Crime fiction is an area that is relatively unknown to Scott. Here, he shares his views ‘The Chain’, by Adrian McKinty, and ‘The Bat’, by Jo Nesbo.
In this Crime Fiction article, you will find my thoughts on the following areas:
- My opinion of crime fiction before reading Adrian McKinty or Jo Nesbo,
- My thoughts on The Chain, by Adrian McKinty,
- My thoughts on The Bat, by Jo Nesbo, and
- My opinion of crime fiction after reading my first two books in the genre.
Read the rest of the Crime Fiction article and see whether either of these two novels should be on your reading list in 2021.
This year, I have made plans to develop my reading genres and interests by delving into areas that I have not yet ventured into. Crime fiction is a genre that has always eluded me and, in the first months of 2021, I thought I should fill that particular gap.
By choosing to plan a reading list for 2021, I could slip back into the world of fiction books like I did when I was a student at Ulster University and Queen’s University. These days were filled with interacting with fellow writers, attending new book readings and going to the theatre to see the latest plays. Yes, with Covid-19, such activities wouldn’t be possible in the current climate. However, I feel my interest in reading has waned since I graduated as a teacher, and it’s time to get it back.
In this creative writing blog article, I wish to share my latest reads and the stories, characters, author and the genre itself. By looking to read novels outside my previous list of authors, I hope to broaden my horizons, meaning I develop a broader appreciation of books and the authors out there.
Crime Fiction: Before Adrian and Jo
As someone who has known many book addicts throughout his life, crime fiction has always been a popular genre among my real-life friends and connections on social media. They would regularly suggest that I buy the latest thriller from their favourite author as they pieced together the clues left behind by the killer. However, as I viewed such TV shows as predictable and formulaic, I would overlook the latest crime novels in the charts.
Being a Belfast author, I was always aware of the well-known specialist bookstore, No Alibis, on Botanic Avenue. Being a graduate of Queen’s University, I passed David’s store on hundreds of occasions to get a fresh coffee or make my way home after classes. As students, we would regularly attend readings organised by the store for local writers and famous authors, such as Ian Rankin and Chuck Palahniuk. These events were a great way to network as a local writer and experience new authors and their work.
When it came to experiencing crime fiction authors and books, I knew there was no better place to ask for guidance than No Alibis. By calling into the store and speaking to David, wearing my snazzy Covid-safe face covering, he directed me towards two books that would give me a solid introduction to this new genre:
- The Chain, by Adrian McKinty, and
- The Bat, by Jo Nesbo.
With my new purchases in hand, I made my way back to the car. I was ready to suspend all preconceptions and judgements until both books had been thoroughly read. Only then would I be able to decide whether crime fiction was for me.
Thoughts On The Chain, By Adrian McKinty
This book was one that I had heard about on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. When Adrian appeared on one of the episodes while I was at the gym, I found myself encapsulated in the story. As someone who has always been interested in true crime, the idea of a scheme where regular civilians are forced to kidnap innocent children and pay a ransom to free their children was interesting.
As the father of two young children, I was gripped by the theme of just how far a parent would go to rescue or free their child from a kidnapper. From the moment Rachel gets a call to tell her that her daughter has been taken and will be killed unless she follows the rules set out by The Chain, I knew the story wouldn’t be a typical kidnap investigation.
Adrian McKinty also increases the stakes with the inclusion of Rachel’s cancer treatment and how she has limited time and health as she works to free her daughter. I remember reading this book, wondering whether the world would collapse from under this female character’s feet. Would she be able to secure the money? Would she get desperate and breach the terms of The Chain? Would her health decline to the point where she would be unable to free Kylie?
At the heart of this book was the love that a parent feels for their child. Whether it was the love Rachel feels for Kylie or the desperation and anguish from the voices of the other subsequent victims in The Chain, I found the terror wholly relatable as a father. As Rachel’s lack of sleep and declining physical health takes its toll, we see how the love she has for her daughter gives her the strength needed to battle through the tasks set out before her.
I loved this book. There is no doubt that I would reread it in the future and, if asked, I would recommend it to a friend. The novel is well-paced, and it keeps its reader engaged throughout. With the constant spectre of a distorted voice on the other end of a telephone, we race to the end to have its identity revealed.
Thoughts On The Bat, By Jo Nesbo
As a complete newcomer to crime fiction, I was completely unaware of how popular and well-known the Harry Hole series is. In addition to this, I had little experience of the Nordic Noir genre outside of the odd TV series I had watched over the years, like The Killing.
Right from the word go, I loved the character of Harry Hole. His dysfunctional personality and uncompromising desire to catch the killer at all costs piqued my interest throughout. With this male character at the heart of the novel, I found the book very accessible and easy to read from start to finish.
In some of the online articles of The Bat, reviewers felt that some of Harry’s personality traits were cheesy, like his arguments with colleagues and apparent ability to assault suspects without fear of being expelled from the country entirely. Considering I have read few books of this type, I understand that the slightly off the rails cop can be something of a stereotype in both TV series and crime fiction but, until I experience more of the genre, I didn’t find this jarring at all.
The array of settings and characters within the novel were excellent. The varied inhabitants within nightlife, backstories of police officers and intriguing personality of the killer at the end allowed for a rich environment for the reader. As interesting characters are the beating pulse of any story, I feel Jo Nesbo did this very well indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have the next instalments in the Harry Hole series in my ‘to read’ list. In the coming months, I intend to learn more about this character and the cases he is asked to solve.
Crime Fiction: The Autopsy
When I look back at my opinion of this particular genre, I have to conclude that I was particularly narrow-minded. By corralling all crime authors into the same pen as the generic ‘cookie cutter’ TV shows that are served up to viewers on TV, I honestly feel that I have missed reading some excellent authors. In doing so, I have not known such archetypal protagonists, such as Rebus or Bosch.
Ultimately, I have become a convert to the world of crime fiction. What other crime writers should I add to my reading list? Comment below with your recommendations and a reason why I MUST read that book this year.