Friday, April 24, 2009


I always like reading other people's lists of their favourite writers and detectives. Michael O'Byrne, former Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, adds a postscript chapter in The Crime Writer's Guide to Police Practice and Procedure in which he lists his choices. 
He states "I am probably more comfortable reading police procedural crime which is based abroad, like the books of James Lee Burke and Michael Dibdin, as I know very little about police procedures in either USA or Italy and thus the story never jars if the author gets it wrong."

James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux, Michael Dibdin and Aurelio Zen, and the third foreign writer that he chooses is Henning Mankell and Kurt Wallander, of whom he writes "......Wallander's plots keep you involved until the end [except The Dogs of Riga in which his raid of the Latvian police archives is frankly ludicrous]."

This last quote is from the 82 word last sentence of the book, and seemed to me to be a strange way of ending a useful guide. The Dogs of Riga is one of two of Henning Mankell's Wallander novels that I have not read.
Previously Michael O'Byrne had named his four favourite writers with British based investigators, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, P.D. James and Peter Robinson. 

Do you mind if the author gets it wrong?
Not seriously wrong [e.g light as a feather 3 kg firearms] but wrong enough for a police officer or a crime aficionado looking up a guide to notice that it is wrong. Aren't plot and character more important than that sort of detail? Of course meticulous research adds to a story but can you still enjoy a book even if you know details of police procedure are far fetched and you have to take some things with a pinch of salt. Would a police officer actually keep his job if he was described thus:

"He is a violent and recovering alcoholic, spends significant parts of books being suspended or under threat of arrest and has as his best friend a homicidal maniac."

That description could indeed cover more than one detective in crime fiction, and perhaps a few politicians,  as well as Dave Robicheaux. 
Michael O'Byrne is not the only one more comfortable reading crime fiction based abroad as is obvious from today's Amazon UK crime fiction best seller lists with Lee Child at number one and the Lisbeth Salander series of Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland, sitting at numbers three and five. 

The photo is not of some prison camp in the Third World but of the entrance to our allotments. 


Blogger Dorte H said...

Do you mind if the author gets it wrong?
As you say, it really depends on what & how many mistakes per 100 pages.
Recently I reviewed a Danish debut. A body was found in a container (one of these huge, green things). The police and all their acolytes checked the container, but without noticing that there was another lid on the back so a young boy stole some evidence right under their noses.
And the rest of the book wasn´t much better.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bought about that last paragraph, Norman? It made me smile, perhaps that's it.

In Sophie Hannah's latest book, The Other Half Loves (or Lives?) the two main characters are only police constable rank, but they are allowed to go off investigating willy nilly wherever they like, against the direct orders of their boss (eg one character is told to go and collect information from some other city, and he just doesn't go), not once but time and time again. How could this happen? However well-disposed the reader, one simply keeps asking this question in one's mind, and it is impossible to believe in the story (for this reason if for no other).

9:44 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And The Dogs of Riga is probably my favorite Kurt Wallander novel.

Dorte, are containers the new Satanism in Scandinavian crime fiction? A body turns up in a container -- well, a storage shed, anyhow -- in Jo Nesbø's The Redeemer.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

12:56 PM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Yes, Peter, I think so.

And after all, if you were cruel enough to kill a child, why not dump it among the garbage.

And the sound of it: shmatorg
- says Norman´s blog.

3:36 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Stockholm's container port full of bodies of Eastern Europeans also features in Liza Marklund's Paradise. Scandinavia like Sicily seems to be on the front line of a surrounded embattled old Europe.

5:21 AM  

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