Crime Books Read Over The Australian Summer

The Crime and Mystery Book Club from the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library read many novels over the summer holidays. Here is a list of the ones that were crime and mystery books:

The King of the Rainy Country By Nicolas Freeling

Snobbery With Violence by Marion Chesney

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith

High Island Blues by Ann Cleeves

The Accident on A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Out of The Ice by Ann Turner

Quieter Than Sleep by Joanne Dobson

The Age of Doubt by Andrea Camilleri

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

End Game by David Baldacci

Anatomy of A Murder by Robert Traver

The Bitter Taste of Victory by Lara Feigel

Houdini, A Magician Amongst the Spirits by Harry Houdini

The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum   

The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer

Blood, Money and Power - How L.B.J. killed J.F.K. by Barr McClellan

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky

After the Fire by Henning Mankell

X by Sue Grafton

Police At The Station And They Don't Look Friendly; Hidden River by Adrian McKinty

Open Season by Archer Mayor

In Her Blood by Annie Hauxwell

Good Money; Too Easy by J.M. Green

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

The Accident Man by Tom Cain

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder

The Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe

The  Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Beware of Johnny Washington by Francis Durbridge

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Mistletoe Murders by P.D. James

Don Among the Dead by C.E. Vulliamy

The Red Box by Rex Stout

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump by 27 Psychiatrists

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

No Middle Name by Lee Childs

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

Even Dogs In The Wild by Ian Rankin

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

Vienna by William S Kirby

Our Holiday Reads - SMSA Library Crime & Mystery Book Club

Recommendations of Crime Stories from Page to Screen

In our latest Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library Crime and Mystery Book Club, we discussed books that had been adapted for television and film. Some were done well and some we not, and of course, some were better in the written form and some actually were improved on screen. Here are our recommendations:

A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
This is the first book in the Cadfael series and was made into a British TV series starring Derek Jacobi.

Death of a Gossip by M.C. Beaton
This is the first book in the Hamish McBeath series and was made into a British TV series starring Robert Carlyle.

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
This is the first book in the Swedish trilogy was made into a nine hour miniseries for Swedish television that was  reedited into three theatrical movies that did very well internationally. This book was also made into an English speaking film with American and English actors. I personally preferred the Swedish version because it holds truer to the Lisbeth character. 

The Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter 
The Remorseful Day is the last Inspector Morse, and of course Inspector Morse was a long running British TV series starring John Thaw and inspired two spin offs. Lewis, about his sidekick Sargent Lewis, and a prequel - Endeavour, about a young Morse set in the 1960s.

Wire In The Blood by Val McDermid 
Wire In The Blood is the book the TV series is named after is the first in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. 

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith 
Child 44 was made into a movie starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Noomi Rapace in 2015

Runaway Jury by John Grisham 
This is Grisham's seventh novel, but was only the ninth one to be made into a movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, John Cusack and Rachel Weisz

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith 
This series of books from Alexander McCall Smith was made into a US TV series in 2009.

Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death by James Runcie 
This collection of short stories have been made into a UK TV series called Grantchester after the town Sidney lives in.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy 
Ellroy's third novel in the LA Quartet was made into a very successful film in 2008.

Agatha Raisin and The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton 
Another series from M.C. Beaton made into an UK TV show.

Frosted Christmas by R.D. Wingfield
Frosted Christmas is the very first DI Frost novel. The UK TV series, A Touch of Frost, starred David Jason. It was very popular and ran for a long time.

Sidetracked by Henning Mankell 
OK, this series of books about Swedish detective Kurt Wallander has been made into a very long running TV series called Wallander in Sweden starring Krister Henriksson from 2005 to 2013. It was made again in English, by the British, starring Kenneth Branagh.

Standing In Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin
Rankin's very popular character Inspector Rebus has been brought to TV by two actors, Ken Stott and John Hannah. Both great actors, but very different approaches to character.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
What can I say? It is a classic in both mediums. Read it and watch the movie.

Meet Inspector Banks by Peter Robinson
Inspector Banks was brought to British TV in the last few years. The next series is due out this year.

To Catch A Thief by David Dodge
This is a book that is actually more famous as a film. The classic Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly is one of the best movies of the 1950s. The book has also been made into a radio play on BBC 4.

The Night Manager by John Le Carre
Other John Le Carre's novels have been dramatised, most notably the Smiley books. However, this recent British TV miniseries is a very slick and sexy take on a later novel from Le Carre.  

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Originally published in 1898, this gothic novel was made into an opera by Benjamin Britten, a ballet by Will Tucket, a play (The Innocents) by Harold Pinter, five feature films (some non-English speaking), over 10 TV movies (again some non-English speaking), and it has also heavily influenced other novels. 

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard
Rum Punch was adapted by Quentin Tarantino into the film Jackie Brown starring Pam Grier. Here is an interesting interview with Leonard about that adaptation. 

Laura by Vera Caspary
This 1942 novel was made into a classic film in 1944 (yes another one) by Otto Preminger starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. 

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith
Made into a film by Michael Apted in 1983 starring William Hurt, Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith was written in 1981 and was the first book in his series set in Soviet Russia.

Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
This is a debut novel by S.J. Watson that was published in 2011 and made into a film starring Nicole Kidman in 2014.

New Year & Over 40 Recommendations from the Latest SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

Welcome to 2016 and the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library crime & mystery book club's latest recommendations. All of them read over the holiday period. Click on the books listed below for reviews and information. Enjoy.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

Her Royal Spyness Mysteries by Rhys Bowen

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Play Dead by Bill James

The Fall of Man in Wilmslow; The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh

Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School for Villainy by Shamini Flint

Shoulder The Sky by Anne Perry

Chosen Perry by Karen Grigsby Bates

Smoke and Mirrors by Kel Robertson

Grandad, There's A Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill

City of the Dead by Sara Gran

The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby

Dishing The Dirt by M.C. Beaton

Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith

Even Days in the Wild by Ian Rankin

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Dictator by Robert Harris

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

The Whites by Richard Price

The Spies of Warsaw; The Polish Officer; The World At Night by Alan Furst

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia Macneal

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert B Parker

The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman

Singing the Sadness by Reginald Hill

Three Crooked Kings by Matthew Condon

Red Mass by Rosemary Aubert

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon

Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner

Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer

A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke

Acute Misfortune - The Life & Death of Adam Cullen by Erik Jensen

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

See you next month.

 

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month the theme was debuts and we managed to collate about 9 books that we recommend: 

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The Devil's Playground by Stav Sherev
This debut novel by Englishman Stav Sherev was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger in 2004.  The plot starts when a body of a tramp, Jake Colby, is found in a secluded park in Amsterdam.  The Dutch detective on the case, Ronald Van Hijn, believes the tramp is the ninth victim of a serial  killer stalking the city, even though the the previous victims were young and female. The corpse has contact details for an Englishman, Jon Reed, who befriended Jake in London shortly before the murder. Van Hijn calls Jon to Amsterdam and this begins Jon's own journey into Jake's identity and his and his family's past.  The novel delves into the stories family members tell each other about their past.  It is a tough story with a fascinating take on a family's history and the impact it has for those living here and now.  

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Clea's Moon by Edward Wright
In 2001, Edward Wright won the CWA Debut Dagger for his first chapter and synopsis of what would become Clea’s Moon. The story is set in the late 1940s in Los Angeles behind the scenes of the changing Hollywood system.  John Ray Horn was a big B western movie star in the 1930s before he went to jail for beating up the son of an owner of one of the studios for causing the death of his horse.  When John Ray left jail he found himself blacklisted in Hollywood and divorced from his wife.  The story begins with John Ray working as a bag man for his old co-star Joseph Mad Cow who now runs a casino.  John Ray becomes embroiled in the dodgy side of nightclubs, casinos and local government in LA when he is asked by his old friend Scotty to find out about the photos Scotty had recovered from his father's desk at work after Scot Bullard Sr's death.  The photos are child pornography taken at least 10 years prior and one of the subjects is John Ray's stepdaughter, Clea, who is now 17 years old and has run away from home.  John Ray sets out to find Clea and who was involved in the taking of and participating in the photographs.  This is a well written novel with a film noir tone.  It is well worth a read.

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The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid
This is not exactly a debut, but it is the first book by Scottish writer, Val McDermid, featuring Forensic Psychologist, Dr. Tony Hill, and DI Carol Jordan. It is set in the fictional town, Bradfield, in northern England. Dr Hill is asked to consult by the police after the bodies of young men are found dead after they were abducted and tortured.  Detective Inspector Carol Jordan is assigned to work with Dr Hill and their relationship becomes complicated. Dr Hill also has to juggle his patients with becoming increasingly involved in the investigation. The Mermaids Singing won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year in 1995. Val McDermid is still writing the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series in addition to her Lindsay Gordon series and Kate Brannigan series.  The Hill/Jordan series was adapted for TV, Wire In The Blood, which follows the plots of most of the Hill/Jordan series until an actor change caused the novels content to split from the TVs. Val McDermid is a great writer with intricate plots, but they are a bit gruesome, with quite a bit of violence.

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Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
This is the first Inspector Rebus novel from Ian Rankin, published in 1987.  There have been nearly 20 stories since then featuring Rebus.  Rankin was a post graduate student at the University of Edinburgh when he wrote this book, and little did he know that this character would become one of the most beloved in modern crime fiction.  Go back to the beginning and see where Rebus and Rankin started.  The plot revolves around the abduction and killing of two young girls and the role Rebus' brother Michael plays.  Welcome to the dark underbelly of Edinburgh and enjoy the great world building and fantastic character sketching of Rankin's writing.  It is a page turner.

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March Violets by Philip Kerr
This is the first novel in a trilogy commonly known as Berlin Noir.  Good Reads describes the plot and tone by saying "Ex-policeman Bernie Gunther thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin. But then he went freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture."  This is true.  The noir tone and styling of the novel is apparent and it evokes a 1930s Berlin under the National Socialist Party that is on a slow boil.  People turn a blind-eye to disappearances and the loss of human rights.  Corruption is rife and the 1936 Olympics are taking place in Berlin.  'March Violets' is the derisive term by which long-time Nazis referred to new party converts. Converts who are jumping on the bandwagon to make a quick buck or just to survive.  Bernie Gunther is deliberately written like a character in a Raymond Chandler novel, and his wry disgust what is happening in Berlin and Germany is palatable.  This is well written and offers up an idea of what day to day life in Berlin in this time could be like.  Quite a different approach from the history books.

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Lonely Road by Nevil Shute
This is the closest to a crime novel written by Nevil Shute.  It was first published in 1932 and is done in an experimental writing style.  Shute was an aeronautical engineer and a pilot who attended the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, UK.  He started writing novels when he was in his 30s while working as an engineer for the de Havilland Aircraft Company, and keeps his day job as an engineer up to and through the Second World War.  In the 1950s, Shute is well-known enough as an author to do it full time and he immigrated to Australia in 1950.  His post war novels are set in Australia and are what he is most known for, but this experiment he wrote back before the Second World War, focuses on Commander Malcolm Stevenson and how he came to be waking up in a hospital after a car accident.  The book opens with Stevenson narrating and describing a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes.  This structure is way ahead of its time, and understandably the novel did not sell as well in the 1930s.  It is well worth a read to see the flexing of a relatively young author as he weaves a plot that will keep you guessing.  

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The Sands of Windee by Arthur Upfield
Arthur Upfield is the father of Australian crime fiction.  He created Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony), a mixed race policeman in the Queensland Police Force who is the central character in over 20 novels spanning from 1928 to 1968 (published posthumously).  Upfield was born in England and moved to Australia in 1910.  Following his World War One service he travelled through Australia extensively learning about Aboriginal culture and the geography of the country.  The creation of an Aboriginal protagonist and the depiction of outback Australian life in the 1930s through into the 1950s sets Upfields books apart.  The Sands of Windee was published in 1931 and is seen as one of Upfields best novels.  It was not his debut (it is his fourth novel), but it is highly regarded.  The plot is about the disappearance of Luke Marks near Windee Station. The local police believe he wandered away from his car and been overwhelmed in a dust-storm.  But Bony feels there is more to it and he comes down from Queensland to work at Windee to find the answers.

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Crime by Ferdinand Von Schirach
Ferdinand Von Schirach is a German criminal lawyer who began practicing law in 1994 and became a successful and prominent defense attorney.  Crime is a collection of stories is based on cases from his chamber and was published in 2009.  Amazon describes the short stories as "by turns witty and sorrowful, unflinchingly brutal and heartbreaking, the deeply affecting."  Von Schirach looks into the grey areas of guilt and innocence and offers and insight into why people commit crimes. This book is highly recommended and so is the follow up, Guilt, written in 2010.  

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The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber
This debut historical crime novel came out in 2012. It is set in Scotland in 1830 and it centres on the r
ecently widowed and notorious Lady Kiera Darby, who seeks refuge at her sister's house following the death of her husband. The scandal part is due to her late husband, a Doctor and Lecturer who was writing an anatomy book, and used her as an illustrator for his book. An unseemly occupation for a lady of her station.  At a house party at her sister's house in Scotland, Lady Darby is asked to assist in the investigation due to her knowledge of anatomy when there is a death and the closest help is at least two days away due to weather and distance.  This is a well written debut with interesting characters and a tight plot.  It sets up the series (and I am sure there will be a series) featuring Lady Darby, who is called on to 'help investigate' in future adventures.  I imagine the publishers were torn between marketing this as a romance or a crime novel.  But as the novel structure is not traditionally in the romance genre form, I can see why they erred on the side of crime.  

Next month, the theme is colour.  It can be in the title, the plot, the theme.  Whatever.  See you then. 

Recommendations from the SMSA Mystery & Crime Book Club

Each month the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library runs a Mystery and Crime Book Club where each member reads a book of their own choosing within an agreed sub-genre or theme.  For January, we shared the books we read over the holidays.  Here are some of the recommendations:

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Tattoo by Manuel Vazquez Montalban
Tattoo (1975) is the second book in the Pepe Carvalho Mystery series by Spanish author Manuel Vazquez Montalban, and the first one translated into English. His first book, I Killed Kennedy (1972), has not been translated, so you can only start with Tattoo.  Manuel Vazquez Montalban was a prolific poet, journalist, essayist and writer in Spain.  He was well regarded and celebrated.  His novels featured 50 year old gastronome-detective Pepe Carvalho and delved into the many facets of Spanish life, from the communist movement in Spain to corruption of the police and politicians.  Tattoo is about the discovery of a drowned man floating in the ocean and the search for his identity.  His face has been destroyed and the only thing that can help to identify him is the tattoo on his shoulder that reads ‘Born to raise Hell in Hell.’ 

Manuel Vazquez Montalban died in Bangkok, Thailand in 2003 on his way back from a speaking tour in Australia.

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A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden by Daylight by Victoria Lincoln
A true crime story, A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden (reprinted 1989) received an Edgar as the best non-fiction crime book of 1967 from the Mystery Writers of America.  Lizzie Borden was tried and acquitted in the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall Rivers, Massachusetts in the USA.  The case caught the imagination of the public and was memorialized in a popular skipping-rope rhyme:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

Borden chose to remain a resident of Fall River for the rest of her life, facing ostracism and speculation.  Victoria Lincoln was born and raised in Fall River in the early 1900s and understood the social milieu in which these incidents took place. She offers a unique perspective to the Lizzie Borden case and decided to write about it many years later, even though many books, articles and essays had been written on the subject.

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Blood and Judgement by Michael Gilbert
In Blood and Judgement (1959), the London police are called in when a woman's partially buried body is found near the reservoir. This murder victim is the wife of a criminal who has escaped from prison. The ex-convict is suspected of the murder. According to crime writer Martin Edwards who wrote an essay on Michael Gilbert, “He introduced Sergeant Patrick Petrella, son of an Englishwoman and a senior Spanish detective. Petrella’s first book appearance was in Blood and Judgment, a police procedural which opens with the discovery of a woman’s body on Bonfire Night.” British writer Michael Gilbert had a very long a productive career.  He practiced as a lawyer in London and published his first novel in 1946 and his last one in 1999.  He died in 2006 at the age of 93.  He was a founder-member of the British Crime Writers’ Association.

Ian Rankin
Two novels from Ian Rankin were recommended. The eighth Inspector Rebus novel, Black and Blue (1997) explores the impact of the North Sea oil rigs and ‘industry’ on Aberdeen and Glasgow, and the 16th Inspector Rebus novel, The Naming of the DeadThe Naming of the Dead is set against the backdrop of a G8 meeting in July 2005 in Edinburgh.

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
The latest Dennis Lehane, Live by Night (2012), is set in Boston and Florida in the 1920s.  Prohibition has made organised crime an industry and Lehane brings it all to life.  I think Lehane is one of the best crime writers alive.  He always makes his subject matter riveting, complex and with many shades of gray.  I am looking forward to getting this out of the library.

 

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Death of a Dissenter by Lynton Lamb
Born as a son of an English Reverend in India, Lynton Lamb grew up in London and studied art.  He was primarily an illustrator who designed stamps, decorations for the Orient Liner and the binding for the bible used at the Queen’s coronation.  He is the author of British children’s classic The Railway Children and wrote the Inspector Charles Glover detective stories between 1969 and 1974.  Death of a Dissenter (1969) was his debut, and is about a quaint English village where the rector of the village parish is the prime suspect.  It is described as light, humorous and full of provincial English.

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The Notting Hill Mysteries by Anabel Donald
The Notting Hill Mysteries is a series of five crime novels featuring London-based freelance researcher and occasional private investigator Alex Tanner.  Alex lives in the Ladbrooke Grove end of Notting Hill. Not the fashionable bit but the end near what was once known as Rillington Place.  All five books are set her and have a strong connection to the London borough.  Alex’s story starts with An Uncommon Murder (1992).  Set in 1990, Alex investigates the decades –old unsolved murder of Lord Sherwin. Alex’s story continues in In at the Deep End (1995) where she looks into the strange goings-on at Rissington Academy, an exclusive boarding school, where a student has drowned.  The third book in the series is The Glass Ceiling, Alex receives a letter from a ‘Ms X’ which lists the names of four famous feminists and has an X next to the name of the one who has recently died.  She races against time to try and stop the death of the remaining three. The Loop sends Alex backwards and forwards across the Atlantic in search of a missing young man. On an assignment in Chicago a beautiful young model begs Alex to find her missing lover. The trail leads Alex from Chicago back to England.  As usual there is more to it than the plot. Destroy Unopened is the final novel in the series and starts with a recently widowed woman bringing Kate an envelope marked "Destroy Unopened" which contains letters indicating a long-term relationship between a woman and a married man.  These letters are in some way connected to the killing of small blonde women that is happening in Notting Hill.  Kate tries to unravel it all.  

Book to Die For – Edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke
This is a collection of over 120 essays by current crime authors about their favourite crime novel.  Some of the pairings include: Eddie Muller on The Big Heat by William P. McGivern; Mark Billingham on The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett; Megan Abbott on In a Lonely Place, by Dorothy B. Hughes; Laura Lippman on Love’s Lovely Counterfeit, by James M. Cainby; James W. Hall on LaBrava by Elmore Leonard; Val McDermid on On Beulah Height, by Reginald Hill.  The essays are chronological, so you can read the history and development of crime fiction over the last 200 years.  The novels written about are mainly American and British, so it is by no means definitive, but it is a fascinating read.  As a bonus, there is also a short paragraph about the writer of each essay.

 

Bonus comment
Each year World of Books sell over 4 million used books online. Started in the UK, eight years ago, World of Books purchased unsold inventory of used books from UK charity shops and reselling them online, originally through online sites through amazon.com, but now also from the World of Books website www.worldofbooks.com.  Books are bought in bulk, paying by tonnage rather than paying for individual titles. Then, using custom-designed software, each title is evaluated for saleability and set selling prices accordingly.  In 2010 alone the business recycled 26 million books.  Check it out. They deliver worldwide.

Next month the sub-genre or theme is Partners in Crime.