|Who did do the murders? And were they well-dressed? And why are you looking at me like that?|
Clothes in Books covers many different kinds of books (wherever there are clothes, obviously) but there is something of a leaning towards crime stories – just over a third of last year’s entries were on novels that could in some way be described as crime, detection, murder or espionage. It’s traditional on crime fiction blogs to produce a Best-of list at the end of the year. Bernadette at Reactions to Reading did further research into her own list: the results were fascinating, and though I will not be producing graphs to match hers, she did inspire me to compile some statistics.
So. Of my crime authors, approximately 55% were women and 45% were men. I read about 40% of the books on my Kindle, the rest on paper. That probably is a lower Kindle percentage than in my other reading, because I’m always chasing down ancient copies of lost classics in the genre, and I also often re-read from a vast collection of old crime paperbacks. However, a quick shoutout to the excellent Bello, an imprint of Pan MacMillan, who help shift the balance – they are launching a lot of out-of-print books in electronic form, and more publishers should follow their example.
|In a hat like this I can get away with murder|
About 70% of my crime books were British-set – most of the others were American, with a few excursions to Canada, Denmark, Ireland and Australia. I’m tempted to say there were a few books set in a place I have described as ‘Planet Nowhere: some weird English dystopia based on Agatha Christie, Downton Abbey, and Cold Comfort Farm.’ Or just a place where nobody speaks or acts in a real or imaginable way. But fortunately such books were rare, and I won’t name them.
Here are a few more categories:
Two books I knew I would love, and did. The latest in the series by Catriona McPherson (Dandy Gilver and a Deadly Measure of Brimstone) and Elly Griffiths (Dying Fall). Dandy Gilver and Ruth Galloway are wonderful characters, and these are both series that I get hold of on publication day.
A female author who sounds male and turned out to be JK Rowling. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith had a pseudonym, a sex change and an air of controversy. But was it any good? Yes, it was excellent, and also gave us a chance to show off an original vintage Ossie Clark dress.
No expectations, but blew me away: I had always (snobbishly) assumed that Marion Keyes was not an author I would care for, but I loved The Mystery of Mercy Close (picture, right, representing the heroine's sister in her capris.)
Michael Hogan: Burial of the Dead. A 2008 murder story that passed under most people’s radar, but is quite startlingly good, and very very unusual.
Three new-to-me female authors I’ll be looking out for in the future: A Killing at Cotton Hill (thanks Col) introduced me to Terry Shames – I said at the time ‘I loved this book: the Texan geography, the small-town atmosphere, the logical steps in solving the crime, the descriptions of the people and places that the investigator came across along the way – all were perfectly done.’
Lesley Thomson wrote The Detective’s Daughter - This really excellent book doesn’t hold back on the bad results of the murder, but is also very good on detection and relationships.
Lynn Shepherd drew readers in with A Treacherous Likeness, a wonderful book about the poet Shelley and his circle, a really strong novel that happened to feature crime.
Barry Maitland gave us an excellent new entry in the Brock and Kolla mysteries, The Raven’s Eye.
And DJ Taylor’s counter-factual The Windsor Faction was a terrific WW2 book – good on the home front. (The top picture comes from the blog entry on this book.)
Re-reads: I was glad to re-read a few 1970s 80s and 90s murder classics: by Sarah Caudwell, Antonia Fraser Robert Barnard (who sadly died this year) and Justin Scott – and particularly enjoyed finding fashion pictures for their entries. The hat lady above features in the least likely of these. The young women on the right represent the gilded rubbish of Oxford in the 1980s.
Agatha Christie is on a permanent roll of re-reading, and some of the best pictures turn up for her blog entries:
-- these were for Death on the Nile and Five Little Pigs.
More Best Of 2013 coming soon. For picture credits follow links to the original entries.