18 June 2019

Sirens

We have just been lazing around today. Pool. Sunbed. Read. Pool. Sunbed. Read. And before you know it, the whole day has drifted by.

Back at the Oxfam charity shop where I work, the book section is dominated by two categories - Fiction and Crime Fiction + Thrillers. Now I have read many books in my life - lots and lots of good quality fiction but mostly I have turned my nose up at crime fiction. It just does not appeal to me.

And yet when I am upstairs in the Oxfam shop sorting out book donations, I find myself handling lots of crime fiction - Lee Child, Val McDermid, Michael Connelly, Ruth Rendell,  Steig Larsson, Jamers Patterson, Jo Nesbo etcetera. They are all tremendously successful writers if success is indeed measured in volume of book sales.

Before coming on this little holiday, I decided I would bring a work of crime fiction with me and to read it as a kind of experiment - testing myself. From the Oxfam shelves, I picked a book entitled "Sirens" by a new British crime writer called Joseph Knox.
Set in Manchester, the novel focuses upon underworld activity and at its heart there is a young detective called Aidan Waits. He inhabits a kind of grey zone between the law and the criminal fraternity.

He drinks heavily, he takes drugs, he mixes with thugs, bent coppers and low life losers. Yet in spite of this, with his brilliant mind he is able to make sense of complexity and solve drug-related deaths like a modern day Sherlock Holmes without the deerstalker or the pipe.

Detective Waits gets beaten up, he bleeds, he vomits, he stays out all night. I guess he is some kind of anti-hero but in the end he ensures that evil is punished and good triumphs.

I will say this about "Sirens" - it was very easy to read. You just kept turning the pages and your cerebrum was not even slightly challenged.

But in the end I thought it was pure balderdash. I didn't care about Aidan Waits or the people he mixed with. They were like cut-out figures in a child's scrapbook. And I found the portrait of seedy crime-ridden Manchester most unpleasant and unfaithful. It is not the Manchester I know. Interestingly, there wasn't one mention of Manchester City Football Club or Manchester United or Lancashire cricket or Eccles Cakes or the Pennine hills that rise to the east of the city or The Peterloo Massacre or John Cooper Clarke. It was a fanciful much-edited version of Manchester that was conceived in Joseph Knox's financially-driven imaginings.

In short, this "novel" - if you can rightfully call it that - consolidated my suspicion that  crime fiction is utter tosh. There are much better subjects for writers to explore even if those topics do not promise the same probability of financial reward. I won't be reading another crime novel any time soon. Why should I? To me crime and the detection of it are very tiny parts of everyday life. I find it annoying that TV, film and publishing industries are demonstrably quite obsessed with such a minor topic.

19 comments:

  1. I'm not usually a big thriller fan myself but I do adore the books of JK Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith about a detective named Cormoran Strike. "Cuckoo's Calling" is the first in the series and if you see that at the shop you might want to pick it up. Plenty of character development there. You might hate it but you might enjoy it.

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    1. Yes! Those Galbraith books are really good. I've read the first three.

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  2. Well you tried and now you know that your first impulse was correct. We all have our favorites and crime fiction is not a favorite of mine either although I'll admit that some authors are better at getting me to cross over to different styles. It is always good to try something different occasionally.

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  3. I have recently found a great Author called Amanda Craig. Her books are just so interesting bringing in things that make you think about your opinions on all sorts of things. I cannot read drivel and wonder just how some books manage to get published.
    Carry on enjoying your break.
    Briony
    x

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  4. I enjoy a good crime novel.

    I've read all of those written by Colin Dexter -(the creator of "Inspector Morse" and an avid cryptic crossworder). I'm also a big fan of Ian Rankin (of Rebus fame), Jonathan Kellerman, Lee Child and Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard, Steig Larsson, James Ellroy, in particular. Along with Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle,Edgar Allan Poe.....

    In my opinion, they are not "utter tosh".

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    1. Agree with you Lee, I love them too!
      PS. Also love Kate Morton’s books, have you read them ?

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    2. I hate to admit that I haven't, Helsie. Local girl...so I hang my head in shame! I must get around to reading her....I've been promising myself that I will do so. :)

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    3. I've read several books by Kate Morton - they make good holiday reading !

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  5. Now that you mention it , I have not read any crime stories. Your post will probably make sure I don't read any crime stories in the near future.

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  6. Like Lee, I enjoy good crime fiction - the emphasis being on "good", which the one you unfortunately chose for your experiment definitely was not.
    I don't like the apparent need for heroes being anti-heroes - in so many novels from the past 10 years or so, the hero is a rather disturbed character, with drug problems, unhappy family relations and so on; never an "average" person like myself, as if it would be too boring to write about someone who like their jobs, love their families and live normal, reaonably healthy lives.

    But please don't generalise - not all crime fiction is like the one you have read there!

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  7. my pet horror is chic lit , if it has a pastel cover I condemn it on sight . I like a good murder but they are few and far between

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  8. As you know I also help in an Oxfam bookshop, and like you have recently thought that I should perhaps read more from the " crime" section. Like you I have bought a crime book to take on holiday . ( 5 day cruise on River Severn). It is " Blue Monday" by Nicci French. Recommended by my colleague . I hope that I enjoy it more than you did yours!! I can recommend Linwood Barclay to try. The first one I read was " No time to say goodbye" . A teenager comes home from school to find her family gone: table laid for tea etc. Echoes of the Marie Celeste ! I think it takes her about 25 years to find out what happened, though I can't remember now what it was! In one ear and out the other...that's me!

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    1. If I remember correctly, Nicci French is a husband and wife team who specialise in crime fiction. "Blue Monday" is the first of a series with titles featuring each day of the week. So far I think I've read as far as Thursday !

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  9. I watch crime shows on TV and I have read crime (fiction and true stories) in the past. It's so far removed from my life, it's just a great escape.

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  10. Crime fiction doesn't appeal to me, either. I've tried a few but never really liked them, and now I don't bother. Life is too short to read anything but what you enjoy!

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  11. I'm an avid reader and read books by many different authors, but do enjoy a good crime fiction, so have read books by most of the authors mentioned by yourself, and several of the bloggers. Val McDermid is a particular favourite. I've even managed to find one author who writes about the area where I lived in the UK! Not sure the residents of some of the upmarket areas may approve of her using their actual road names to set some of the more grisly murders !

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  12. افضل خدمات التنظيف بالدمام تجدونها مع شركة تنظيف مسابح بالاحساء شركة المثالية للتنظيف المتفوقة والمتقدمة دائما لانجتزتها وخبرتها الكبيرة التي قدمتها لعملائها بالجودة والمواصفات القياسية بالاسعار المناسبة والجودة العالية بخصومات تصل الي 50% مع الضمان للجودة

    شركة تنظيف مسابح بالدمام

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  13. I like some crime novels. I've very much enjoyed Ian Rankin's books set in Scotland, and Michael Connelly's in LA. Jane Harper is another writer I've liked -- her book "The Dry," set in Australia, was really good. I know what you mean about our social obsession with crime stories, but let's face it -- humans love a good mystery.

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