2015: A Year in Classic Crime Reading

I have been almost entirely unsuccessful at meeting my bookish goals for this year. In fact the only one I have actually met is one that I didn’t even list at the beginning of the year, though I did add it in my first monthly wrap up for 2015. Because I read hardly any ‘old’ crime fiction I set myself a goal of participating in at least 6 of the monthly reading challenges hosted at Past Offences in which someone chooses a year and participants read a crime novel (or watch a crime film) published or released in that year.  I managed to read and review books for 9 of this year’s 12 months (and I set out with good intentions to do December’s but was unaware MILDRED PIERCE is not a crime novel (a fact that makes more sense now that I’ve watched the Joan Crawford movie adaptation)). When reflecting on my year’s reading I was struck by the fact that this challenge has provided me with both my least and most favourite books of the year.

somethingnastyAbsolutely the worst book I read all year was my selection for 1976: Kyril Bonfiglioli’s SOMETHING NASTY IN THE WOODSHED. It is an appalling piece of trash exhibiting bigotry, misogyny and other unpleasantness with failed pretensions to satire.  As always though the responses to my rant proved illuminating, especially those in which women a little older than me shared their experiences of the 1970’s. Interestingly, no one spoke in the book’s defence (that’s quite a rarity).

John Buchan’s THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS (1915) was also a bit of a dud from my perspective, feeling dated and blokey and frankly dull but I enjoyed the comments my post evoked from ardent fans of Buchan in general and this book in particular.. I’m determined to give another of his books a go based on those erudite devotees. The final book that set me off on a rant was Ruth Rendell’s A NEW LEASE ON DEATH (1967) which tackled the (to me) absurd notion that someone – a Christian Minister no less – would want to prevent their son from marrying an otherwise delightful girl because her father is a murderer.  Only one character in the entire novel thought this fact irrelevant (and it wasn’t the girl herself) and I found myself basically angry for the entire reading experience. Though perhaps that marks it as a success?

DragonsAtThePartyJonCle24005_fOn the reverse side of the coin I found two books I am counting among favourite reads of any age for the year and the fact that both of them are Australian makes me ridiculously happy.  Jon Cleary’s DRAGONS AT THE PARTY (1987) is a funny, smart dig at the Australian political scene of the day as well as offering a ripper yarn and I am still recommending it to people several months later. Patricia Carlon’s THE WHISPERING WALL (1969) is a genuinely scary tale of domestic suspense that all the Gone Girl imitators today could learn a lot from.

I enjoy modern crime fiction too much to ever make reading the older stuff more than an occasional undertaking. but one older novel just about every month seems both achievable and enjoyable. It stretches me a little outside my comfort zone but not so much that it becomes a chore so assuming Rich keeps hosting this challenge in 2016 I’ll definitely be making my participation a component of next year’s book-related goals.

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11 Responses to 2015: A Year in Classic Crime Reading

  1. pastoffences says:

    I’ll be sure to give Mildred Pierce an honourable mention, Bernadette 😉 Glad you’re enjoying the challenge and we’re carrying on into 2016, with 1950 in January. Happy New Year!

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  2. I like the sound of this, Bernadette, and might even sign up to Past Offences in 2016 myself, PhD permitting.

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  3. I’m glad you found some classic crime to your liking, Bernadette. And you’ve given me a couple of titles to check out; I like the sound of both the Carlon and the Clearly.

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  4. Patti Abbott says:

    Love the Carlon.

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  5. kathy d. says:

    Glad to hear from you; sorry about the bad books, which I will avoid. But glad you had some high points too.
    Happy New Year of finding good books, as well as other upbeat things in your life.

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    • Thanks Kathy. It’s good to be back in the blogging saddle and at least able to think about pleasant things like books again, though my reading is still fairly slow. It’s been a rough few months but I am determined that the new year will bring some levity and order back to my life.

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  6. tracybham says:

    You have given me motivation to find some books by Jon Cleary and Patricia Carlon. I did read books by Cleary when I was younger, but nothing by Carlon.

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  7. I have never read Cleary, but as I agree with you about all the other books you mention that I have read – well I should give him a try. I really enjoy the Past Offences meme, for its simplicity, and its un-demandingness. (I feel the grammar, or possibly syntax, of those two sentences are terrible, but hope you can tell what I mean.)

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