The Rageby Gene Kerrigan
Taking care of one's own is a resounding theme in the Best Crime Novel of the Year. The judges who conferred this honour pointed to its menacing depiction of post-crash Dublin as its defining characteristic, but sure, what do they know? The thrill of this thriller, at least for the denizens of the Big Smoke, is reading Kerrigan's flawless capture of the rhythm and pace of the city.
That's not to say that it doesn't ruthlessly depict post-crash Dublin and all the raging against the machine that was our society. There's plenty of rage against shady banker Eamonn Sweetwater, who gets shot on his doorstep.
There's plenty of rage in Vincent Naylor, who gets a stretch in the 'Joy for giving a kicking to someone who's looked at him crooked. And, crucially, there's enough low-level rage in Detective Sergeant Bob Tidey to render his moral compass dangerously adrift.
The story suffers from an extensive cast of characters, and Kerrigan's short, sharp, cinematic dialogue trumps his more workmanlike attempt at prosey detail. It takes a while for the story to fall into a rhythm, but when it does, when the heist at the centre of the story goes wrong, the book finds its feet and ends up earning that dagger.
The Martin Beck serieS
by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
Harper Perennial, reprinted in 2007 (1965-75 originally), various prices
You can keep your Mankells, your Nesbos and especially your Larssons. The wife and husband team of Sjowall and Wahloo (respectively) crafted 10 lean, mean novels set in sixties and seventies Stockholm. The first several novels have so few pages, they don't seem worth the effort -- what could possibly happen in 200 pages? Oh, so much: the pace is terse, and yet paradoxically slow; the writing is spare, and yet evocative of place and personality. These are simply spectacular and are considered by many to be the progenitors of modern police procedural writing. I envy you your discovery of these terrific books.
Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon
William Heinemann Ltd, 2012; series began in July 2004 €17.15 **
If you have a gra for La Serenissima, then these are the novels for you. Leon writes gloriously of the glories of Venice, but the crimes? Not so much, as this series seems primarily to be centred around Commisario Brunetti's struggles with Italian bureaucracy. Here, Brunetti is back on his investigative track as he seeks to discover whether the death of an elderly woman was via natural causes, or foul play -- and in fighting the powers that be, reminds us why we fell in love with these novels in the first place. (A: Venice; B: Appealing characters; C: Astonishingly complicated lunches.)
V is for Vengeance
by Sue Grafton
Mantle, January 2012; series began in 1982 €18.50 ****
Kinsey Milhone has been working the private detective beat in the surprisingly crime-riddled little town of Santa Theresa, CA. In V, we start with a shoplifting bust, go through a seeming suicide, and get mixed up with crime bosses who, in Grafton's hands, end up having complicated emotional lives. The series will wrap up with Zed, which coincides with Kinsey's 40th birthday. This adds a bit of the auld nostalgia to the series as we chug along towards the end of the eighties with Kinsey. Grafton is back in form here and devoted readers will hope she'll end it all on a high.
by Val McDermid
Little, Brown, September 2011; series began in 1995 €18.50 **
The grim environs of the fictional Bradfield, Northern England-ish, comes across warm and cuddly compared to the crimes that are begotten there. If you are the slightest bit squeamish, then don't go near this. Seriously. McDermid has never turned a blind eye to the underbelly of crime, and in this, in which psychologist Tony Hill is faced once again with his worst nightmare (serial killer Jacko Vance) you'll be tempted to read with one eye shut.
Minutes by Martin O'Brien
Random House, April 2012; series began in 2005
Marseilles is not a town that one might rush to visit, as port towns tend to be, er, somewhat rough around the edges. This is much like O'Brien's detective hero himself, Daniel Jacquot, a former rugby star whose maverick ways have landed him in more than his share of l'eau chaude. The town, the detective, and the crimes are an inspired fit for each other, and the mysteries themselves are intense, full of detail, with this one involving a load of gold bullion. Jacquot himself, with his bad-boy ways, is especially compelling (wink).