honest, to keep going I have to google who the best-selling crime writers are. It’s not my thing. It’s too real. I watched the Swedish film adaptation of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and couldn’t help thinking it was incredibly depressing. It’s sort of similar to my decision of not reading news, because it usually makes me angry, sad, powerless, and disappointed with human beings.
So imagine my shock! I have just finished reading Terry Pratchett’s Thud! and as I was trying to decide which book from my ever-expanding To Read list I should get my claws into, I have stumbled across a blurb of Pratchett’s Snuff. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.” “Yes!” I thought. “This sounds great! More of this, please!” Then it made me pause. Ok, this book might involve dwarfs and trolls, and things, but it’s still crime.
I opened my Goodreads account and reviewed the books I’ve been reading this year. It turned out that about a fourth of those were about some sort of detectives: from Literary Detective Thursday Next chasing after murderers into books to Constable Peter Grant chasing after magical murders in contemporary London. Oh, and there’s China Mieville’s City and the City, where a detective chases a murderer across two cities that exist in the same space (sort of), which I recommend to people who like their books confusing. I know, I do. Or there’s Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels, in which the main character pretty much investigates his own death… two and a half years after the fact.
It seems the other thing that ties all these titles together is a magical element. I found those books exciting, because they are unusual in their genre. All of these will be in the Fantasy section next to dragons (sometimes featuring them). Though I get a nagging feeling that they should be closer to Crime. Maybe on a shelf in between the two. Categorising is hard!
So here’s my list of unusual crime fiction that I’ve encountered so far in no particular order. Please add more recommendations, because my To Read list is nowhere near long enough.
- Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho, etc.)
- Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, etc.)
- All books about the Watch in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series (Night Watch, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, etc.)
- City & the City by China Mieville
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
- Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin (A Madness of Angels, Midnight Mayor, etc.)
By the way, does anybody know any good crime and sci-fi crossovers? That should be fun.