My posts during April form part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I will be writing to a theme: book genres, largely taken from the comprehensive Goodreads list.
During my teens, I read books a-plenty. Amongst them were a ton of my parents' Ed McBain's 87th Precinct tales. At that time, I'd lived all over India, then in Nigeria from where I started to attend boarding school in England. I knew nothing about the US or its policing system, so had no idea how realistic - or otherwise - they were. They started my love of reading the police procedural genre.
Today, there are films and TV series a-plenty; it seems that the subject is the richest seam ever, regardless of whether it's urban, offering grit, or rural realism, these are the shows with viewers a-plenty. Clearly, I've had company in my enjoyment of this genre.
Living in the UK, we have a vast array of imports - predominantly from the US but, more recently, from Scandinavia. I've particularly enjoyed the adaptations of Henning Mankel's 'Wallender' books - so much so, that I've seen about three differing versions of each! Two were sub-titled, with one made by the BBC staring our own knighted luvvie, Sir Kenneth Brannagh. Each production, each actor, focused on bringing out their own version of Wallender himself, but the stories are almost entirely unchanged - whether they are so well crafted as to be impossible to improve, or that they've been written as film scripts, I've yet to discover. Unlike my usual "read before watching" policy, I have added these to my incredibly over-grown TBR list.
P D James and Ruth Rendell have long been undisputed queens of the genre, with best selling books and popular TV adaptations to their credit; Ian Rankin shows that there's no gender bias with his gritty tales based north of the border. But I want to take a closer look at a couple of newer writers: Tana French and Ben Aronovitch.
Tana French has written a series of (five to date) novels about the Dublin Murder Squad. The opener features a detective with a past - the only one of three children who disappeared in the woods but was found - and the impact which returning to the same woods when another child disappears has upon him. French is brave for there is no neat ending, it's messy and unsatisfactory - just like real life. Each book's main character is a different member of the Squad, someone who'll have appeared in a previous book, being given their turn. What I particularly enjoy about French's writing is that although it fulfills all the requirements of this genre taking us through the daily workings of a murder squad - the mundane and the gruesome - she adds a psychological twist. We don't get the stereotypical world-wearied cop, we get into the minds of our main character, we see their humanity and the impact this job has upon them and upon those in their lives. Book six is due out soon and I'm eagerly anticipating it.
Ben Aronovitch has written a series (again five to date) novels about PC Peter Grant, but that's where any similarity ends. Peter Grant works for a special division of London's metropolitan police force - one that investigates odd stuff, unexplainable events - something the author describes as 'police with magic'. Book six in the series is due out this summer and his fans are already wondering how many times that date will get pushed back! He has also co-written a number of graphic novels as part of the series (six, with more in the pipeline). Whilst French's work is well-written and far better edited, Aronovitch's books are - quite simply - huge fun. Peter Grant is an enormously likeable central character: a nice looking north London lad - self-deprecating, sarky, witty - full of banter and slang, he's great company. His voice is what puts the F in fun into these books. The apprentice to the last wizard, he has a lot to learn. There's a great array of magical folk up to and including your actual trolls under the bridge, but there's also a vile foe - the Faceless Man - who pulls no punches. Read these books if you love London - all but one are based in our great city. Much loved by the author and it shows; his knowledge of the city and its history is sprinkled throughout. Switch off your critical brain and enjoy the romp - for its a great one and it's not finished yet!
Do you like your police procedural straightforward - or like me, with a twist? As always, please do let me have your recommendations ...