The Top Ten Police Detectives of All Time

inspector jack robinson phyrne fisher

I’ve recently done the top ten best private detectives of all time, and as such I felt it was only right and proper to do the same for the other end of the spectrum; the police detective.

Police detectives abide by both the constructs of the law and their own personal beliefs. They often face many hurdles that private detective do not have to deal with, making them a great means of delivering both human drama and exceptional criminal investigations. They often work alongside private eyes, supporting them and giving them the stability, resources and legal standing that they need to get their result.

As such, they occupy a unique space within the Crime Fiction space, and therefore it is with great excitement that I showcase my top ten favourites. As with my piece on private detectives, I quickly realised that five would never be enough, so have a look and see what you think!

10. Frank Merlin: As a relatively new kid on the fictional police detective block, Mark Ellis’ tough yet charming London based detective might seem like an odd choice for this list, yet I was so enthralled by him in the latest novel, Merlin at War, that I felt compelled to go out and buy the previous two novels and read more about this rugged man and his dogged pursuit of right in a turbulent time.

9. Charles Parker: ‘Parker Bird’ as he is affectionately known by his colleague and later brother-in-law Lord Peter Wimsey, is a more interesting character than he lets on, and although he is less well-read and educated than his colleague, he makes up for it in dogged determination and sheer hard work, something which his noble friend cannot boast.

8. Inspector Bucket: Often noted as one of the first police detectives in fiction, the character appears in Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House, assisting the wealthy protagonists in their investigations and acting as both a constabulary figure whose authority is seen as absolute, but also as a figure who highlighted the class issues abundant at the time. Believed to have been based on several real life Scotland Yard detectives, as it was commonly acknowledged that Dickens was intrigued by the newly formed division there and observed and interviewed many of its detectives, Inspector Bucket can be seen as an example of the very first police detective character, and therefore acts as a template for many later fictional incarnations of himself.

7. Jack Robinson: My love of Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Phyrne Fisher novels is by now well known and evidenced by my top five and interview with the author herself. However, whilst the protagonist represents everything that is great about female detectives, she is often ably assisted by the constabulary in the form of Inspector Jack Robinson, as well as Constable Hugh Collins and an assortment of other junior members of the Melbourne police. Jack and Hugh are the two reoccurring police characters in the series, and the inspector in particular offers a fascinating glimpse into Australian police characters. He is described as a man whose appearance is so boring and unremarkable that people have been known to forget what he looks like half way through conversing with him, making him ideal for sneaking up on suspects. He is also so unmemorable that he blends in anywhere, and this, combined with his dogged determination and vast experience in the force make him the ideal ally for the daring socialite turned private eye that is Miss Fisher.

6. James Japp: Agatha Christie’s reoccurring policeman, who regularly assists private detective Hercule Poirot, Japp is an incredibly underrated character. To my mind he is woefully undervalued, particularly in the TV and film adaptations of Christie’s brilliant Poirot novels. Although he is not perhaps as prolific as Superintendent Spence in the novels, he is certainly more inclined to use the private detective to his advantage, and Japp is often seen playing up to Poirot’s ego to gain the information or assistance he needs. His canny ability to elicit the support required is unique and shows the ingenuity and understanding of human nature which Poirot often lacks.

5. John Rebus: Ian Rankin’s indestructible detective, who gets booted off the force or almost killed more times than you can shake a stick at, is a great example of the blurred lines between private and police detectives. He often does not adhere to the law, making him a virtual outsider in the force, but his strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the force keep him coming back every time.

4. Logan McRae: Stuart MacBride’s atmospheric novels showcase the detective skills of the luckless McRae, who is a punching bag for every gangster in Aberdeen, but also an intelligent and sensitive explorer of human nature. He often uses a combination of street smarts and emotional understanding to get his man and stop some of the most vicious criminals north of the border.

3. Endeavour Morse: Colin Dexter’s cerebral, intelligent yet socially inept Inspector is a truly intriguing, heart warming character who often shows the very best of human nature whilst working to uncover those who show it at its worst. His vast education and brilliant mind combine to create a man who is able to decipher even the most vexing case, and alongside his kind and sweet Sergeant he is able to take on whatever Oxford has to throw at them. Both characters are very different in the books from those portrayed on TV, and in the books the older, kinder Sergeant Lewis is a great foil for the young, impetuous Inspector of whom he is so fond.

2. Jules Maigret: As you can see from my top five, Georges Simenon’s intrepid Parisian policeman is both fascinating and engaging, and his dogged approach to catching his criminals makes him a truly exceptional policeman and an inventive protagonist. You would think that reading about a man so ordinary he blended in almost anywhere as he went about the rigours of chasing criminals around Europe would be dull, but thanks to Simenon’s exceptional writing and brisk narrative the result is the opposite, which is probably why Maigret was written into more than 75 novels and remains a popular figure in the media today.

Kurt wallander
1. Kurt Wallander: Henning Mankell’s detective is often dubbed ‘the Swedish Inspector Morse’, and with good reason; both men are intelligent yet grumpy and often bad with people, as well as sharing diabetes and a fondness for opera and classical music. Also, both series are strongly rooted in their settings, for Morse it is Oxford, whereas Wallander walks the streets of Ystad and the wider Skane region in search of his criminals. What separates them is the tone of the novels; whilst Dexter’s Morse often deals with class related crimes depicted in a gentle, benevolent manner, Mankell shows Wallander dealing with truly disgusting acts of violence and degradation, with the character often resorting to tough tactics to restore order and allow justice to prevail.

 

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The Trouble Boys Review: A Gritty Historical Thriller That Packs A Punch

the trouble boys

Another foray into historical Crime Fiction for the Dorset Book Detective as I review The Trouble Boys, a novel which spans two decades and showcases the human side of organised crime.

The Trouble Boys centers around the Irish mob in New York City from the 1930s to the 1950s. The story opens in pre-WWII Europe when young Irish immigrant Colin O’Brien settles with his family in New York City.

Upon arrival Colin befriends a Cuban-American boy named Johnny Garcia. Life in America isn’t what Colin’s family expects and he experiences a shocking tragedy that alters his life. As Johnny and Colin grow into men, their friendship changes. They begin working for different crime syndicates, with Colin joining the ranks of charismatic Tom McPhalen’s Irish mob and Johnny becoming a member of debonair Tito Bernal’s Cuban gang.

As Colin’s rise in the ranks of organized crime becomes increasingly more brutal and demeaning and his friendship with Johnny deteriorates, he begins to question his place in the seductive yet violent world he’s found himself in.

At the end of the day, E. R. Fallon’s riveting thriller shows a familiar yet inventive version of a traditional tale; one of falling through the cracks of society into a mess of criminality that spirals to reveal the true grit of a character. Fallon’s characters hold up well under such close scrutiny, and the book as a whole is a great example of a nail-biting thriller with enough twists and human drama to sustain it through to the riveting conclusion.

Tana Collins Interview: “When I decided to turn my hand to writing crime fiction myself I knew I wanted to create a series with a strong cast of characters and an interesting setting”

tana collins

As a massive Henning Mankell fan I was delighted to see his name appear as an inspiration for Tara Collins, the author of the bestselling Inspector Jim Carruthers series. She talks to me about her work and how she created such an engaging character that appeals to so many readers.

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

The first crime fiction book I ever read was Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season, about thirteen years ago. The blurb on the back hooked me and when I read the novel I was spellbound. The books are set in Yorkshire and I particularly loved Peter’s wonderful sense of place. When I decided to turn my hand to writing crime fiction myself I knew I wanted to create a series with a strong cast of characters and an interesting setting. I base my own novels in the East Neuk of Fife, which is a beautiful area of Scotland.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing?

I don’t write full time. I still have the day job and I fit the writing around that unless I’m on a final edit of a book and then I’ll take time off work. I’m a Massage Therapist by trade, which I love, but my original background is in philosophy.

Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe the Inspector Jim Carruthers series is so popular?

I’m delighted to say that my debut novel, Robbing the Dead, published February 2017, became an Amazon No 1 bestseller for Scottish Crime Fiction and the follow up, Care to Die, became a Top 10 bestseller. Both books were published by Bloodhound Books in 2017. They have been described as ‘fast paced with interesting storylines’ but it’s the characters and the setting that readers really seem to like.

My two main protagonists are Detective Inspector Jim Carruthers and DS Andrea Fletcher. When we meet Carruthers he’s a DCI, but he’s struggling both on a professional and personal level with the return of his old adversary, Alistair McGhee, whom he blames for his marriage break up. I won’t say any more than that. Fletcher seems to be settling in to her role as DS just fine until she receives some shocking news…

As I said the Inspector Carruthers mysteries are set in the East Neuk of Fife, which is an area close to my heart. My fictional setting is a place called Castletown, which is closely modelled on St Andrews. I did toy with the idea of keeping the town as St Andrews but realised early on that I needed to grow the town so it ended up becoming fictionalised. Anyone familiar with St Andrews will definitely recognise it in Castletown though. There’s something really powerful in crime fiction about having a strong sense of place, isn’t there and I think Fife makes a wonderful setting for my series.

robbing the dead

What defines your writing style? Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

That’s such an interesting question. I use fairly short sentences, which make for a faster read and shorter chapters as I near the end of the book. I use weather to enhance the mood. I’m on to Book 4 now and I’ve noticed that every book I write always starts with a suspicious death from the outset, which hooks the reader. That was originally unintentional but it seems to work so I’ve kept it and it’s become one of my writing devices.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I only read crime fiction at the moment so anything I can get my hands on really. One thing I don’t enjoy is gratuitous violence so I do tend to shy away from that. I’ve started reading the Icelandic crime writers and particularly enjoy the work of Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Ragnar Jonasson. I love the way the weather informs his writing in his Ari Thor series. I’m also looking forward to getting my hands on Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir. I also love Peter May, Ann Cleeves and Henning Mankell.

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

Ooh, that’s a good question. I’ve met Peter Robinson several times at different writing workshops. In fact I spent a week at the University of Tallinn with him while he was researching his latest novel, Watching the Dark, a few years ago. He was the tutor of the creative writing course I was on. Do you know he’s as good a tutor as he is a writer? As I love the DCI Banks series so much and he was nice enough to give me a review for my second book, Care to Die, which he said he really enjoyed, I think he’d have to be my writing partner.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

Yes, I have my third book in the Inspector Carruthers series being published on 24th April 2018. It’s called Mark of the Devil. I had to do a lot of research on both international art crime and wildlife crime, which was fascinating. I’ve also started writing book 4. I had a strong idea in my head of the plot for book 4 but the storyline and characters are leading me in a completely different direction, so I’m just seeing where that takes me. I’m not a plotter at all so writing is always an adventure, albeit at times a rather nerve wracking one!

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the New Year?

I’m looking forward to reading Ian Skewis’ next book. I loved his debut novel, A Murder of Crows. I’ve just finished Jackie McLean’s second novel, Shadow. That was really good too. There are so many books I’m looking forward to reading including novels by Amanda Fleet; Gail Williams; LJ Ross; Marsali Taylor; Jackie Baldwin and Claire McLeary. In fact I’ve just started Claire’s debut novel, Cross Purpose. The list is never ending.

Anything you’d like to add?

I would just like to take the time to thank you, Hannah, for interviewing me for your blog. It’s been really lovely having the opportunity to talk about my books and other writers I admire. Can I also just say, as writers, how grateful we are to our bloggers?

Thanks for taking the time, it has been great hearing from you. 

James McCrone Novels Review: Sleek Dystopias With A Modern Twist

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Following on from my interview with writer James McCrone, I look into the fascinating and awe-inspiring dystopian novels that he creates.

His first novel, Faithless Elector, portrays a scarily plausible scenario in which the public are unable to trust the system of power. In the novel, a young researcher uncovers a series of mysterious deaths among electors and must race against time and a secret, deadly efficient conspiracy. Set during an era characterized as cynical and paranoid, Faithless Elector showcases a creditable threat to the integrity of the electoral process and the selection of the president.

Following on from this, the next novel, Dark Network uses researcher Imogen Trager, the determined heroine of Faithless Elector again, as the reader sees her in a desperate race to stop a murderous dark network intent on stealing the presidency. She’ll have to fight against time, a sinister network, and even her own colleagues to stop the conspiracy to seize the presidency.

Although McCrone is keen to point out that neither novel is based on real events, they certainly resonate with the current political mess that is the US government, and Faithless Elector has a particularly Trump-esq ring to it in places.

Overall, these two novels hold all the classic hallmarks of hard-core dystopia thrillers, and the series looks set to continue with a bang.

Sam Boush Interview: “Science fiction is the perfect genre to show the terrifying and realistic possibilities of any number of scenarios”

Sam Boush Photo

I caught up with Sam Boush, author for Sci-Fi Thriller All Systems Down, to find out more about what drew him towards this fascinating genre.

Please tell me about All Systems Down.

All Systems Down is a sci-fi thriller, based in our present day. Through cyber warfare, the North Koreans are able to cause a complete collapse of American infrastructure—banks, the electrical grid, GPS, and more. The story is focused in around a few everyday people who have to survive in cities that are crashing down around them.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing novels?

I have had a number of past careers, as a journalist and in book publishing. Most recently, I founded a small-to-mid-size marketing firm, which I sold a couple years ago. Now I’m focused full-time on writing.

Please tell me about the style you write in. What drew you towards science fiction?

Science fiction is the perfect genre to show the terrifying and realistic possibilities of any number of scenarios. Michael Crichton used the genre to describe what genetic tinkering run-amok could cause in Jurassic Park. Ray Bradbury used it to paint a world where books were scorned in Fahrenheit 451. A lot of great writing comes from this genre.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

As a writer, I read a lot of non-fiction. I hear from my writing friends, who, similarly, read a disproportionate amount of non-fiction compared with fiction. But as far as fiction goes, in the last month I’ve read Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, City of Thieves by David Benioff, and several books by Stephen King.

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

Tom Clancy. Besides the fact that I like his books, he’s a great researcher and so detail-oriented. I feel like writing with him would be easy because of all the knowledge at his fingertips.

Anything you’d like to add?

You can read the first chapter of All Systems Down for free on my website: http://cyberwarbooks.com/all-systems-down-ch-1/

Thank you for your responses Sam, it was great to hear your thoughts.

I’ll Keep You Safe Review: A Thrilling Tale of High Fashion in the Highlands

I'll keep you safe

The name may sound a little twee but Peter May’s latest thriller is anything but. Focused on the breakdown of a marriage held together by a desperate quest to turn a dream into a reality, the novel is a slow burner, but the plot doesn’t fizzle out, leaving readers haunted by the exquisitely evil plot.

Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane are a husband and wife team from the Scottish island of Lewis, who weave and market Ranish Tweed, a unique variety of Harris cloth which, thanks to the interests of a malevolent fashion designer, quickly moves from country chic to high fashion. As the firm’s star soars the couple’s relationship sours, with Niamh left recoiling from an anonymous email informing her of her husband’s infidelity. When she finally has the strength to confront him whilst on a work trip to Paris, he leaves, only to be killed by a car bomb alongside the woman Niamh believes he was having an affair with. Originally suspected to be terrorism, the police soon see that the bomb was meant to kill the car’s occupants only, and suspicion switches to Niamh, leaving her with the twin burdens of uncovering the true depth of her husband’s betrayal and absolving herself of his murder.

The murder takes place in a city that has only recently encountered much real life tragedy, and May plays on this tense atmosphere, using his police detectives to convey the public fear as the reader is left briefly uncertain as to the novel’s direction. As terrorism becomes less likely, the reader and detective Sylvie Braque are left desperately chasing after Ruairidh’s memory in search of the truth about what happened.

Switching between first and third person, past and present tense, May’s novel charts the lies, deception and deceit that are, in his universe, inherent in marriage. His descriptions evoke a sensory overload as he bombards the reader with the sights, sounds and smells of his beautifully crafted settings; from the bland, banal Paris with its wealth and its intricacies to the Highlands of Scotland, where the constantly tempestuous weather creates a sombre mood, the settings are as intricately crafted as the characters.

Short, blunt sentences drive the narrative forward at a breath-taking pace, as May skilfully conveys a vast amount of information quickly and efficiently. The characters are so vividly portrayed that, at times, they almost become too heavy handed, like the pantomime villain-esq fashion designer Lee Blunt, but May’s crisp dialogue, punctuated by alternating first/ third person chapters keep the reader’s interest throughout whilst the plot sweeps along succinctly to a dramatic conclusion.

At its heart, I’ll Keep You Safe is a classic thriller that delves deep into the murky tangle of emotions that often hide beneath seemingly benign personalities.

Crime Fiction I’m Looking Forward to in 2018

new year 2018

Happy New Year! It seems like only yesterday that I was writing this post for 2017, but here we are, 12 months later, looking into the latest releases for the year ahead. As ever there are loads of great things happening in the world of literature in 2018, particularly Crime Fiction which, as you probably already know, is a particular passion of mine.

Thanks to the tense political and social spaces we currently inhabit, there is a vast array of material for writers to draw from and to parallel. From the world leaders bent on inciting war no matter the consequences to the changing international marketplaces, the economic bubbles and the technological marvels that are constantly testing our moral fabric, 2018 looks set to be as fraught and challenging a year as its predecessor, and as such readers will be spoiled for choice as writers from across the various genres explore these phenomenon and the ways in which we deal with them.

Everyone from big names through to smaller writers is releasing something exciting and shiny and new for 2018, making this another great year to find some truly exhilarating novels to really sink your teeth into.

Among the big names releasing a new novel this year in the Crime Fiction market is J.K Rowling, under the, frankly pointless, pseudonym Robert Galbraith, who is reportedly releasing a new Cormoran Strike novel, which is believed to be called Lethal White. The fourth in the series, this latest novel follows on from the previous book’s excitement, so Lethal White looks set to be a thrilling treat for fans of this tough, rugged detective and his supportive sidekick.

Additionally, early in 2018 Peter May is releasing his latest novel, I’ll Keep You Safe. This globe trotting tale, set predominantly in Scotland, takes on the issues of family and how well you can truly know someone, as Niamh Macfarlane faces the challenge of exploring the betrayals of her late husband whilst proving herself innocent of his murder. As the police close in she is driven deeper into a web of lies, deceit and shocking home truths, offering a promising start to the New Year for thriller fans.

Later in the year acclaimed Scandinavian writer Jo Nesbo is also releasing a new novel, entitled Macbeth, offering an innovative take on the Shakespearean classic that will really shake things up for Scandinavian Crime Fiction. Fans of Nesbo’s fast paced narratives and snappy dialogue will be looking forward to this one, as it combines the moral questions of Shakespeare with modern topics including drugs and police hierarchies.

The usual suspects are also due to release new work, and I have high hopes for Guy Fraser-Sampson’s Hampstead Murders series to continue and offer yet another unique twist on Golden Age Crime Fiction later this year.

Overall, I’m invigorated by the range of new books and detectives being introduced in 2018, and feel that this year will offer even more exciting developments for the Crime Fiction space. Happy Reading Everyone!