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Crime Beat

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Crime Beat: Amanda Coetzee lists her favourite crime novels

amanda coetzeeAmanda Coetzee published her fourth novel,  One Shot, featuring the detective Harry O’Conner aka Badger a few months ago. This time she has a South African setting which earns her a place on the Crime Beat listings. Here, she reveals her top 10 crime writers and the books that got her into the genre.

I love crime fiction and read it voraciously. It is quite simply impossible to choose 10 favourite books when some of my preferred authors have already exceeded that number, so I have decided to cheat somewhat. Ten iconic crime writers instead in the order of my discovery.

Jonathan Kellerman – When the Bough Breaks
This was my first real introduction to the intelligent and frightening world of crime fiction and I was irrevocably hooked.  After many years this remains the best of his body of work for me, although I regularly read his wife and son too and wonder what kind of house produced such prolific and talented writers.

Colin Dexter – The Way Through the Woods
Inspector Morse taught me that crime was layered with psychology and intellect. Dexter created a character in the city of Oxford and he was the first author to peel back the mystique of privilege and class for a girl that grew up on a council estate. It was a profound awakening that stays with me still.

Harlan Coben – Fade Away
Harlan Coben is intelligent, humorous and his attention to relationships makes him one of the few male crime writers to smudge the gender fingerprint of crime fiction. His partnership of Myron Bolitar and Win Lockwood is a master-class in opposites that complement his entertaining storylines.

Karin Slaughter – Fractured
Meet, Will Trent. Irrevocably damaged by a childhood in state care with the results to be read in burns and scars over his body, coupled with his dyslexia, make him a complex and vulnerable protagonist. What I enjoy about Slaughter’s writing is almost all her women are tougher and harder than her men. Never pretty, but compulsive reading.

Lisa Gardner – The Perfect Husband
I like almost all of this woman’s work. She is readable, fast paced and invests enough emotional content into her characters to make me want to know more about them. She began her career writing romance, and it shows, but as an unrepentant romantic I enjoy the charm of her relationships that play out against a backdrop of violence.

Jo Nesbo – The Son
Harry Hole is an iconic detective but Nesbo is talented enough to leave him behind and still write exceptional fiction. His latest novel has enough dark and light interspersed to create an entirely original protagonist. His work is both entertaining and intense which is an unbeatable crime fiction combination.

Martin Cruz Smith – Stalin’s Ghost
Mix the melancholy of Russia with the jaded fatalism of Renko and you have a palate from which to create crime that does not tire easily. I admire Renko even as his weariness of soul sometimes saddens me.

Lee Child – Killing Floor
Before Tom Cruise decimated Jack Reacher’s reputation by suggesting his authority was implicit rather than physical, he was a firm favourite on my bookshelf. Fortunately Child’s writing has survived the enviable and profitable transition to film. I love Reacher’s incorruptibility and his blend of simplicity and complexity make him a uniquely portable protagonist.

Deon Meyer – Blood Safari
Most people know and love Benny Griesel, Meyer’s most recognizable protagonist, but I have given my heart to two of his other creations. Lemmer is introduced in Blood Safari; tough, slightly unsavoury, yet capable of great loyalty he has become my secret favourite. However Mat Joubert, the detective in Dead Before Dying remains simply but profoundly unforgettable. I wish I could read Meyer in his mother tongue but my Afrikaans would make it a chilling experience for all the wrong reasons…

James Lee Burke – Jolie Blon’s Bounce
There is in some circles the suggestion that crime fiction is incapable of exceptional and original writing. If you need convincing, put doubt aside and pick up any of Burke’s novels. I dare you not to be transported to another world by his evocative and lyrical style.


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