The 10 best crime novels of the past decade: Let the fun begin!
A couple of “crime fiction experts” have chosen the top 10 crime novels for the decade over at the London Times. I hope it proves provoking to those more knowledgeable about the genre. For me it’s merely expanded the scope of titles on my personal so-many-books-so-little-time compilation. Take David Peace, for example, a writer I’d never even heard of until two weeks ago.
And right there he is, atop the list compiled by critic/scholar Barry Forshaw and novelist Laura Wilson, with his novel Nineteen Seventy-Seven selected as the best crime novel for the year 2000. Peace is the author of nine well-reviewed novels since 1999, when his first, Nineteen Seventy-Four, came out–all of which managed to elude my attention, and I read books for a living.
Peace is finding a small sunny spot in the dappled forest floor of the American media landscape, thanks to a British TV adaptation of his “Red Riding Quartet” of novels that’s being released here as three feature films, available in theaters and On Demand at IFC.
I’ve read several rave reviews lately, my interest piqued because they all made the series adapted from Peace’s books sound like a U.K. analogue to the late HBO show, The Wire — a dramatic study in crime and corruption in a major, second-class city. Finally, I watched the first of the films, Nineteen Seventy-Four, on the telly the other night.
Gotta say, it’s a really good movie, but so bleak it’ll have you thinking there is no God, but the Devil surely exists. And no, it’s no match for The Wire. It’s humorless, for one thing (though I’ll admit it may have had some Brit humor that went over —or under –my head), and it doesn’t have the scope, for another.
The entire story is presented from the point of view of a hip young crime reporter, Edward Dunford, whose investigation into a series of missing children slowly uncovers a rot of corruption extending from the police to top businessmen to the managers of the newspaper.
My only specific criticism (apart from wanting to kill myself afterward) is a technical newspapery thing: The film follows Dunford for weeks, and yet we never seem him write a single story. Or even sit down at a typewriter. Believe me, in the real world, he would have been fired for nonproduction long before he reached the rancid bottom of the Yorkshire barrel.
Of course, that’s no comment whatsoever upon Peace and his book, which I hope to read one of these happy days. But I thought I’d get my two-cents in on the movie.
Here’s the rest of the Forshaw/Wilson list (and you should visit it yourself; the honorable mentions are fascinating, too):
2001: Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane; 2002: Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters (a crime novel shortlisted for the Booker Prize); 2003: The American Boy, by Andrew Taylor; 2004: The Power of the Dog, by Don Winslow; 2005: No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy; 2006: The Broken Shore, by Peter Temple; 2007: Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand, by Fred Vargas; 2008: Blood From Stone, by Frances Fyfield; 2009: Hypothermia, by Arnaldur Indridason.
Okay, I loathe No Country for Old Men (you can read why here) and think McCarthy one of the most overrated writers in the history of, I don’t know, writing. But I can appreciate how it might appeal to some people, even if they ought to know better.
The books on that list that most whet my appetite are Fingersmith, a lesbian novel set among the pickpockets of Victorian London; The American Boy, a Regency London criminal underworld seen through the eyes of Edgar Allan Poe as a child; Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand, if only for its great, great title; and The Power of the Dog, a sweeping California noir.
While I’m settling down to my reading assignments, I hope some of you can write in with verdicts on the Times‘ best crime novel list — the books that made it, and the ones that didn’t. Surely some Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman or James Ellroy partisans will write to protest…