Good and Bad Crime

As a way of introduction let me just say I read a lot of crime and thrillers, usually I don’t remember them a week after I finished. During vacation I sometimes read 2-3 a day; in general I tend to read crime books or thrillers when I’m too tired for something more ambitious or between good books using them in a similar way as ginger is used when eating sushi, to clean my palate. As with everything some are better than others.

In geared up to my vacation I started looking at various lists of summer reads and one of them recommended ‘Alex’ by Pierre Lemaître, but being an organized (read slightly OCD’d) person I decided to start with the first book in the series – ‘Irène‘. Well… this definitely is one of the good ones. Beautifully built characters, not a single one of them is one dimensional, they all get depth. Of course Camille is the key person and he is full of contradictions and very, very human and one thing he is not – perfect, yet he does his best and blames himself every time he fails. Language is another thing, great translation, I’ve seen books slaughtered by bad translation (who haven’t) but this one is just great. Language is expertly used as a formal tool, there are no accidents here. Story is gripping develops at a reasonable pace; this is not your all-out American chase me or die type of book. It gradually builds tension right up to the finale, you’ll definitely know when it’s coming, but this does not make it boring or predictable. And we always root for Camille. Pleasure…

Easy to predict – I immediately jumped to ‘Alex‘, the second installment of the series, 4 years after Irène finished we meet our detectives again. So much has changed, and yet so much stays the same, the goal is unchanged, save the innocent make the bad guys pay. Only who is innocent?

The characters are still three dimensional, language is different than Irène yet still perfect. This book keeps you on tenterhooks, because you never know whose side you should be on. All involved characters change as soon as they’re put in perspective. This is a book that leaves your head spinning.
A word of warning though, both books are very brutal.

After such feast I was on a roll, so moved on to ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd‘ by Agatha Christie. I know, I know, how was it possible that I haven’t read everything by the Queen of Crime before? Truth being said, I read some enjoyed them and then forgot. I will never say they’re bad books, but being a classic and influencing the entire genre so much had made them a bit of a cliché. Here however I was about to start on an absolute masterpiece, or so I was led to believe. It obviously was a complete change of gear from Lemaître. To be honest for the first 100 pages I was wondering why the hell people call it a masterpiece? Ok, it was not painful, but nor was it the best read of my life. After 100 pages I got into stage of acceptance, I decided to ignore what I heard and just simply give the book a chance on its own – good choice. It is entertaining, focused on detail, Poirot is quirky, the doctor-narrator makes good job of being sufficiently lost and clueless, at some points he even compares himself to Watson, nice touch of irony and also a show how Christie knew her clichés and still could use them to wink at the reader. I kept going, slowly appreciating the book. But what really makes it a masterpiece is the ending, no spoilers here, no alert would help and once you know it the pleasure is gone. Is it a masterpiece, I am still not convinced. Is it a book that influenced hundreds of others – definitely, if that’s how a masterpiece is defined then it ticks all the boxes.

After being 3 times lucky I kept going, it was summer in the end and I can’t read only ambitious and challenging things…

Next one up was ‘Snapped in Cornwall‘ by Janie Bolitho. Yes, I know I am a victim of Kindle Daily deals…This was a bad one, a week after I finished it I swear I could not remember who killed, that’s how bad it was. Long sentimental descriptions of Cornish landscape (I am sure it’s magnificent), weather seemed to be important factor for the author. The main character sometimes acts her age but sometimes acts like a naïve teenager. It all plays to the fantasy of peaceful living in a small community in beautiful nowhere, making ones living from being a photographer and occasional painter – let’s be real! And then those bad outsiders come and bring their trouble. I think I’ll stop here, it was bad, it was quite painful, it was boring, predictable and illogical.

Yet this still did not deter me, I decided to move to US ‘The One that Got Away‘ by Simon Wood. Typical, yes, that is the word, it is your typical serial killer escaped victim story. Main character was mildly convincing, as a victim of PTSD that tries to run away from her life and then face it. It had what one expects from summer read, action, serial killer, good cops, bad cops, kidnapping. Language was not horrible, it was decently paced. Great ginger, it will be forgotten in 1 to 2 weeks. After this crime stories bout I decided I was ‘crimed out’ for a while.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska

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One thought on “Good and Bad Crime

  1. Pingback: Blackout – Ragnar Jonasson – bookskeptic.com

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