SinC25: Denise Hamilton, #1 post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now embarking on the expert level:

write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.

Denise Hamilton is the female author who most nearly made it onto David Montgomery’s “top ten” detective novels list. I enjoyed her first novel, The Jasmine Trade, upon its initial UK publication as part of an Orion “new authors” promotion. Eve Diamond, an investigative journalist with the LA Times, struggles to make and keep a career in a city hypersensitive to ethnic and ethical tensions, and is as determined as hell to get to the bottom of things. The plot and outcome of The Jasmine Trade was original and moving– all in all a great debut.

Although I enjoyed subsequent Eva Diamond novels (Sugar Skull and Last Lullaby), by the fourth, Savage Garden, I felt the series was becoming a bit formulaic and have not read any more of the author’s books since then (2006). Checking out the author’s website to see what she’s published since Savage Garden, she has written another Eve Diamond novel, Prisoner of Memory; edited two short-story collections (LA Noir and LA Noir 2); written another standalone novel, The Last Embrace, set in Los Angeles again but in 1949; and, most recently, written a novel called Damage Control, “murder and scandal in a wealthy political family” in southern California.

I’m quite keen to try Damage Control, but in nominating the required three other authors writing similar novels, I’m going to stick to the journalism theme because I’ve only read the Eve Diamond (journalism) novels by Denise Hamilton so can’t compare any of the others to anyone.

Mari Jungstedt: Swedish novels set on the island of Gotland, TV journalist Johan Berg investigates crimes in parallel to the police and usually collaborates with them to share knowledge and hence find the solution. He has an on-off-on relationship with Emma, a local schoolteacher.

Elaine Viets wrote four novels about New Orleans journalist Francesca Vierling between 1997 and 2000. As well as being witty investigations of crimes, they offer clever insights into the ethics and management of newspaper publishing, as well as a window into the world of the “rehabbers” of pre-Katrina New Orleans. Highly recommended if you like brisk, humorous books with a bite. (Viets has more recently focused on her Mystery Shopper and Dead End Job series, which are very “pink”.)

Liza Marklund is author of one of my top favourite series, about Swedish newspaper journalist Annika Bengztrom. Annika exposes a range of crimes including conspiracies among the political elite and the trafficking of young women, as well as dealing with a complicated personal life.

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.

7 thoughts on “SinC25: Denise Hamilton, #1 post of expert challenge

  1. I haven’t read any Denise Hamilton books but your review makes me want to try the The Jasmine Trade. The character of Eve Diamond sounds a bit like Laura Lippman’s books featuring Tess Monaghan which I enjoy a lot.

    • Thanks, Sarah, for reminding me about Tess Monaghan. I read some of those a long while ago and liked them too. Sorry I forgot them so did not include in this post.

  2. I’ve only read The Jasmine Trade, by this author also. I thought it was o.k., wasn’t my favorite read about a journalist, nothing like Liza Marklund’s Red Wolf or others.
    I read one of Elaine Viets’ books in the Dead End jobs’ series, and I enjoyed it and laughed quite a bit, but didn’t know she’s written a series about a journalist. Will check it out sometime, and also Mari Jungstedt.

  3. Maxine – I think you had a great idea to focus on journalism for this one and Liza Marklund is one of my favourites. I haven’t read much Denise Hamilton, so other than The Jasmine Trade (Thanks for the reminder), I can’t say much about her work. But I did like that one; shame if the series began to get formulaic.

  4. Terrific post, Maxine – and I’m not surprised that two of your newroom readalike choices are by Swedish authors. In some ways I think journalists take the role that PIs take in American crime fiction – the outsider who goes after the truth sometimes in parallel to a police investigation, but sometimes in spite of official disapproval.

    Journalism is not as respected a profession in the US, and the news business is in sad shape after a decade in which many papers were sold to private equity firms and newsroom staff was cut by 30%. (They were enormously profitable a few years ago; today they are still profitable, contrary to popular belief, but they don’t offer nearly as much news.) Still, it’s a great setting for crime fiction and an opportunity to have a professional standing without being part of the criminal justice system.

    • Thanks, Barbara. Journalism is not so respected in the UK nowadays, either – how long ago were the investigative reports of Paul Foot and John Pilger about racism in the East End (towards the then-relatively new Asian immigrant communities) and so on? 1960s? Journalism in the UK is a pale imitation of what it was, in my view – here news reports are all muddled up with opinion and features, and the fact-checking is risible or non-existent – — so US journalism still has the edge in those ways. (However, “serious” US journalism is more boring to read than “serious” UK journalism, I think, as US stories tend to be much more meandering, whereas the UK style is to lead with the point and then provide the background, which makes it crisper).

      Anyway, we won’t go into the phone hacking….although UK journalists exposed it, it was other UK journalists doing it, to their shame.

      One aspect of Swedish society is the ability of journalists, or anyone, to use the freedom of information act to get govt employees to reveal information. This has helped many a crime fiction plot along!

  5. Another author I feel tempted to try – but yesterday I got so many books I dare not even count them. I´d better run off to read some of them.

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