A Straightforward Guide to Being A Detective Review: A Really Great Idea Let Down By Poor Writing

striaghtforward guide

There’s definitely space on the market for a truly comprehensive guide to creating factually correct and historically accurate crime fiction.

As such, when I found out that Historian Stephen Wade and former Policeman Stuart Gibbon, whom I’ve already had the pleasure of interviewing, were collaborating to create such a guide I was excited.

The idea they have is perfect: create a guide that combines Gibbon’s policing expertise with Wade’s historical knowledge to create a comprehensive resource for fans of crime fiction or writers of the genre.

Whilst the idea is great, the execution lets the book down. For one thing, there’s no means to tell which expert is speaking at what point. Whilst it is easy enough to guess at some points, there’s no definitive indicator, and this isn’t great for those using this as a proper reference book.

Structurally the book is haphazardly, with each section laid out alphabetically with sub categories that are confusing and long-winded. With sub headings within sub headings it’s easy to get lost and hard to easily find the information you’re looking for.

There are also random pieces of, frankly, useless information in the book, such as a poem about early mornings. Whilst this may be interesting, it is not something a reader would ever be able to use in their research, and as a result is simply padding that makes this book feel like an essay that’s being bulked up as its a bit shy on the word count.

However, the biggest issue that I have with A Straightforward Guide to Being A Detective is the poor writing. The grammar and punctuation are not up to standard, and as such this would not be useable as a reference. Whilst it could make for a great guide for those seeking anecdotal advice, its complete lack of proofreading makes this useless if used as a source, and as such could not be used by anyone in an academic or corporate sense.

So, in short this is a really cool idea, and if the authors were to properly execute it then it could be something great. As it is, you can find some really great information in this book, but if you want something quick and easy to find then just Google it. If the authors were to consider a second edition, this one properly proof read and structured to a better standard, then it could potentially be a great academic and authorial resource for those exploring crime fiction as a genre.

Advertisements

Jason Beech Interview: “I fell into writing at a much later age”

jason beech

Today I have the pleasure of showcasing my interview with author Jason Beech, who uses his passion for great crime fiction and thrillers came some truly awesome examples of the genre that he created himself. He talks me through his work and his inspiration.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I read a lot of Ellroy, Rankin, Hiaasen, Banks and a lot more when I was young. Out of that pulped mass crawled my writing style. I loved the first book I wrote but I should never have published it – a mess of adverbs, typos, passive voice, and too many flashbacks that went on forever. I still tinker with it because it has a good core and a great cover, but it might never see the light of day again, or will take forever to chisel it into shape.

After that, I read a lot of Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, and started on independent authors like Paul D. Brazill, Ray Banks, Ryan Bracha, Keith Nixon and the likes – just to see where you could go with independent fiction. They all spurred me on and helped refine my own style.

I love crime fiction because it digs deep into society’s ills, the stakes are high, and it’s not always black and white. The great stuff, such as Ellroy’s American Tabloid is so grey it thrills as well as kills a bit of you inside. Not necessarily a good thing, but definitely interesting.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I’m from Sheffield, England, but now live in New Jersey. I did a bunch of crummy jobs before I got my act together and went to university. After I got a degree in history I put it to good use by coaching football in America (round ball variety). I now run nine teams and take them round the state and country to compete.

English and PE were always my favourite subjects at school and I remember telling my English teacher at secondary school, Ms Clarke, that I’d write a book. I don’t think she believed me because I was such a lazy student, but she encouraged the thought. Loved that woman.

I fell into writing at a much later age. Went to university later in life, thought my writing might hinder any success I’d have in getting there, so, inspired by American Tabloid I tried my hand at writing a novel. It was rubbish, but I finished the beast and tried again. Improved my writing, organising, and critical thinking. Made a much better effort on the second book, but sat on it for years. Eventually published it, got better, cringed at the effort, and forced myself to improve, which I think I have. But there’s so much good stuff out there that you’re always learning and it all pushes you on to greater things.

Please tell me about your books and what you think draws readers to them.

Moorlands and City of Forts are both noir-ish crime tales, and though one is set in England and the other in America, they’re both based around family. The website CrimeReads might call them Family Noir. The protagonists in both have a similar love/hate relationship with their families and put a lot of stock in friends, but events in both novels rip the seams of their familial and friendship bonds.

The main terror in Breaking Bad for me was Skylar and Junior finding out what Walt did to get all that money. That breakdown between them, Skylar’s walk into the pool, Walt’s warped idea that he did it all for the family – the stakes don’t get higher than that. Anybody who enjoys that kind of thing will, I hope, enjoy my books, along with the violence and writing style.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

It might be something from my past, added to something I’d read for extra drama, combined with a lot of what ifs? My home city, Sheffield, pops up a lot, even if I’ve set a story in America. City of Forts is set in a nameless town in industrial America, but the images often come from the sea of bricks from demolished factories I remember as a kid. It’s amazing how often they smash into my head when I batter the keyboard. I outline the chapter if I get writer’s block. Solves everything.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I’d collaborate with Iain Banks, the great Scottish writer. Again, he has a family thing going on in a lot of his books, especially the warped Wasp Factory, which showed me how demented you could go in a story. I love how you can swim in the meandering The Crow Road, a book more about characters than plot – which often annoys me, but not Banks.

For a living author – I’d go with Kate Laity. She has this strange real-not-real thing going on in her stories, which get under your skin and sit in the back of your mind for ages afterwards. You should read her Unquiet Dreams collection. The one about a murdered girl who’s now a ghost will haunt your days, I’m telling you. However, how the hell do writers work on a joint project? That sounds unworkable to me.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Yes. I have a new short story collection coming out, Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 3. Some you might have read online, others will be just for the collection. Then I have a new novel out in November, Never Go Back, all noir.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I need to get my hands all over Paul D. Brazill’s Last Year’s Man, Aidan Thorn’s Rival Sons, Kate Laity’s Love is a Grift, Tom Pitts’ 101 (and American Static), Tom Leins’ Boneyard Dogs and Matt Phillips’ Countdown as well as others. There’s too much, I worry I’ll never get through it all – just like my Netflix queue.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just a big thanks to all those writers who see the good stuff outside their own work. I’d never have read Kate Laity if it wasn’t for Paul D Brazill. I wouldn’t have read Paul D. Brazill if it hadn’t been for somebody else (sorry, can’t remember who) hadn’t eulogised him.

A big thanks, too, for Ryan Bracha, who gave me (indirectly) a kick up the backside whenever I thought I was wasting my time (this was on an FB group a ton of writers belong to.)

David Nemeth is great at highlighting great independent fiction (and brutally honest at the work he doesn’t like, which makes him a crucial). All the readers who dive into my work: thanks all.

Thanks to Jason for answering my questions! It’s great to hear from a Paul D Brazill fan! 

 

Cosy Crime Fiction: It’s Still Literature

hands of woman reading book by fireplace

Crime fiction has often been thought of as less literary than other genres of writing. As someone who has been researching and writing about crime fiction for many years, I know this as well as anyone else.

Personally, I’ve found it hard to get people to think that crime fiction is more than just a silly, fun genre. My friend once said something similar about fantasy fiction, when he went into a bookshop and asked about the fantasy section and the bookseller said it was just for kids.

Crime fiction is pretty similar; many people think it’s the book equivalent of Midsomer Murders with its formulaic plots and reputation for being something you can watch easily without having to do much thinking or paying masses of attention.

However, in my mind most crime fiction is much more than that. There are always bad examples in any genre, but some of the world’s greatest crime fiction is truly amazing.

From Agatha Christie through to Raymond Chandler, Ruth Rendell to Peter James, there are some incredibly talented writers across the genre and their work is more than just something to check through; it’s true literature. It goes over the full plethora of human emotion, morality and social issues. They often showcase the challenges of the period in question and make for a great study of the ways in which people behave and interact with one another.

Cosy crime fiction is one of the sub-genres of crime fiction that gets the most flack. Often dismissed as the Mills and Boon of the crime fiction space, the style doesn’t have the gravitas of police procedurals nor the selling power of gritty, gore filled thrillers.

What it does have is the insight into human emotion and behaviour that many genres lack. Cosy crime fiction, from Agatha Raisin to the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series, is designed specifically to lull readers into thinking that they are about to read something easy and uncomplicated. What these novels create instead is a complicated allegory of human emotion and life in general.

One of the best examples of this is Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher series, which expertly combines convoluted plots and sweet romances with darker discussions on such topics as rape, the 1920’s justice system and racism. Greenwood’s novels show how twee, cosy crime fiction can hit home as succinctly as any grittier examples of the genre can.

So next time you think of crime fiction, don’t dismiss it completely offhand. No matter the sub-genre or style, there is something great to be found among the tales of grizzly murder and mayhem.

David Hewson Interview: “I wanted this to be a story driven by character, atmosphere and the extraordinary culture of Calabria”

the savage shore

To celebrate the launch of Black Thorn Books, a new publishing imprint dedicated specifically to crime fiction, I interviewed one of their authors, David Hewson, whose book The Savage Shore, part of his Nic Costa series, is being published by Black Thorn. David talks me through his latest novel and how he came to create such an engaging series through his love of reading.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

To be honest I never set out to write crime fiction. I just wanted to write original, mainstream fiction that told big stories with bold narratives. It was only a few books in that I was told I was now a crime writer – not that I mind. And of course many books are now classified as crime which may not have been years ago. And maybe even plays too – is Macbeth a crime story? Possibly. Labels don’t really trouble me. It’s the story that counts.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I left school at 17 to work as a reporter on a little (now vanished) local newspaper in Yorkshire. A few years later I’d graduated to The Times, then the Independent and Sunday Times. But I always wanted to write fiction so gradually I eased back on the journalism and started trying to write fiction. It took a while but in 1996 I came out with my first book, now republished as Death in Seville and after a while I was able to give up journalism altogether.

Please tell me about The Savage Shore. What do you think sets it apart from your other work?

The Savage Shore is the tenth instalment in a series of books based around a young detective, Nic Costa, who works in the historic centre of Rome. There hasn’t been a Costa book for nine years but readers have been nagging me for once constantly. So I decided to bring the old team back but this time in a new place and with a new challenge.

Usually they’re on home ground in Rome, and in charge of events. But here they’re in the foreign ground of Calabria in the south and having to pretend to be something they’re not. They’re trying to engineer the escape of a crime gang lord who wants to turn state witness. But no one knows who the man really is or how they can get him out safely. Nic has to pretend to join the gang to make contact with him, while the rest of the crew have to sit around on the coast struggling to make escape plans while staying undercover.

I wanted this to be a story driven by character, atmosphere and the extraordinary culture of Calabria. There are no car chases and very little in the way of violence. It’s about how difficult it is for people to pretend to be something they’re not – and the price that can make them pay.

Having written books set around the world, what is your favourite place to set a novel and why?

It’s always the one I’m working on at the moment. It has to be that way otherwise I’d get distracted. But somewhere I come back to time and time again, both for stories and for peace for editing, is Venice. It’s such a magical place and with every book I finish there with a read through and an edit in an apartment I rent. It’s almost a superstition by now.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

I’m not sure I’d call it anything as fancy as inspiration. A lot of writing isn’t about intellectual stimulation. It’s about practicality, craft, sweat, labour. The kind of things a painter thinks about when he or she sets out on a canvas. What kind of colours will I use? What brush? What sort of paint? What’s the perspective? The time of day?

When I set out to create a story I try to find a location, some characters and an inciting incident – in this case the gang lord who wants to defect. Then I place all these players on the board and see how they want to approach events. A writer should be in control only up to a certain point. You have to let your cast be true to themselves in order to find the solution.

Following on from that, what do you read yourself and how does this influence your work?

I try to read widely. I don’t think it’s healthy for a writer to read only in the field in which they work. In fact I think that’s unhealthy on occasion – you subconsciously pick up styles or ideas, and worse you miss out on a lot of good writing in other fields. So I read a lot of fiction – mainly but not only history. The past is such a good mirror of what’s happening today, to a startling degree at times. I’m a sucker for anything about ancient Rome and Greece and follow Mary Beard, Robert Harris and Tom Holland avidly. I also like obscure foreign works which take a bit of tracking down. Most recently a fascinating novel set in Ferrara just before World War Two, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I’m not a natural collaborator, I must say, but I would love to have worked out how Robert Graves went about writing I, Claudius and how long it took him. There were so many sources for that book and they were all in Latin.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

My next book with Black Thorn will be a real departure – the first novel set somewhere I’ve never been. I’m usually big on local research – I signed up for language school to write the Costa books and spent ages in Italy. But you can work straight out of your imagination too. So next year my you’ll meet Devil’s Fjord, a mystery set in the fictional wilds of the Faroe Islands about a couple who retire there thinking it’s paradise, only to discover they got things very wrong.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

No names or titles – as always with books I wait to be surprised.

Thanks to David for taking the time to answer my question. You can find out more about The Savage Shore and Black Thorn HERE.

 

 

The Folio Society’s Edition Of The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd Review: An Exquisite Illustrated Copy That Will Be Perfect For Christie Fans and Collectors Alike

1
Exclusive Photography By Patrick Doherty

Written during a period of turmoil in the Queen of Crime’s life, shortly before she vanished and at a time when she was moving publisher and facing the breakdown in her marriage, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is often proclaimed as one of her finest works.

As such, a version has been released by the Folio Society, a unique publishing house that takes some of the finest stories and books from across the literary market and creates works of art with some of the finest illustrators in the industry to produce beautiful books. The publishing house creates glorious books that are stunningly bound and look like those pristine volumes you see in fancy libraries.

Its latest offering, its version of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is a classic example of the stunning books the Folio Society is renowned for creating. It has been bound in majestic dark blue hardback binding with gold lettering down the spine and a vast picture on the cover depicting one of the events in the novel in colourful detail.

Encapsulating the greatest of her literary quirks The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has a truly innovative plot featuring red herrings, an unreliable narrator and an exquisite array of dastardly characters. Undoubtedly the ending, in which Poirot makes a moral choice about the fate of the killer, is the inspiration for Dorothy L Sayers’ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, which features a similar finale and was published in 1928, two years after The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

6
Another Exclusive Photograph By Patrick Doherty 

Andrew Davidson’s illustrations are stunning and evoke the period in question and the humours nature of Christie’s most famed detective and his unusual methods. They also fit beautifully with the style of the period and transport readers back to a time of sumptuous décor, splendid country houses and neatly tailored sartorial elegance.

This edition also features an introduction by Sophie Hannah, a crime writer who is not only an authority on Christie’s works but has also bought Poirot back to life in three amazing books. She is the perfect person to discuss the novel, and she gives an intriguing overview of the origins of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and its place in the Christie cannon.

In all this was an inspired choice for the Folio Society to publish, as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of the Christie cannon that best lends itself to being illustrated in such a beautiful way. If anyone from the publishing house happens to be reading this then I can recommend as a future option Dead Man’s Folly, a novel set in the grounds of a magnificent stately home and featuring, as a plot device no less, an array of sumptuous gowns and vast hats which will make for truly amazing illustrations.

To find out more about the Folio Society and the selection of Christie novels it has on offer have a look at their website HERE.

Full Talking Bodies Paper: 1990s Male Detective Fiction and the Objectification of Women

talking bodies 2019.jpg

As I’m sure you’ll have noticed if you follow me on social media I’ve just return from an amazing time at Talking Bodies 2019 at my former University the University of Chester. Massive thanks to all the organisers for hosting us all, giving us an amazing experience and for letting me speak, something which I’m proud to say went off pretty much without a hitch. 

My paper is an offshoot of my Master’s degree work I undertook a few years ago, and I’m very proud to be able to showcase it here, so if you missed it or just fancy a read, please do, and feel free to comment or drop me a line if you’d like to explore some of the topics. 

Two of the key detective series of late 1980s and early 1990s crime fiction, Inspector Morse written by Colin Dexter and Inspector Kurt Wallander, written by Swedish Writer Henning Mankell, were both deeply ingrained with misogyny, and I intend to explore this by looking at two key texts.

The Last Bus To Woodstock is the first Inspector Morse novel, and depicts the rape and murder of a young woman who is later found in a pub car park. Throughout the novel, the characters and, I will argue, the author, believe that the woman cannot have been raped because she was promiscuous, despite the fact that one of her sexual assaults occurred after she died.

My second text is Mankell’s The Fifth Woman, which tells the story of the murders of a series of deplorable men in gruesome ways, all of which have been committed by a woman who ran a support group for the other women hurt by her victims, and whose own mother was murdered by one of them. The novel succeeds in othering the female perpetrator and sympathising with the male victims, showing them both as those who have done wrong but also not being deserving of their punishment, whilst she is reduced, at the end of the novel, to the spectre of a grim reaper fleeing from punishment.

Exploring these two texts and their use of women and portrayal of sexual assault, I will argue that Mankell and Dexter were both setting the tone for a host of crime fiction books that degraded and objectified women and which, ultimately, paved the way for the patriarchal society we live in today.

These two white, male writers helped shape a generation of crime fiction authors who would use the rape, murder and degradation of women as mere plotlines. From TV shows such as Frost and Taggart, through to books such as those written by Stuart McBride or even female writers such as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, Mankell and Dexter’s works influenced the entire 1990 and early 2000’s detective genre. Their work, as shown here, portrayed women simultaneously as helpless objects and calculating temptresses, allowing the authors to blame them for the crimes of their male counterparts.

The Last Bus To Woodstock, Dexter’s first Inspector Morse novel, centres around the investigation into the murder and rape of a young woman found partially clothed in a pub car park. Her body is found by her date for the evening, and it is later discovered that she expected payment for her sexual services.

Frequently throughout the novel Dexter’s characters debate whether or not the victim was raped, due to the scanty nature of her clothing and her reputation for demanding payment for sexual favours. For example, one of the conversations in the book goes like this:

“’Raped too, was she?’

Tompsett drained his glass. “So they say. But I’ve always been a bit dubious myself about this rape business.’” (Page 58).

Throughout the book the reader is given the impression that there is the possibility that the sex was consensual. This is despite the fact that it is concluded by policing bodies around the world that you cannot consent to sex when you are not conscious, including in death, and the pathologist confirms to the detectives early in the book that one of the assaults took place post mortem.

This idea that the sex could’ve been consensual begins when Morse and Lewis initially visit the dead girl’s bedroom, where the following exchange takes place:

“’We’re not making very rapid progress then.’

‘Oh I don’t know,’ said Morse. ‘Miss Kaye was wearing a white blouse, wasn’t she?’

‘Yes.’

‘What colour bra would your wife wear under a white blouse?’

‘A lightish-coloured one, I suppose.’

‘She wouldn’t wear a black one?’

‘It would show through.’” (Page 17).

The implication here is that the pair have discovered a core factor in Sylvia’s character by finding out that she wears dark bras under her white blouses.

At the end of the novel, Morse reveals to Lewis that Sylvia’s date sexually assaulted her corpse, which he does not charge him for, although the boy ‘promised to see a psychiatrist’ (p167). This blatant disregard for what is, in fact, a serious crime shows Dexter’s lack of interest in the actual rape, and his belief that only the death is the only true crime. As such, he effectively dehumanises her by completely removing any control she may have over who enters her body simply based on her clothing and fact that she is a prostitute (she also has another job).

The second novel I would like to look into is Mankell’s The Fifth Woman which is, at first glance, supposed to showcase the malice and violence inherent in patriarchy, with the book depicting the murders of a group of men who have sexually and/ or physically abused women. They are all killed by a woman in an act of rebellion and retribution. However, the novel’s underlying message is far more sinister and misogynistic.

Each of the murder victims is killed in a horrific manner, for example one falls into a Japanese style trap of sharpened sticks and left to bleed to death, another is held captive and tortured.

Throughout the novel Mankell and his team uncover evidence that these men who, on the surface were quiet and respectable business owners, each had a secret. Each was heavily linked to the disappearance of a woman, including a Polish girl who had been missing for decades and whose body is discovered on the land of one of the male victims at the end of the novel. It is discovered that one of the men murdered a woman in South Africa many years previously. She was the mother of his illegitimate daughter, Yvonne Ander, who seeks revenge by murdering him and a number of other men who were abusing women.

At the end of the novel the female murder goes on the run with a rape victim and her baby. No sympathy is shown for their situation, and the killer’s motives are not used to justify her violence, which is much less than her own victims exacted on the women they abused. The killer herself is portrayed by Mankell as a monster only really interested in violent vengeance, as shown in a number of instances such as:

“She was driving through the night, feeling very tired. She had listened to Katarina for hours. She often wondered about the weakness of these women [referring to the abused women]. They let themselves be tortured, abused, murdered. Then if they survived, they sat night after night moaning about it. She didn’t understand them. As she drove through the night she actually felt contempt for them. They didn’t fight back.” (p583).

Here Mankell separated female victims of male abuse into two broad categories: those who complain and those who ‘fight back’ AKA those who inflict as much abuse as they received in return. Neither of these types of women is shown anything short of contempt by the characters in the novel, with the detectives viewing the killer as sad more than anything else and paying limited attention to the other victims once they are ruled out as suspects. Towards the end of the case, as they close in on Yvonne Ander, the protagonist Wallnder discusses her with a colleague:

“’I believe she’s a lonely person’ Wallnder said. ‘And she thinks her purpose in life is to kill on behalf of others.’” (p554).

Later, after he catches her, he also states:

“Yvonne Ander is the first person I’ve ever met who is both intelligent and insane”. (p560).

When being apprehended, Ander shoots and wounds the only female member of the team charged with bringing her in. The officer in question was left alone to lie in wait for Ander, as the male members of the team did not realise until too late that she had picked up a gun earlier when they had first tried to apprehend her. As such, the shooting of the female police officer can be seen as partially owing to the incompetence of her colleagues, and this is the view shared by Wallander, who constantly blames himself for the shooting and refuses to leave her bedside as she recovers.

“Every day during this period Wallander went to visit Ann-Britt in hospital. He couldn’t get over what he was convinced was his responsibility. Nothing anyone said made any difference. He regarded the blame for what had happened as his alone. It was something he would have to live with.” (p560).

Mankell’s reference to other characters trying to reapportion the blame for the incident, and his use of the word ‘convinced’, allows him to draw the reader to believe that the blame is actually squarely on that of Anders. Whilst Anders pulled the trigger, it was Wallander and his team who forgot to tell their colleague that she was armed and left her in a vulnerable position, but in the same way that Mankell does not view her murders as justified in any way or driven by the abuse she and the women she supported had suffered, he also clearly exonerates his protagonist from any blame in favour of levying it entirely on Anders.

Whilst I appreciate that blame is a complicated issue, Mankell effectively uncomplicates this for his reader by showing that although the men in his novel have committed a series of violent murders, rapes and serious abuses of power, they were themselves violently killed by a woman who was, in his eyes, as bad as them. The final chapter of the novel focuses entirely on Anders and her crimes, with the reasons behind them an afterthought rather than any sort of justification. She commits suicide in the end, which is reported to Wallander in the context that he learns there will be no trial, giving the impression that he and the male victims have been robbed of their justice rather than that she’s been robbed of her life.

In the end Mankell focuses more on his protagonist’s feelings of having not uncovered the full truth of why she committed these horrific crimes than the fact that all of these women felt they had been failed by the justice system, which was why they turned to a vigilante in the first place. Anders herself was given painkillers whilst in custody, but this is again viewed more as a tragedy for justice than for Anders herself.

At the end of the day, whilst the examples used here are only two texts, they are written by authors who influenced a generation of crime fiction writers; their works are key to the genre. From Stuart McBride through to Jo Nesbo, plenty of male white writers are writing crime fiction filled with women being murdered, raped and abused thanks to the foundations the genre was built on by writers such as Mankell and Dexter. Their misogyny helped define the crime fiction and thriller space as one filled with mutilated women and made it, for many years, a male dominated space.

That’s now changing with the introduction of female detectives, and writers, but it is a slow process, and the market is still heavily populated with male authors writing about murdered prostitutes and abducted young girls.

Ultimately, whilst this may seem like a small issue- it’s only crime fiction, it’s only one genre- but actually, it’s a drop in the huge ocean of the mistreatment of women. From tiny things like women being policed in what they wear, such as the recent incident of the woman who was bullied into changing out of a crop top on a flight home from holiday through to ‘incel’ attacks around the world motivated by men who believe that women are unfairly denying them sex and every injustice in between, it is clear that every tiny act of sexism has its influence, and these texts showcase and attempt to justify horrific acts of violence against women. We’ve got a president in the USA who thinks it’s acceptable to ‘grab women by the pussy’ and reduce their reproductive rights, and men worldwide who believe it’s acceptable to traffic and objectify women because of a collective consciousness built on work like this.

Written by authors who influenced an entire genre, these books showcase how interpretations of violence and the mistreatment of women spiral and fuel a society that often, as in the case of many rape trials where men are given a free pass because of their athletic prowess or perceived potential, completely allows the degradation, humiliation and dehumanisation of women. This is the legacy that books like these have left, and it’s not a great one.

I’m always keen to hear people’s thoughts on my research so feel free to drop me a shout if you’d like to discuss! 

The Monsoon Ghost Image Review: A Slick Globe-Trotting Thriller

TMGIcovers

Tom Vater’s latest novel is a slick globetrotting adventure, which combines the best aspects of a thriller with a traditional private eye adventure.

The third instalment in the Detective Maier series features the story of a missing photographer who dies in Thailand, only for his wife to discover he is alive and well. She hires Detective Maier to find out more about what’s going on and uncover the truth about her husband’s supposed death.

Quickly Detective Maier uncovers a huge conspiracy involving a plastic surgeon, hookers and the Moonstone Ghost image itself: the victim’s final photograph, which turns out to be incredibly dangerous. Detective Maier turns from the hunter to the prey as soon as he uncovers the photo and he is soon running around the world in search of the truth.

Working with his trusty sidekick Mikhail Detective Maier is in a race against time to find out what’s going on and beat a host of formidable foes including the CIA, a murderous doctor and a range of private international villains. Together the pair set out on a quest to find out the secrets behind the photo and whether or not the photographer who took it is dead or not.

Featuring an ensemble cast of characters from across the thriller spectrum, including an evil doctor, the CIA and of course the protagonist and his accomplice, the novel moves quickly so that readers are constantly enthralled by the ever-evolving plot. Vater keeps his reader hooked from the off, and Detective Maier is constantly on the move exploring new clues and checking out new leads, so there’s never any pause in the action for the reader to get bored in.

In all, The Monsoon Ghost Image is a tantalising thriller that really gets under your skin. With memorable characters, gritty dialogue and a fast-paced plot, this book really does have it all.