Cracking crime-fiction reviews

I’ve read some wonderful book reviews recently – in the blogosphere, natch. I was reminded of one of my teenager favourite reads, Julian Symons, in this post at Dewey’s Dartboard about The Progress of a Crime. I loved Symons’ books, and it is nice to read that this one, at least, holds up even though first published in 1960. Symons was also president of the crime writers’ organisation of the day, and a very good chap all round, if my memory serves.

Via Elizabeth Baines: In Search of Adam, by the generous, charming, funny, but typographically over-inventive blogger Caroline Smailes is almost out. The story of how the book came to be published is a great one, and if your eyes can manage it, you can read all about it on Caroline’s truly individual blog.

Here is Bill Peschel on Los Angeles Noir, a short story collection edited by Denise Hamilton, a post that has done more than most to tempt me back into reading the format. Because I have read so many short crime-fiction stories (and other types of short fiction), I stopped when everything merged into a forgettable whole. But I do fairly often read crime-fiction novels that I think would have been far better if written as a short story rather than padded out into a long one, so I don’t fully understand my reluctance. But returning to the subject at hand, Bill’s review is superb and will certainly enable you to decide whether to read the book. (I might buy it just for the Michael Connelly.)

Material Witness has a couple of cracking reviews, of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, and Dead Connection by Alafair Burke. Based on these, I have ordered Flynn’s book from Amazon and, although it will be hard, I’ll wait for the paperback of the Burke — I loved her previous three books so it was not hard to persuade me to sign up to this one.

I’ve fallen in love with the blog Crime Always Pays (thanks, Karen!) , so although these posts aren’t strictly reviews I’ll sneak them in to the end of this post —- they defy summary so just get on over and read about some geezer who isn’t anything to do with salt and "You wanna do it here or down the station, punk?", interview with Pat Mullan. Pat bears up under the rubber truncheon a lot better than Paris Hilton did, I’ll give him that, even though she probably wins on the mugshot stakes.

Kirkus Reviews features Ellen Baker

The ever-vigilant OWL (omnipresent Wisconsin librarian), also known as Dave Lull, alerts me to a special issue of Kirkus Reviews called First Fiction Spotlight: Promising debuts from important new voices. The magazine highlights first novels by talented authors including The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, set in seventeenth century Iran and on Cathy’s book pile waiting for the end of GCSEs; The Extra Large Medium by Helen Slavin; Consumption by Kevin Patterson; The Midnight Choir by the excellent writer Gene Kerrigan (which isn’t a first novel but is a "US debut" – I highly recommend reading it on the basis of his actual first novel, Little Criminals); and "a character-driven two family saga, Keeping the House by Ellen Baker" (page 4). From the review:

Keeping the House is the story of two women, separated by generations, who are bound to each other by a single house in Pine Rapids, Wisc. Dolly Magnuson, a 1950s housewife who’s new to town, finds solace in the old Mickelson house on top of the hill, while struggling to adjust to her new role as wife and homemaker. As she’s drawn into the history of the town, she learns about the turn-of-the-century saga of the once-powerful Mickelson family– in particular the first female inhabitant of the house, Wilma– and the story of their downfall.

Congratulations to Ellen Baker (whose website is here) for having her novel featured — US publication is on 10 July. You can follow Ellen’s blog (Keeping the House) here, and apparently, says Ellen, you can now find Dolly Magnuson on MySpace.