Tuesday, July 27, 2010


7] Psychological Suspense

Novels of psychological suspense can be truly unforgettable. One of the novels that I suggest as an example of this kind of of novel is Ruth Rendell's 13 Steps Down.
That's the story of Mix Cellini, who works as an exercise equipment repairman. Cellini's got a host of fears and obsessions, including the fear of the number 13, the number of steps he takes in the home of Gwendolyn Chawcer.
Chawcer is just as mentally unbalanced, in her way, as her tenant is, chiefly because of growing up in a home with a tyrannical father who sabotaged any chance she had art a productive adult life. There is plenty of suspense as Cellini and Chawcer form an uneasy business relationship.
There is even more when Cellini becomes obsessed with the beautiful model Merissa Nash, whom he meets when he goes to her home on a repair job. Then Cellini becomes obsessed with the life of Dr Richard Christie, a notorious serial killer. The tension mounts in this novel as Cellini's obsessions with Merissa Nash and Richard Christie grow more and more all-consuming, with tragic circumstances.

8] Caper and Comic Crime Fiction

Not all crime fiction is dark, of course. Some very fine crime fiction is comic, or focuses on outrageous capers. There are lots of very fine authors to choose from, too, in this sub genre. One whose work I might suggest is Carl Hiassen.
His Skinny Dip tells the story of Chaz Perrone, a marine scientist who's found a way to "doctor" water samples so that agribusiness tycoon Red Hammernut can continue illegally dumping waste into the water of Florida's Everglades. When his wife, Joey, finds out, Chaz decides he's going to kill her, and takes her on a cruise that he claims is an anniversary present. While they're on the cruise, he throws her overboard.
The only problem for Chaz is, she doesn't die. Instead, Joey Perrone works with her rescuer, Mick Stranahan, to make Chaz' life miserable. The result is action-packed-and funny.

9] Historical Crime Fiction

There 's a wide variety of historical crime fiction available, from several different eras. The grande dame of historical crime fiction is probably Ellis Peters, author of the Cadfael series. My suggestion for this category, though, especially for those getting acquainted with historical crime fiction, is Shona MacLean's The Redemption of Alexander Seaton.
The novel takes place in 17th Century Scotland, and is the story of the poisoning murder of Patrick Davidson, the local apothecary's apprentice. His body is found one morning in the schoolroom of disgraced minister Alexander Seaton. Seaton, who's been relegated to the position of under master at the grammar school, finds out that his friend Charles Thom has been accused of the crime, and sets out to clear his friend's name. MacLean gives the reader a clear portrait of the Scotland of that era, and shares many of the religious, political and social questions of the day. Yet, the story is centered on the murder and on Seaton's evolution as he solves it.
The mystery is as much an historical "snapshot" as it is a crime fiction novel, and is quite engaging.

10] The Thriller

There are all sorts of thrillers, too, from spy thrillers to courtroom dramas and more. My suggestion for this category is what I consider one of the classics in the sub genre: John le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.
John le Carre is a master of the spy thriller, and this particular novel is a fine example of his work.
Alec Leamas is a member of British Intelligence who's stationed in East Berlin during the Cold War. He's grown weary of the "spy game", and after several of the spies he supervises are killed during his "watch", Leamas tries to retire. Instead, he's called back to London. There he's given one last, dangerous mission: to kill Hnas Dieter Mundt, who's responsible for the killings of Leamas' agents. Reluctantly, Leamas agrees and returns to the job, only to find that he's soon caught up in a very deadly game. In a classic le Carre style, no-one can be trusted, and nothing really is as it seems.

[To be continued. The conclusion of Margot's Dartmoor Dozen will be posted tomorrow.]


Blogger Bernadette said...

for once I've read all the suggestions, and agree they are excellent choices

4:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernadette - Thank you : ). I respect your opinion very much, and I'm glad you agree about these choices. It was really difficult in some cases to choose an example.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

For me, I have to go with Val McDermid for psychological but I haven't read your selection and might change my mind when I do.


6:33 AM  
Blogger Mason Canyon said...

These all sound like wonderful reads, but I guess the one that really caught my attention was Carl Hiassen's Skinny Dip. I've seen the book cover but wasn't familiar with the book. I'm adding this one to my wish list, sounds like one I'd really enjoy. Thanks.

Thoughts in Progress

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clarissa - No doubt at all that Val McDermid writes terrific psychological thrillers. I actually considered including her, so I'm glad that you did. That's what's wonderful about the Dartmoor Dozen; it's a bit different for everyone : ).

Mason - Oh, I think you'll like Skinny Dip. It's irreverent and sometimes asks you to suspend a bit of disbelief. But it's very funny, biting and a good plot, too.

8:07 AM  
Blogger roddy said...

Another set of good choices, though I have to say Carl Hiaasen leaves me cold, and I would go for Donald E Westlake in this category.

Ruth Rendell's earlier psychological novels were very good, but I recently read Portobello and it is just downright weird. I think she maybe gets away with 2nd rate stuff now because she is a grande dame.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Roddy it is probably very difficult for a publisher to criticise a dame. I have not read Rendell for some time but I do have a Wexford on my TBR pile that I may try soon.

9:50 AM  
Blogger roddy said...

I always enjoyed her Wexford novels, though it is ages since I read one. I think I have one in my TBR room!

9:58 AM  

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