As you might have guessed by now I’m using this year’s round of Crime Fiction Alphabet to both tell you about books I like and get you to give me recommendations for new books to read that feature themes or character types that I enjoy (for when I finally get my TBR mountain under control) (in a couple of years). That goes double for this week, I love crime fiction that features science of the vaguely credible variety or scientists that aren’t mad and I haven’t found nearly enough of them. Though I have collected a few favourites.
Officially it’s probably more of a thriller than it is crime fiction but I’m prepared to bend the rules for Martin Woodhouse‘s Tree Frog (1966). The first of five novels featuring scientist Giles Yeoman who is an aeronautical engineer working, very reluctantly, for the British Government’s Seeker Section and it opens with the crash in England of an un-piloted plane that appears to have originated in East Germany. In some ways this is a typical cold war thriller in which the race is on to perfect long-range reconnaissance aircraft but Yeoman’s deadpan dialogue and reliance on his scientific knowledge and skills to get him out of tight spots is a refreshing change from the more violent spy-thrillers of Woodhouse’s contemporaries. I will admit though it’s been a long time since I read this book and I wonder if it might have dated (as happened with Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain which I used to love for similarly science-y reasons but was disappointed by on a recent re-read).
Randy Wayne White has a long-running series featuring a Florida-based marine biologist Marion (Doc) Ford, who was once an intelligence agent for the US government. In his fourth outing, 1996’s Captiva, Doc Ford is called upon by his best mate (a burned-out hippie) to investigate the death (via a bombing) of a friend of his. The story revolves around a clearly contentious (and real) fight between sports and commercial fishermen and whether or not net-fishing should be allowed. There’s more science and thoughtfulness in the ensuing ecological and economic debate than you might expect from this kind of thriller. The series can be a little more ‘blokey’ (a few more explosions, car chases and violent outbursts) than I might normally enjoy but the characters are multi-dimensional and the science is generally pretty solid.
Alex Brett is a Canadian writer who has (as far as I know) only written two mysteries both featuring Morgan O’Brien who is an investigator of scientific frauds working for the Canadian government. In the second of the two books, Cold Dark Matter (2006), Morgan is called upon to collect the research diaries of an astronomer who apparently committed suicide while working in Hawaii. Her questioning of the suicide, and the unexpected competition she encounters for the research data of the astronomer, leads Morgan to uncover some of her own government’s well-kept secrets from the cold war era. It really is a fascinating novel and the scientific issues in it (and its predecessor Dark Water Creek which will teach you amazing things about salmon fishing) are explored intelligently and entertainingly. It’s a shame that Alex Brett appears not to be writing any longer.
As you can see I’m a bit light on for scientific mysteries so do let me know if you have a good recommendation (I’m ignoring medical doctors and forensic specialists for this category).
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Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is hosting the crime fiction alphabet meme which requires the posting of an article relating to the letter of the week. Do join in the fun by reading the posts and/or contributing one of your own. You don’t have to write every week.