A lot of writers’ blogs have started recapping what that writer has read over the past month. (Okay, maybe not a lot; Tim Hallinan and Declan Burke, for sure. They’re both excellent writers whose opinions I respect, so I’m not averse to using their examples for a few cheap credibility points.) October was a great, if somewhat light, reading month for me, so here are the highlights.
Trigger City, by Sean Chercover
Chercover’s second Ray Dudgeon PI story is a step up from what was obviously an excellent first book, since Big City, Bad Blood was nominated for every debut novel prize I can think of, and won its share. Tightly written with a great plot twist to raise the stakes in a believable manner halfway through, Trigger City is a polished and well-paced look at what the oft-maligned PI story can be in the Twenty-first Century.
In the Dark, by Mark Billingham
A departure from Billingham’s successful Tom Thorne series (though Thorne makes a cameo appearance), In the Dark is also his first attempt to step away from his established serial killer milieu. A multi-POV story that peels back the onion from both the police and criminal perspectives, it has two significant plot twists, and another peripheral surprise that’s definitely creepy. Once again, all are properly prepared and still surprising, providing for a satisfyingly adult read. This trend was continued in…
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, by John McFetridge
Like Chercover’s Trigger City, this is McFetridge’s second novel in what is becoming more or less a series, following Dirty Sweet. That was a good book; EKTIN kicks ass. It’s the bad guys who are the connecting thread in McFetridge Toronto-based stories, cleaned-up bikers looking to take over as the pre-eminent organized crime operation in Canada. The stories unfold at their own paces, the dialog is spot on, and the humor is always organic. A couple more well placed plot twists combine with the best opening scene in recent memory to make this as entertaining a read as you’re likely to find.
The best thing about all three of these books is they’re written for adults. Not because the sex, language, and violence are over the top; these writers buck the trend not to make things too onerous for any eighth graders who might happen upon a copy. A bright eighth grader would probably enjoy all three, though Mom might not be too delighted at his discovery. What sets these books apart is the writers’ willingness to trust their readers to keep up without having everything explained to them. It’s easy to forget how well this can propel a story, as rarely as we see it today. (I hope to have more on this in a few days.)