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.