My reviews of three books have been posted at Euro Crime in the past couple of weeks. As usual for me these days, owing to the excellent recommendations I receive essentially via blogs, I thoroughly enjoyed all three of these excellent titles, two of which are newly published books and one is an old one.
One of the new books, Stratton's War by Laura Wilson, has been out for a few months. From my review: "a fully rounded novel of London in the Blitz in the summer of 1940. There are two main protagonists, both outsiders as far as the Establishment is concerned – one is a professional policeman from the 'working' classes; and the other, of a socially higher class, is a woman. Each of these characters is the centre of their own story, and it is not until about two-thirds of the way through the book that they meet – and although they instinctively like each other, it is not until the end that they share a mutual awareness of their similarities, far stronger than their superficial differences, which bind them together." Great stuff, full of atmosphere and period detail, as well as a good plot.
The other new book was published a few days ago: The Slaughter Pavilion by Catherine Sampson. Thanks to the kindness of Macmillan, I received a review copy. I think Catherine Sampson is one of the best writers of the genre today, and highly recommend trying her books if you haven't already. Her first two books featured an investigative journalist whose personal problems, including struggling as a single parent with twin babies, essentially formed the basis for the plots. The second two books (The Slaughter Pavilion is the fourth) reduce the emphasis on this character (almost completely in the newest title) and focus instead on a nascent detective agency in China (where the author lives), with lots of local politics and social issues. Brilliant stuff. From my review: "THE SLAUGHTER PAVILION opens with Song refusing to take on the case of a peasant who tries to hire him to investigate why his petition, about the death of his young daughter, has been ignored by the authorities. Terrified at having his business closed down, Song refuses to help – and tragedy rapidly ensues. In an attempt to avoid being interrogated by the police as a witness, Song finds himself investigating the case further, as his ex-father-in-law, the awful Chief Chen Delai, seems inescapably to be involved. Soon Song is sought out, and then accompanied on his quest, by an attractive human-rights lawyer, Jin Dao, a development that increases Song's terror at being discovered by the authorities as well as causing him massive internal conflict because of his attraction to Jin."
My third review is of a classic, The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. From my review: "I loved this book. With each book in the series, the detectives in the team are gradually taking on more clearly defined personalities as their (often hilarious) idiosyncrasies become familiar. The reader can begin to predict who Martin Beck will assign to each task, and how each one might contribute to the investigation. As well as this core story, the snapshots of the various witnesses, suspects and other people associated with the case provide a telling view of the wider society, without hype. Yet the story is by no means cold: the authors understand too well the loss of humanity that is experienced as people live year after year in an environment that is stifling them, as reflected by the detectives' attitudes to their superiors and to the "values" they are supposed to uphold, as well as to the microcosms of their personal lives.."
Written more than 40 years ago, The Laughing Policeman remains fresh and relevant. It is my instinct that Laura Wilson's and Catherine Sampson's books, likewise, will not date.