Tag Archives: nikki french

A judgement in stone

 This weekend I was asked by a friend to recommend what I thought was the best ever crime book. She has recently got back into crime fiction via way of Lisa Gardner and was asking what to read next. This is quite possibly one of the hardest questions I’ve ever contemplated (after do you want toffee or chocolate ice cream – always both!)

Even just asking for who I think is the best ever author would be tricky. Patricia Cornwell is definitely one of my favourites; however I would say that to do her justice you really should start with her first ever book to truly enjoy them. I’ve read her whole series a couple of times so know them pretty well. I think some of her books are good as stand alone stories but in my opinion the relationships between Scarpetta, Benson, Marina and Lucy are an integral part and one of the things that make them so popular.

 Mark Billingham would definitely be in my top 5 authors. ‘Scaredy Cat’ was the first of his I read (his second Tom Thorne novel) and it was gripping. The writing was violent and gruesome, but the blood and guts were not gratuitous. A Lisa Gardner novel started this whole debate, and all her books are excellent. ‘Love you more’ was the last of hers I read, and there is a copy of ‘Catch Me’ sat in my pile which i’m dying to read (although as she is unfortunately not at this year’s festival it is  just going to have to wait!)

One of the great things about this challenge has been that I’ve added a lot of new authors to my repertoire. John Connolly is definitely going into my top author list having just finished ‘The Burning Soul’ and I’m looking forward to tackling his back catalogue.

It might be easier to suggest the top male and top female writer, but then I love Tania Carver, a husband and wife duo who’s novel a ‘Cage of Bones’ is quite chilling, so where would they fit? Nicci French is another great  male and female writing duo so maybe I’d need three categories but how can I narrow them down?

Looking thorough my notebook at the list of books I’ve read, I score them all out of five. One of the highest scores is for ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn so maybe that needs to go down as one of the best. But then the score is only on a par with all those already mentioned and Peter James. He is also high scoring, with his novels based around Brighton which have some completely unpredictable twists which are very exciting.

 I think trying to suggest a favourite book, is a completely impossible task. Its like trying to pick my favourite band, or favourite ice cream flavour there are just too many to limit myself to one. It totally depends on what mood I’m in, and also what I last had/read. Often the latest book I’ve read is my favourite, until the next one anyway. Having been upstairs to look at my bookshelves there are too many ‘favourite’ authors I haven’t mentioned. So far I’ve just been looking at authors who’ve written books in the last couple of years, don’t even get me started on the likes of Agatha Christie, and of course I’ve not mentioned PD James, or Ruth Rendall.

It’s just not possible. Maybe I could do a top 20 books, but even then I don’t think I could narrow it down. There are so many great books I’ve read, and so many more I want to read that just thinking about it makes my head want to explode. So what about other people, if you had to recommend the ‘best ever’ crime novel for my friend  to read next what would you suggest?


Filed under book review, Reading, Theakstons Festival, Uncategorized

A bad day for pretty

Today is International Women’s Day, which apparently started as far back as 1908 when 15 000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights and better pay, although it was first celebrated in Europe in 1911.  In this country women demonstrated in the streets, went on hunger strikes, threw themselves under horses all to fight for equality with men. A century later and Women now have the vote, can drive a car and finally I’m sure Emmeline Pankhurst would be incredibly pleased to know we also now have pink lego!

This was something that had passed me by until this weekend. As a teacher and a mother of two young girls my friend is a bit more au fait with current child trends than me. So for the past 50 years or so, girls have not played with lego because it wasn’t pink. Really? Are we really all so utterly brainwashed by stereotypes that we can only buy lego for a girl if it’s pink? It’s the demise of the last non-gender specific toy in the world. (According to my friend who was rightly very annoyed by this)

Apparently the world has come full circle, and we’ve skipped right past the equality that women were aiming for, and gone straight into everything for girls being pink and fluffy. Take dressing up outfits for example, girls get princesses or fairies, boys get superheroes and doctors. I would much rather be a superhero flying out to save the world, than a princess stuck in some castle bored stupid.  The same issues can be seen in the world of literature, as it seems people believe women will only read books if they are pink, fluffy and branded as ‘chicklit’, whereas boys read everything not just ‘cocklit’ (Short for Cockerel thank you).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot of so called ‘chicklit’ over the years, some good some bad, mostly following the same premise – boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy is bad to girl, girl moans to gay best friend, quiet nerd next door befriends girl, girl realises she has been in love with nerd from the start. Some of these are funny, and very cleverly written, and I’ve enjoyed reading them, but just like I didn’t need my lego to be pink, I don’t need a book to have a nice fluffy cover in order for me to pick it up.  

Personally I would say modern day crime fiction has managed to bypass this pink stereotyping and is read by both males and females. Somehow I can’t imagine the likes of Patricia Cornwell writing ‘Last Cupcake of Death’ with a pink cover and glitter all over it (not to be confused with her Scarpetta Cookbook, the only Patricia Cornwell book I haven’t got a copy of, not sure its one for a vegetarian)

At last years Festival the sessions we went to seemed to have quite an even split between male and female attendees and looking at the programme for 2012 there isn’t a huge bias one way or the other when it comes to authors. Of course there are probably statistics that disprove me, however ignoring the ‘fireside crime novels’ of the likes of Agatha Christie, or M.C Beaton I don’t think people choose their crime fiction based on whether its got a male or female protagonist, or if its written by a man or a woman. Some excellent novels are written by both males and females together, such as Nikki French for example, and there are even serial killers who are females killing just for pleasure not for a man.

Mind you saying that, I picked up the Chelsea Cain novels purely because they had a female serial killer at the centre, plus one of her novels had a heart on the front (albeit one drawn in blood) so maybe us women really are swayed by pink and hearts…

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Filed under Crime writing, Theakstons Festival