Monday, July 26, 2010


Thanks Norman, for inviting me to share my contributions to your Dartmoor Dozen Challenge. There is so much excellent crime fiction out there, and has been for such a long time, that it'll be hard to confine myself to just one or two examples, but here goes:

1] The Origins

Many people argue that Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone was the first full-length detective novel. I recommend it not just because of its place in the history of crime fiction, but also because of its social commentary and its picture of life in the mid-19th Century. It's also an interesting story with lots of twists and turns.

2] The Age of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous of all fictional characters. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote fifty-six Holmes stories and four novels, and all of them deserve recognition. If one's going to read Holmes, I recommend the book in which he is introduced, A Study in Scarlet. That book, more than other books and stories, tells us about Holmes the person.

But I also recommend G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories. Admittedly, it's in part because I enjoy mysteries where the sleuth in intuitive, and Father Brown certainly is. Father Brown tries to think the way the murderer thinks, and that makes for interesting reading.

3] The Golden Age

There are so many fine writers and books from this period of time, and some of my very favorite authors wrote at this time. However, I would say that one of the finest examples of Golden Age crime fiction is Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. This novel features Hercule Poirot at his most intuitive. It's also got interesting characterization and an engaging plot.
Thsi novel also has many of the elements thta really set Christie's work apart: unexpected twists, characters who are hiding things, and the English village setting that's the basis for several of the Christie novels. It also has one of the most famous denouements in crime fiction history.

4] Hardboiled

The hardboiled novel takes a very different approach to crime fiction. Unlike a lot of Golden age crime fiction, the hardboiled novel looks at the seamier side of life, and often features a "lone wolf" sleuth. There are several hardboiled detective novels I could recommend, but one of the quintessential hardboiled novels is Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye. His Philip Marlowe is the role model for many later detectives who maintain their principles and fight for justice, very often risking a lot of danger in doing so.
In The Long Goodbye, Marlowe uncovers the connection between two cases he's working on and unravels several tissues of lies in the process. The story's quite atmospheric, too, which is another feature of the hardboiled novel.

5] The Police Procedural

There are so many good examples of the police procedural, where one gets to see what happens at a police station. One series I've liked is the Luis Mendoza series by Dell Shannon [the pen name of Elizabeth Linington]. For example The Motive on Record features Mendoza and his Los Angeles police team investigation a strange set of deaths in a church, a child molester, a murdered mail carrier and some theater robberies, among other cases. Besides being a police series, the Mendoza series is also a fascinating look at the ethnic and cultural kaleidoscope that is Los Angeles.

6] Detectives [police, forensic, private]

There are myriad detectives from which I could choose, because so many crime fiction novels fall into this category, so this choice is not an easy one. That said, I'd like to suggest Colin Dexter's The Daughters of Cain. Dexter's Inspector Morse is a police detective, and so these books could be included as police procedurals. Very often though, Morse goes his own way and isn't much of what you'd call a "team player". He's a unique character and a list of recommended crime fiction reading would be less without him.
In The Daughter's of Cain, Morse and Sergeant Lewis investigate the murder of a retired Oxford don Dr Felix McClure. As they follow the clues, get to know the suspects, and uncover another murder, too, we see Morse at his irascible best. We also get to see false leads, fascinating characters and an interesting, intricate intellectual puzzle.

[To be continued]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - Thanks so much for hosting me : ). I'm honored, and this is fun.

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need to read more novels detailing police procedure. I'll stop by the library today and check out a couple. Hope this will help me in the two WIPs I have going on. Thanks.

Stephen Tremp

7:08 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Lovely post, Margot! I am looking forward to your continuation.

And how convenient when my blog friends visit each other in this way - it saves me a comment, you see ;)

7:11 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great picks...and some reminders of a couple of books I'd like to reread. Thanks so much Norman and Margot!

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephen - Thanks for the visit : ). I, too, have learned a lot about police procedurals from reading the good ones.

Dorte - Why, thank you : )! And it is fun to visit and be visited by friends. It does make for fewer stops, and I just love the visiting part : ).

Elizabeth - Thanks : ). There are so many good books out there, aren't there, that it's hard to remember them all. I honestly had trouble picking out choices for all of these categories.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Dorte, Elizabeth and Stephen for coming by, and thanks to Margot who has got more goodies for us in the rest of her Dartmoor Dozen.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Margot/Norman. I'm looking forward for the second part.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jose - Thanks : ). I hope you will enjoy them.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jose - Thanks : ). I hope you will enjoy them.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I wish that the authors were in another color... perhaps red. Easier to find.

Can I just say, how does one read Father Brown? I find it difficult to get into.

I agree with your "Golden Age" and "Hardboiled" choice.

What do you mean "do be continued"? Is there going to be another post?

If yes, I will check it out.


10:59 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Clarissa, there are six more categories so there will be more posts. Thanks for dropping by.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clarissa - I admit, Father Brown stories aren't always everyone's cuppa. I like them because of his character and because I think they're good examples of the writing of the era. But I understand why you might find them hard to engage. And Norman's right; my other choices are yet to come.

12:48 PM  
Blogger jrlindermuth said...

Can't find a thing wrong about five of your choices. I'd go for six but I haven't read any of the Mondoza series. Another one to try.
Looking forward to the next installment.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

Interesting choices, though I have to agree with Clarissa that the Father Brown stories are a struggle. I never 'got into' the Colin Dexter novels either but that was more because I ran across the TV series first and I found it very difficult to read the books after having the image of TV Morse and Lewis in my head.

I thought it would be difficult for you to have a list with only one Christie novel...but then I seem to remember there's a wildcard slot at the end of the list so we'll see :)

4:18 PM  
Blogger Mason Canyon said...

Norman thanks for hosting Margot.

Margot, I always learn from your post. Quite informative and I look forward to the rest.

Thoughts in Progress

5:19 PM  
Blogger roddy said...

Nice list. I would have to put Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels at the top of my police procedurals list.

8:30 AM  

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