I normally take ages to decide what to buy with any vouchers I am lucky enough to receive but this year’s birthday book voucher was immediately earmarked for a lovely hard copy edition of BOOKS TO DIE FOR. It is a collection of 120 short essays by crime writers each talking about their favourite novel of the genre. This concept is – for me anyway – much more interesting than a ‘best of’ list because rather than offering one person’s notions of what makes great crime fiction or imposing some arbitrary (and argument inducing) ranking on the classics of the genre each book discussed is equally loved.
A perusal of the contents pages indicates that big name authors and those whose names are yet to hit the best seller lists appear as both contributors and subjects and the essays discuss books I like, books I don’t and books I’ve never heard of. Together this is an intriguing proposition that I shall enjoy dipping in and out of over the coming months.
So far I have only read the introduction by the book’s editors John Connolly and Declan Burke, which provides a succinct but compelling argument in favour of the genre as a whole and gives a hint of the fun the two Irish crime writers had in compiling this collection. And the first essay I chose to read? Liza Marklund’s pitch for Carolyn Keene’s THE GHOST OF BLACKWOOD HALL. Her description of encountering Nancy Drew – a girl who could solve crimes and drive a snazzy sports car all without the aid of a bloke – has an eerie similarity to my own discovery of the same feisty heroine. If Marklund’s observations about the conditions needed for a crime writer to thrive are anything to go by I’m going to love reading the rest of this book just as much as I have enjoyed this one essay.